Guess who's back
That's right: Jordan Bohannon is returning to Iowa for a sixth season in 2021-22. Bohannon is able to do so because the NCAA granted all fall and winter sports athletes a free year of eligibility in 2020-21.
It's worth noting that Bohannon's decision to return was not a widely expected one. He talked throughout the season of this campaign being his final one at Iowa and leaving the stage with Luka Garza and (probably) Joe Wieskamp. He admitted after the season that he'd return to play in 2020-21 if the state of Iowa passed legislation allowing college athletes to profit from their Name, Image, and Likeness rights while still in college. That legislation fizzled out, though, and there's little chance of any sort of state-level NIL law being enacted before the start of next season. (There's not a great chance of federal-level NIL legislation being enacted by then, either, but it might be marginally more likely at this point.) So why's Bohannon returning?
In an interview with Chad Leistikow of The Des Moines Register, Bohannon elaborated on his decision. One, his ties to Iowa run deep (his father, Gordy Bohannon, was Iowa's quarterback in 1981, and Bohannon grew up in Marion, just up the road from UI). Two, he missed the crowds -- the thought of ending his career in front of empty arenas was a buzzkill.
Bohannon's three older brothers, who all played Division I basketball, told him that if they could go back to college and experience one more year, they would do it in a heartbeat. Bohannon took that advice seriously. He realized he didn’t want to start his next chapter without experiencing one more season of crowded Big Ten arenas again.
“Not having the opportunity to feel the fire from the crowd in home and away games (was a factor),” Bohannon said. “You know me, I’m the type of guy that feeds off that energy.”
And three, Bohannon will have a chance to play a different role in Iowa's offense next season:
McCaffery’s pitch this time? That Bohannon — who has spent almost all of his five years at the “1” (point guard) position — would fit well as a “2” (shooting guard) to complement a young group of guards that includes Joe Toussaint, Ahron Ulis and Tony Perkins.
“He talked about the option of me playing the 2 this year and hunting my shot and that Joe (Toussaint) can set me up,” Bohannon said. “That I can be more of a scorer instead of facilitator.”
Bohannon playing the 2 really only became a viable option for Iowa next season after last week's abrupt departure by C.J. Fredrick, Iowa's projected starter at the 2. Fredrick's absence left Iowa with an opening at 2 -- and a gaping need in terms of 3-point shooting. Not bad to be able to slot Iowa's all-time leading 3-point shooter into that role now. Playing the 2 more often next season ought to give Bohannon an opportunity to focus more on his shooting, rather than needing to play the 1 and worry about facilitating for his teammates. That's an exciting notion for a guy who's a career 40% shooter from beyond the arc.
This return also means Bohannon is going to put some career records even further out of reach. At Iowa, he's already the career leader in three-pointers made (364) and attempted (909), assists (639), and games played (143). He's ahead of the #2 player all-time (Jeff Horner, in all three cases) in three-pointers made by 102, by 196 in three-pointers, and by 27 in assists. He's going to put those records -- already nigh-impossible to attain in most cases -- even further out of reach. Assuming good health, he should play 30+ games next season, which will give him 170+ in his Iowa career, a record that will be literally impossible to match, short of another pandemic-induced year of free eligibility. (Please no.)
Iowa career records won't be the only ones falling, either. Becoming the Big Ten's all-time leading three-point shooter should be a formality for Bohannon -- he's just 10 back of Ohio State's Jon Diebler (374) now. The three-point attempt record will also be tumbling; Penn State's Talor Battle currently holds it with 930 career attempts. The Big Ten's career assist record is likely not attainable; he's just outside the Top 10 now with 639 assists, but the career leader is Michigan State's Cassius Winston with an eye-watering 890 career dimes. Considering Bohannon will be shooting more and distributing less next year, his assist numbers figure to take a hit. But if he can hit 60 assists (about two per game) he'd be able to move past Ohio State's Aaron Craft (694) into 8th place. He'll also have a shot to become the Big Ten's all-time leader in free throw percentage; he's currently second all-time with a career mark of .890. The all-time leader is... well, you-know-who, at .898. Bohannon will need to be just about perfect at the line next year to break that, but... dare to dream.
Three-point shooting was a question mark for Iowa entering the offseason and it became an even more glaring need with Fredrick's departure. Bringing back Bohannon will certainly help fill that need in a big way. Obviously, his return also means Iowa is going to have an undersized back court again (especially if Toussaint and Bohannon play together often) and defense has never been and will never be Bohannon's strong suit. But on the whole, the positives (three-point shooting, free-throw shooting, veteran leadership, experience) definitely seem to outweigh the negatives (defense, size, quickness) with this move.
Welcome back to Iowa City, JBo. We're ready to watch you set Big Ten nets aflame for one more season.