IOWA NOTEBOOK: Hawkeyes don’t know much about Leathernecks

By John Bohnenkamp

It’s a scouting report that Jordan Bohannon calls “one of the more bizarre scouts I’ve been a part of in my five years at Iowa.”

Iowa faces Western Illinois in Thursday’s 7 p.m. game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. But what the Hawkeyes know about the Leathernecks isn’t much.

Western Illinois has a new coach, Rob Jeter, and a roster with 14 players who weren’t with the program last season. Plus, it’s the season opener for the Leathernecks, so there isn’t any game video to break down.

“I was like, ‘They have a whole new team, a whole new coach. How are we going to watch film on them?’” Bohannon, Iowa’s senior point guard, said Wednesday.

“We normally have very detailed scouting reports,” guard Connor McCaffery said.

There aren’t many details about the Leathernecks, though. So assistant coach Billy Taylor, who has the scout assignment for this game, went into more detail on Western Illinois’ individual players, if there was video available.

“So you’re pretty much watching player clips,” McCaffery said. “There’s some other stuff you can look at, but it’s pretty scarce.”

“It’s definitely a little bit different,” forward Joe Wieskamp said. “It’s just kind of focusing on their personnel, seeing what their individual players do offensively.”

That’s why this game is more of a “personnel game,” Bohannon said.

“It’s sticking to our basics, and not letting anything go on our end,” McCaffery said.

Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said the challenge was “unique.”

“You usually don’t have that situation,” he said. “But it’s 2020, so you just deal with it.”

NUNGE RETURNS: Iowa will get forward Jack Nunge back.

Nunge missed the Hawkeyes’ first two games last week after the death of his father.

Bohannon greeted Nunge in the Iowa locker room before Wednesday’s practice.

“Put my arm around him, gave him a hug,” Bohannon said. “I think he’s doing well. I think he’s going to be a little better now, now that he’s around us.”

Nunge returned to campus this week, but had to have a negative COVID-19 test before he could practice.

“I haven’t seen him yet because we had to make sure that his test went fine,” Fran McCaffery said.

McCaffery said he had talked with Nunge several times.

“He feels great,” McCaffery said. “I think, under the circumstances, he’s probably in as good of a place as he can be. It’s been an absolutely difficult week for him and his family.

“The reality is now, we’re just anxious to see him. We’re anxious to get him back, get him back with his brothers. Hopefully basketball, and the arena, can be his sanctuary as he grieves, and continues to grieve.”

McCaffery recalled how a return to the team helped center Gabe Olaseni after his father’s death early in the 2014-15 season, and how Nunge could be helped as well.

Nunge, coming off a knee injury that cost him almost all of last season, is expected to be a key part of Iowa’s rotation.

“He’s somebody who has worked hard to get back where he knows he can be,” McCaffery said. “His body’s in a great place — physically, he feels great. He’s a strong, tough kid.

“He’ll play a lot. He deserves to play a lot. And he’ll play really well, I have no doubt.”

EMPTY FEELING: Iowa played in front of a mostly empty arena in last week’s wins over North Carolina Central and Southern, and it will be that way for a while because of the COVID-19 restrictions.

Only family members of players and coaches are allowed into the arena for games.

“I wouldn’t say I’m used to it,” Connor McCaffery said. “We practice every day in an empty arena. It’s the environment a game brings. It’s definitely different.”

Iowa will get nationally-ranked North Carolina and rival Iowa State in home games next week, but the arena won’t have the same kind of atmosphere as what it would normally have for those types of games.

“I think they would love to be playing in front of packed arenas,” Fran McCaffery said of his players. “Even if you’re on the road, I think they would prefer that.”

Bohannon said the atmosphere is strange. Given the alternative, though, of no games at all, he’ll take the limitations.

“At the end of the day, we’re fortunate to be playing basketball,” Bohannon said.

Photo: Iowa’s Joe Wieskamp drives to the basket in last Friday’s game against Southern. (Stephen Mally/hawkeyesports.com)

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