IOWA CITY — Joe Wieskamp knows that the hype is there.
He’s the state’s all-time leading scorer in high school. He’s a two-time Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year winner. He was rated a four-star recruit, and the No. 43-ranked recruit in the 2018 class, by Rivals.com.
“Obviously,” Wieskamp said at Iowa’s media day on Monday, “I know the pressure is there.”
The best way to ignore the pressure is to just do your job, something that isn’t always easy to do for a freshman.
But Wieskamp, a 6-foot-6 swingman from Muscatine High School, has impressed since his arrival on campus with the way he has approached his new team, his new life.
Iowa coach Fran McCaffery went through the Wieskamp checklist.
“Very professional in his approach to working, to listening, to figuring things out,” McCaffery said. “Very competitive. Really locked in.
“Scoring the ball, you know, taking good shots. Understanding the offense and how he fits. Very mature for a young guy, but I think not unexpected.”
It’s not to say Wieskamp has also received an education. It started in an open gym this summer, when he was screened by sophomore forward Luka Garza and former Iowa center Adam Woodbury.
It wasn’t exactly like trying to defend a high school player in the Mississippi Athletic Conference.
“Getting screened by those guys is a lot different than getting screened by some 6-footer in high school who’s not nearly that strong,” Wieskamp said, smiling.
“I think the strength, the speed of the game, the mental aspect, it’s all different. In high school, we didn’t watch a whole lot of film. Now we’re watching film every day. I’m analyzing every single clip. Maybe your foot (on a shot) is just a half-foot or a foot off. The coaches see that and can correct that.”
His game translates well,” McCaffery said. “You know, he's a guy I think most known for his ability to score and put up incredible numbers, but he's a really good defender. He's a really good ball handler.”
Wieskamp can play the ‘2’ or the ‘3’, and he might even run the offense occasionally.
“If you're playing him at small forward, it gives you another handler, somebody who can make a shot but make a play for somebody else who makes a shot,” McCaffery said. “He can guard a number of different positions, so it gives us some flexibility there. You know, so I think he kind of views himself as somebody who can really help our team, even if his shot is not falling on any particular day. And that's because he's got such a complete game.
“That's what we need from him. You know, yes, he's a terrific shooter. Yes, we've seen him make eight 3s in a game and he's got the ability to do that. That's going to be hard to do at this level. He'll make a bunch, no doubt about that. But I think he'll impact the game with his competitive instincts, his defense, his rebounding, his ball-handling, and most importantly, his versatility.”
“Obviously we have a lot of scoring threats,” Wieskamp said. “I view myself as another scoring threat. I have to be strong defensively, too — hopefully guard one of (the opponent’s) best players.”
For now, it’s all about learning. He’s had some battles at the rim with players like junior forward Tyler Cook.
“For Big Ten play, there’s going to be big guys coming at me every time,” Wieskamp said. “I just have to go up there and finish strong. You can’t go just go up there and take an easy layup because that’s getting swatted.”
He has impressed Cook.
“Where I was as a freshman, he’s light years ahead of me,” Cook said. “I keep talking about his maturity, you know, the mindset and the work ethic he’s brought to this team since the day he walked onto this campus.
“He’s been a professional in everything he’s done, on and off the court. He comes in and gets his work in before practice, stays late after practice. Every time Coach tells him he needs something, Joe does it. I wish I could say the same thing about myself when I was a freshman.”
Cook, also a highly-touted recruit when he came in, handled the expectations. Wieskamp must now do the same.
“At the end of the day, I just have to go out there and play the game,” Wieskamp said. “I know that all the work and preparation that I put into this will help.”