By John Bohnenkamp
Fran McCaffery knows the season that defines Jordan Bohannon’s career.
Iowa went 14-19 in the 2017-18 season, the second worst record in McCaffery’s 11 full seasons as the Hawkeyes’ head coach.
It was Bohannon’s best season statistically. He had career highs in points (445), field goals (137), 3-pointers (96), field-goal percentage (.423), 3-point percentage (.406), and assists (178) in his sophomore season.
But it was also a season in which Bohannon was dealing with plantar fasciitis in his right foot. Yet he still played a team-high 1,050 minutes, never missing a start, never missing an opportunity. He played 30 or minutes in 20 games, including two in which he played the entire game.
“We were really depleted in the backcourt,” McCaffery said after Thursday’s 108-82 win over Alabama State, when Bohannon became the Big Ten’s all-time leader in 3-pointers. “Connor (McCaffery) was out for the year. And (Bohannon) played all year, every possession. Never said a word, and was in incredible pain for a variety of ailments. He was ‘I’m good, I’m ready to go, Coach.’
“He knew we needed him. And he fought. … He’s special in that regard.”
“That wasn’t a fun year,” Bohannon said when he recalled that season moments later in the post-game press conference. “I was battling through injuries, we were 14-19, we couldn’t even show our face in public because we were just getting crapped on, because of how bad we were as a team.”
That season was just another lesson for Bohannon, who knows there’s that love-him-or-hate-him attitude out there.
There are those who appreciate what he’s done at Iowa — he’s the program’s all-time leader in 3-pointers, assists and free-throw percentage. They know the records he has, and his loyalty — he has played in 147 games, coming back for a sixth season because he doesn’t want to leave without finishing what he’s started.
To others — mostly opposing fans, but he has his detractors among Iowa’s fan base — he’s a pain, an irritant-in-residence who can provoke a negative social media reaction to pretty much anything.
That, of course, doesn’t matter to McCaffery, who knows what Bohannon has accomplished, and is still accomplishing.
“If you think about it, it’s really amazing because there are a lot of really good players in this league, especially a lot of good 3-point shooters,” McCaffery said. “You have to work really hard to accomplish something like that, I’m not talking about during the offseason I’m talking about since you are a little kid. Dreaming one day that you are going to play at this level and perform consistently the way he has is truly impressive and I’m really happy for him and proud that I got to coach him.”
“You’ve got to have a ‘why’ in everything you do,” Bohannon said. “If you don’t love what you do, there’s no point in doing it. I love putting my Iowa jersey on, I love playing for Coach McCaffery, I love playing in front of Iowa fans. And that’s why I came back
“It wasn’t for any selfish reason. It was to do what I love.”
Bohannon talked on Thursday about how, when he was younger, he would be getting shots up at 4:30 in the morning. Five hundred makes is he what he wanted every day.
“All my friends called me crazy. ‘Why in the hell are you doing this?’” Bohannon said.
Bohannon wanted to play at the major-college level.
Wanted to set records.
Wanted to prove his doubters wrong.
“I know the work I put in,” Bohannon said.
McCaffery knows, too. And McCaffery knew, when Bohannon told him he was coming back for a final season and would move to the ‘2’ guard spot to open up the point for Joe Toussaint and Ahron Ulis, he had no doubts about his decision.
“When he said he was coming, he was really excited about it,” McCaffery said. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, I’m coming back.’ It was, ‘I’m back. I’m ready.’
“He knows this is going to be a different journey than last year. He’s got a different responsibility.”
Bohannon overcame the foot problems of his sophomore season, the sore hips that plagued him as a junior and forced him to have surgeries on both that limited what would have been his senior season.
“That’s what makes it so special,” Bohannon said. “The dark times you go through, they set myself up to work through … to get to the good times. I’ve always thought that any time you go through a tough time in life, you’re providing yourself a lesson for the positive that’s about to happen.”
His career has already been defined to McCaffery.
“Toughest guy I’ve ever been around,” he said.
Photo: Jordan Bohannon has the numbers, but one season has defined his career at Iowa. (Brian Ray/hawkeyesports.com)