IOWA CITY, Iowa — Sophomore Christian Williams and freshman Jordan Bohannon play the same position but are as dissimilar as you can get on Iowa’s basketball court.
Williams is long, stands 6-foot-5 and moves smoothly with and without the ball. Bohannon barely measures 6-1, doesn’t have the lanky build but can really shoot. Both vie for the starting point slot, which was vacated by the four-year tandem of Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmons. Neither one has an edge as the Hawkeyes approach an exhibition in one week.
“I don’t think either one is ahead of the other right now,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “I think what’s interesting about it, they have been at times. Different times, one has been ahead of the other. Collectively, I think they’re both about the same.”
They come from backgrounds as different as their body types. Williams saw sparse action last year as a freshman and played in just 20 games. Late in the season, he became a valuable contributor off the ball. In a showdown with eventual league champion Indiana, Williams ignited the Hawkeyes with eight first-half points.
With the move to point, ball handling was Williams’ primary responsibility during the summer.
“I’ve worked a lot through the summer with coach (Kirk) Speraw,” Williams said. “We’ve done a lot of ball handling, a lot of finishing around the rim and just attacking and being strong with the ball.”
Bohannon hails from Iowa’s first family of basketball. His eldest brother, Jason, scored more than 1,000 points at Wisconsin. Another brother, Zach, played for Wisconsin’s back-to-back Final Four teams. Most recently, Matt Bohannon scored more than 1,000 points for Northern Iowa in leading the Panthers to NCAA Tournament wins in consecutive years. Even his father, Gordy, quarterbacked the 1981 Iowa football team to the Rose Bowl.
But Bohannon’s pedigree won’t help him lock down a starting spot at Iowa. Every day Bohannon and Williams battle one another to gain some separation.
“I think it’s every single drill, every single second on the court,” Bohannon said. “We’re just competing for that spot. It just adds to the whole competitiveness of the practice.
“Me and C-Will pretty much switch off every other day. It pretty much depends on who works harder the day before to get put on the first team. You kind of have to have that mindset going into the day that the team might switch the next day depending on how you work today.”
Bohannon is a top perimeter shooter. He was named Iowa’s Mr. Basketball last March after putting up 25.8 points a game at Linn-Mar High School. Williams has the potential to become a lockdown defender and can drive to the hoop. At St. Teresa High School in Decatur, Ill., Williams became the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,587 points and was a two-time all-state selection.
McCaffery eyes assist-to-turnover ratio as critical in his analysis and said both have posted good numbers during training camp.
Both can play off the ball and at times will appear on the court together.
“Both are really bright and they know every position on the floor so that’s what’s necessary, especially at that position,” McCaffery said. “Christian with his length defensively would be a good guy to put on certain players because he’s really good at moving his feet laterally but then also contesting jump shots. Or you could use Christian to bring it down and use Jordan to shoot the ball coming off screens, throw it out on the break. He’s really looking good from 3-point range.”
There will be growing pains with the position, however. Gesell started 130 games and Clemmons opened 58. Senior shooting guard Peter Jok, who averaged 16.1 points a game last year, said there are differences between the new point guards and their predecessors.
“Christian is more of finding people, locking down people … he’ll score if he has to,” Jok said. “Jordan is more of a scoring point guard. I think he’s not playing like a freshman. They’ve been going at each other every practice. Just a little different since I’ve been here with Mike and Sapp (Clemmons).”