MUSCATINE, Ia. – Joe Wieskamp is focused.
That’s the first thing you need to know about him.
More than his athleticism, his potential or his preternatural coordination, the 15-year-old from Muscatine is one of the nation’s top basketball prospects and an Iowa Hawkeye commit because he gives whatever he’s working on his undivided attention.
He always has.
“We knew right away he was different,” said K.C. Schmitt, the coach of Wieskamp’s team in the Iowa Barnstormers AAU program.
“When I started working with him in sixth grade, Joe was one of the only kids we’ve ever had that young that we’d talk to and tell them they did something wrong, and he’d make eye contact with coaches, nod his head and immediately work his butt off to fix it.
“This kid is all business.”
Basketball is how Wieskamp has become known to Hawkeye fans and followers of Iowa high school sports. It’s the reason he’s quickly sweating on a cool morning inside West Middle School’s deserted gym.
Dana Wieskamp speaks softly when complimenting the second of her four sons so as not to distract his workout, but he’s too locked in to care.
“Joe is a thinker, so he takes awhile to process information and he’s very quiet,” Dana Wieskamp says. “So when he decides he’s ready to talk, we start talking.
“This opportunity came up earlier than we expected, so I think he was a little caught off-guard when scholarship offers started coming in. But he was very thoughtful in his process and actually not quick to make his decision.”
Smooth 3-pointers from the high release of his 6-foot-5-inch frame continue to fall.
“He just has a love for the game,” she adds. “He knows what he wants.”
Even shooting around with a teammate on an off day can be serious. Until it’s Joe’s turn to talk.
He throws a lob off the backboard to himself for an emphatic dunk, sets the ball down and moves on to the next task. Each statement is calm and matter-of-fact, starting with an explanation and introduction for who he is.
On and off the court, Wieskamp is mature beyond his age. And he’s already decided his future before his sophomore year of high school.
“Obviously it is early,” Wieskamp said. “But my family supported me and said if that’s where I wanted to go, just go do it.”
The second thing you’ll need to know about ESPN’s 16th-ranked basketball recruit in the Class of 2018 is how to pronounce his last name.
Not a “wise” sound. More like “wheeze.”
Sports fans in Muscatine have it down, as Joe’s brother, Matt, just graduated with varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track.
The oldest son of Steve and Dana Wieskamp (did you say it correctly this time?) will play football at Western Illinois in the fall.
“He was my biggest hero growing up,” Joe said. “We were definitely competitive with each other, but seeing the way he handles himself has provided a great role model for me.”
After growing up and playing together at home, Matt got to show Joe the ropes when it came to Class 4-A competition and the college recruiting process.
“I think when Joe was in junior high we had hopes he’d get to play at a higher level, but the last six months have definitely changed things,” Dana Wieskamp said. “My husband loves basketball, but I didn’t even play competitive sports. This is a whole new world.”
Family has been openly important to Joe since he started receiving college basketball interest and media requests out of junior high.
It played a simple yet major role in his June 9 decision to commit with coach Fran McCaffery and the Hawkeyes.
“I grew up liking the Hawks and I dreamed of playing for them,” Joe said. “Proximity to home was a big thing for me. Being 35 minutes away, I can go up there and it’s really important to me to have my parents and grandparents come up and watch.”
A long-term reason for his short collegiate selection: medical school.
Applying his focus and ability to academics means Joe intends to maintain his 4.0 grade-point average with a workload that will include three advanced placement classes in the fall.
“School comes first and he knows that and it’s never been an issue,” Dana Wieskamp said.
“He’s been organized since Day 1 and he’s very disciplined. Even in the way he eats and takes care of his body. Which isn’t anything that we’ve done, but he’ll listen to people and take their information and try to make a good decision.”
Wieskamp’s recruitment isn’t over.
That’s the third obvious and potentially uncomfortable fact.
