DES MOINES, Iowa — Long before they developed into two of the better players in America, Iowa’s Peter Jok and Northern Iowa’s Jeremy Morgan were friends and rivals on the state’s summer hoops circuit.
Jok and Morgan will meet again Saturday in Des Moines.
Jok, the leading scorer among Power Five programs (23.8 points per game), will lead the Hawkeyes (5-5) against Morgan’s Panthers (5-4) in the annual doubleheader featuring Iowa’s four Division I programs. The other game pits Iowa State (6-3) against Drake (1-8).
The opener features long-time friends in Jok and Morgan (18.1 points per game), who likely would’ve played together in Iowa City if coach Fran McCaffery had a scholarship left for Morgan.
Northern Iowa Athletics
Jeremy Morgan dropped 38 points in the second half to carry UNI to a win over North Dakota.
“Jeremy has always been a terrific player. I saw him as a young kid. I really wanted to have him badly,” McCaffery said. “But we felt like Pete was the best fit at that time. If we had two or three scholarships he would have been offered without hesitation.”
McCaffery went with Jok over Morgan because he needed a shooter and he certainly got one. Jok has already scored at least 30 points three times this season and is shooting 41 percent from 3-point range.
Morgan took longer to develop, but he’s turned into one of the nation’s top overall players as a senior. Morgan is also averaging 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists, three steals and nearly two blocks per game — and he scored 38 points in the second half of last week’s win over North Dakota.
“I knew that he would come out and be a great leader, which he’s been,” Jok said of Morgan.” I keep a watch out for them every time they play because they’ve got a lot of Iowa guys over there.”
But Jok and Morgan won’t be the only guys suiting up for the final time for an event once known as the “Big Four Classic.” Here are some of the other story lines to follow:
Iowa State tumbled out of the Top 25 for the first time in three years on Monday after dropping three of its last four. That’s bad news for the Bulldogs, who will be playing for just the second time after coach Ray Giacoletti’s abrupt resignation . The Cyclones have improved defensively, but their high-powered offense has struggled of late. Expect them to take their frustrations out on Drake, which hung with Iowa in this event a year ago.
Iowa’s next three top scorers after Jok are freshmen, who’ve made McCaffery’s rebuilding efforts seem ahead of schedule. Perhaps the most promising newcomer is Dubuque (Iowa) Wahlert product Cordell Pemsl, who has averaged 17 points a game since entering the starting lineup. Pemsl has even evoked comparisons to former Iowa State star Georges Niang because of his unique ability to score inside.
Morgan, like Jok, is scoring at a career-high clip partly because his team needs him to finish. The Panthers don’t have a ton of established players, but redshirt freshman Spencer Haldeman and junior Klint Carlson have begun to emerge as key pieces and forward Bennett Koch is shooting 61 percent from the field.
The Bulldogs haven’t beaten a Division I opponent yet, so it’s tough to find much positive on this front. But junior guard Reed Timmer is a keeper, averaging 15.7 points a game, and junior college transfer T.J. Thomas has strengthened Drake’s frontcourt. The Bulldogs also nearly beat DePaul and Fresno State before Giacoletti walked away.
NOT SO NEUTRAL
The doubleheader was conceived in part because Iowa and Iowa State were tired of their annual home-and-home arrangements with Northern Iowa. Still, the Panthers beat Iowa in 2014 and Iowa State last year in Des Moines. UNI also pushed the Cyclones to overtime in 2013.
This article was written by Luke Meredith from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.