The summer of Joe: Wieskamp comes back with a new look, and a better focus

The boys, taking a break from Iowa’s youth basketball camp at the UI Field House on Tuesday, stared at the cameras and the lights and the recorders and the assembled media and wondered just who was in the middle of that.

They watched for a few moments before one walked over, tapped one of the media members on the back, and asked, “Who is being interviewed?”

“Joe Wieskamp,” was the answer.

“Oh,” the boy said, and walked away.

Which is probably the way Wieskamp, the soon-to-be-sophomore wing for the Hawkeyes, would like it. The less attention, the better, but no, that’s not going to happen.

This is the Summer of Joe — leading into what is probably the Winter of Joe, actually — so the attention is going to be there.

Tyler Cook is gone, off to a pro career. Isaiah Moss is gone, off to play his final season at Kansas. Jordan Bohannon has a surgically-repaired hip, and the Hawkeyes are planning as if he’s gone for this season, although he still could be back.

That leaves Wieskamp, who sampled the NBA draft process after a strong freshman season and decided it was best to come back, as one of the leaders for a team looking to get back to the NCAA tournament after a second-round loss to Tennessee in March.

This appears to be a good team, provided all of the pieces snap into place. Wieskamp, who averaged 11.1 points (fourth-best on the Hawkeyes) and was second on the team with 59 3-pointers in a solid freshman season, is one of the centerpieces to build the picture.

His spring of NBA tests took him to Boston and Oklahoma City to workouts with the Celtics and Thunder. Different voices are always good to hear for a player, and what they told him was what he probably knew, but still needed reinforcing.

You’re good, but you could be a lot better.

So that means getting stronger, moving with and without the ball — those little things that can make for a big step between freshman and sophomore.

“I learned a lot,” Wieskamp said. “It was a great experience to be out there, see a couple of places, see the environment, the type of personnel. Different guys from different teams who I was able to work with.

“You’ll kind of see, as the year progresses, the way that my game is going to adapt and change. It’s going to change, just with the different personnel (on Iowa’s roster).”

Echoes of bouncing basketballs and scoreboard horns and the voices of young players made it hard to hear Wieskamp at times, but he’s going to have to be loud when November comes, and then December and the crucible of the Big Ten season arrives.

If Bohannon isn’t ready to play and decides to take a medical redshirt season, Wieskamp will have to be one to grab the leadership role, and that’s what Iowa coach Fran McCaffery is hoping.

He saw it when Peter Jok tested the NBA process, saw it last season after Tyler Cook came back from a similar trip.

“Pete and Tyler, they were a lot better in terms of leadership,” McCaffery said. “I expect the same from Joe.”

“I think Coach is going to put a lot of trust in me,” Wieskamp said.

McCaffery knows he doesn’t need to worry about the Bohannon-what-if scenario now. There’s a lot of time between now and the season opener. Bohannon isn’t practicing with the Hawkeyes right now.

“You proceed,” McCaffery said, “without him.”

“We have to focus on ourselves,” Wieskamp said.

There is nothing that seems to rattle Wieskamp. Not the idea that this might have to be his team this season — “I’m going to have to step up,” Wieskamp said — and certainly not what the future holds.

And certainly not the chaos of Tuesday, with kids and horns and basketballs and the questions.

“You’ve got to block out the distractions,” Wieskamp said when asked what he learned last season. “Stay focused.”

Asked if he thought about just staying in the NBA draft process, Wieskamp said, “Um, not really. For the most part, I was pretty set on coming back.”

Wieskamp is glad he took the trips.

“A lot of networking. That way you’re on their radar,” he said. “They know who you are.”

So, there is a question that will hang with Wieskamp.

Will this be the last season?

“We’ll see what happens,” he said. “Obviously it’s every kid’s dream to play in the NBA. If it happens, then it happens. If not, I’ll just continue to work hard.”

A summer, and then a season, awaits.

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