By John Bohnenkamp
When CJ Fredrick will return to Iowa’s lineup remains a mystery.
The sophomore guard hasn’t played much since suffering a lower leg injury in the Hawkeyes’ 96-73 win at Northwestern on January 17.
Since then, Fredrick has only played the first half of games against Indiana and Michigan State, and didn’t play at all in games against Illinois and Ohio State. The Hawkeyes lost three of those four games, and heading into Sunday’s game at Indiana aren’t sure if Fredrick is coming back any time soon.
“CJ is legitimately still day-to-day,” Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said after Thursday’s 89-85 loss to Ohio State. “We knew yesterday he wasn’t going to go today, but even left that open to see how he felt today. And he wasn’t ready to go.”
When Fredrick has been healthy, he’s been in the starting lineup in every game in the last two seasons. But he missed six games last season, and the second halves of two others. The Hawkeyes are 29-12 in the games when he has played, 4-4 in the games he hasn’t played. They are 1-3 in games when he only played one half.
There is no question about the impact Fredrick has on the Hawkeyes. He is a 48.6 percent shooter for his career, 47.4 percent in 3-pointers. Fredrick is averaging 8.7 points this season, and is a 50 percent 3-point shooter, 48.5 percent overall.
There were times last season when it was clear the Hawkeyes missed Fredrick.
He didn’t play in a 76-70 loss to Nebraska on a night when Iowa shot 4-of-33 in 3-pointers. He missed three consecutive games after suffering an ankle injury at Indiana, and the Hawkeyes were 16-of-67 (23.9 percent) in 3-pointers in those games.
The impact of Fredrick’s absence was felt even more last season since guard Jordan Bohannon was already out for most of the Big Ten season, but even this season, with Bohannon back, no Fredrick on the court can cause changes to opposing defenses.
Fredrick played just 11 ½ minutes in Tuesday’s 84-78 win over Michigan State, all in the first half, but his presence on the court forced the Spartans to change how they defended Iowa center Luka Garza.
“The Fredrick kid plays, wasn’t supposed to play,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said. “That changed who we were supposed to double off of.”
There are individual impacts with the Hawkeyes as well when Fredrick doesn’t play.
A breakdown of how the other three starters on the perimeter shoot in games and halves with and without Fredrick shows the difference.
Overall field goal percentage — .448 (last 2 seasons), .406 (without Fredrick), .461 (with Fredrick).
3-point percentage — .385 (last 2 seasons), .348 (without Fredrick), .400 (with Fredrick)
Overall field goal percentage — .362 (last 2 seasons), .341 (without Fredrick), .367 (with Fredrick)
3-point percentage — .365 (last 2 seasons), .324 (without Fredrick), .374 (with Fredrick)
Overall field goal percentage — .382 (last 2 seasons), .279 (without Fredrick), .423 (with Fredrick)
3-point percentage — .330 (last 2 seasons), .324 (without Fredrick), .333 (with Fredrick)
Fredrick’s absence this season has given a chance for forward Jack Nunge to get more minutes. Nunge has averaged 9.8 points over the last four games, including 18 points in Thursday’s loss to the Buckeyes.
“It’s fun to see,” Fran McCaffery said of the way Nunge has been playing. “It’s fun to see how well this kid is playing. The key thing about it, he’s going to keep getting better.”
Still, it’s important to get Fredrick back and healthy heading into the closing weeks of the season.
Photo: Iowa’s CJ Fredrick reacts after a 3-pointer against Gonzaga earlier this season. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)