IOWA CITY, Iowa — By the time Jordan Bohannon is finished wearing black and gold, he could have a case as Iowa’s best point guard in the last 30 years.
I know it sounds hyperbolic. But it’s true. For weeks and months on social media, Iowa fans have clamored for another point guard, a “true” point guard for this team. Maybe one who can break down the defense in the lane or continuously beat defenders off the dribble.
Guess what, those skills are not always a prerequisite for success. But you what is? Precise passing that involves the players around you. Passing that leads to points and an ability to score on your own. Sophomore Jordan Bohannon is a point guard in every sense of the description.
In the Hawkeyes’ 94-80 victory over Minnesota on Tuesday, Bohannon put up 20 points and 10 assists. It was the sixth time he notched a double-double that included assists, passing B.J. Armstrong for the most in school history. Armstrong, a picture- and dictionary-perfect point guard at Iowa and a three-time NBA champion, performed that task in four years. It took Bohannon less than two.
This year against Big Ten opponents, Bohannon ranks first in 3-pointers (36), assists (65) and free-throw percentage (31 of 32, 96.9). He’s 12th in scoring (16.1 points per game) and 13th in 3-point percentage (43.4). Bohannon has 8 more 3-pointers than any other Big Ten player.
For many people, those statistics seem to validate Bohannon playing off the ball. In reality, it’s what makes him the ideal point guard.
His teammates laugh at any suggestion Bohannon can’t play point guard, a position he’s owned for nearly two years. Sophomore forward Cordell Pemsl’s eyes widened when he was asked whether Bohannon is better off the ball than on it.
“Uh, have you asked him?” Pemsl replied, then shouted at Bohannon, “Are you a point guard or a two guard?”
From his position about 20 feet away, Bohannon yelled back. “Everyone thinks I’m not.”
In another part of the room forward Tyler Cook immediately jumped in “Why is that … ?”
Almost in frustration, Pemsl’s response drowned out Cook’s comment. “He gets 10 assists a game,” Pemsl said. “The answer to that question doesn’t even matter. The way he’s playing right now, I don’t think he could care at all about what anybody is saying. He’s a competitor at the end of the day. Whether we want him on the ball or off the ball, it doesn’t even matter.
“In my opinion, he’s a point guard. He’s a two-guard. He’s both. He can do whatever we need him to do.”
Even before that conversation, sophomore Isaiah Moss was incredulous when asked whether Bohannon is a point guard.
“Oh, J-Bo is a great point guard,” Moss said. “He finds open people. What more can you ask for? I’m proud of him.
“Really good passer. He sees the floor. I’m open, he sees me, I don’t think he sees me, but he makes the pass.”
In a late surge against the Gophers, Bohannon stood at the top of the key and passed to Moss along the left wing. Before Moss could release his 3-point attempt, Bohannon was backpedaling with his thumb and index finger circled and holding up his other three fingers. Moss’ shot hit nothing but net.
Bohannon acquired that dose of swagger as a youth at a point guard camp ran by Bill Fleming. Show confidence in your teammates and they’ll fight for you.
“Believe in your shooters whenever possible,” Bohannon said. “Just run down the court holding up a 3 because you have to have confidence in your players.”
Bohannon also hit all 4 free-throw attempts to extend his streak to 30. That’s within 4 of tying Chris Street for the school record. Bohannon’s six games with at least 10 assists tied the school’s career record. Again, he’s only a sophomore with a month left this season.
With 158 career 3-pointers, Bohannon already ranks ninth in Iowa history. His 304 assists are just outside the top 10.
“It’s crazy. The confidence that he has is Steph Curry-like,” Pemsl said. “He can shoot from wherever. He’s finding guys that you’re like, ‘How do you even see that?’ At the end of the night you’re like, ‘You had 10 assists tonight?’ He’s so quiet with the way he does things. He’s not flashy at all. He gets the job done.”
Years and years ago, each of Jordan’s three older brothers vouched for Jordan as the best of the Bohannons. Oldest brother Jason Bohannon, who scored 1,170 points at Wisconsin and holds the Badgers’ record for consecutive free throws made at 39, talked about it on his senior night in Madison eight years ago. Another older brother, Zack, chatted about Jordan while also playing for the Badgers in 2014. Matt Bohannon, who scored 1,092 points and ranks first in Northern Iowa history with 268 3-pointers made, also discussed Jordan’s prowess during summer league workouts.
Yes, they said, at 6 feet tall Jordan was shorter than they were. But he was quicker, could shoot as well as any of them and was a tenacious competitor. That intangible fits all four of the Bohannon brothers, the Marion, Iowa sons of former Iowa Rose Bowl quarterback Gordy Bohannon.
But not even midway through Jordan Bohannon’s career, he’s breaking records and putting up head-shaking statistics. He’s the only Power 5 player to make five or more 3-pointers in five consecutive road games over the last 20 years. Bohannon is on pace to obliterate Iowa’s career 3-point record and perhaps challenge for the Big Ten 3-point record held by former Ohio State sharpshooter Jon Diebler (374). Bohannon is nearly halfway to Iowa’s all-time assists mark (612) and probably a top-10 spot in Big Ten history.
Point guards and scorers are on all of those lists. That’s exactly what Bohannon is, a point guard and a scorer. In fact, he’s the best point guard Iowa fans always wanted and never knew they had.