Make no mistake: He’s given his verbal commitment to Iowa’s staff and intends to fall in the in-state line behind Dubuque Wahlert’s Cordell Pemsl in 2016 and Iowa City West’s Connor McCaffery in 2017.
“As people have told me, other schools will continue to recruit me if they want to because some schools think they’re better than Iowa and think they have a better shot of getting me,” Wieskamp said Thursday.
“Right now, I’m strongly set on Iowa.”
But the whirlwind hasn’t stopped. Wieskamp picked up his first scholarship offer on April 28 from Iowa State. The Hawkeyes offered two days later. On May 18, Northern Iowa joined the fray.
“It was a little overwhelming,” Dana Wieskamp said. “You try to be humble about the whole process and we try to keep Joe humble, but when you’re sitting in a room and someone is being so complimentary to your child, you’re obviously proud, but it’s a lot.”
He committed to Iowa on June 9 and ESPN added him to its top 25 national rankings two days later.
The next day, Schmitt got calls from Kentucky and Virginia.
“I wasn’t totally surprised by his early choice because he’s a really humble kid who isn’t really in love with the whole recruiting process,” Schmitt said. “When Iowa offered and Fran talked to him and he fell in love with Fran and that’s where he wanted to be.”
Wieskamp says he took six unofficial visits last winter, including a notable stop at Wisconsin.
A high level of play to finish his freshman season in the Mississippi Athletic Conference — 18.6 points and 6.1 rebounds per game on 47 percent shooting — ratcheted up college interest even more.
Expectations and star power could continue to rise as Wieskamp travels individually to national showcases and with the Barnstormers in July.
“It is still really early for the Class of 2018, but Rivals.com hasn’t seen many in that class who can shoot it with range or (have) a basketball IQ like Wieskamp,” Rivals national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi wrote in May after seeing the Barnstormers at the Kansas City Classic.
Wieskamp Fact No. 4: He’s made himself into a highly-prized shooting guard.
It’s a combination of skill development, physical growth and according to his mother, “god-given ability.”
“When I started working with Joe he was strictly a back-to-the-basket post player,” Schmitt said. “He had no idea how to defend the wing or play outside. Even in seventh grade, he couldn’t even shoot from the wing.
“Right now he’s a good athlete with a great head on his shoulders, a high-motor kid, he doesn’t make mistakes and he has an elite skill as a shooter.”
Wieskamp’s stroke was on display in the brief shootaround at West Middle School, as well as his blossoming reach. Lifting weights to trade lanky for lean, Wieskamp says he’s added nearly 20 pounds since the start of his freshman year and aims to get bigger than his current weight of 180.
“I’m also hoping for another inch or two, you never know,” Wieskamp said. “Even though next season with high school I’m probably going to be playing lots of center and power forward, I want to keep improving my handle so I can do more with the ball and create offense for my teammates.”
His skills won’t be sacrificed in the process.
“Joe is the kind of kid that if you show him how to do something once, he has the brain to pick it up and then he goes to the gym by himself and runs with it like you were still there teaching him,” Schmitt said.
“He leads through example more than communicating with his mouth. Kids follow Joe and they want to be like him. He does everything the right way.”
An undersized Muscatine roster forces him to play in the post with his high school team. The Barnstormers let him try his hand in the backcourt. The moves have ended up creating a versatile inside-outside threat at a young age.
“He’s someone I like a lot,” said Brian Snow, national recruiting analyst for Scout.com. “He knows how to play, can really shoot the ball and really impressed me in May when I saw him. He’s someone I think has a ton of potential and can be an excellent player for Iowa down the line.”
Wieskamp shot 40 percent from 3-point range and finished the season as the only freshman ever named first team all-MAC.
With incremental scoring growth, he could challenge Jeff Horner for Iowa’s all-time points mark in 4-A; the guard finished his Mason City career with 2,194 points, and coincidentally also committed to the Hawkeyes as a freshman.
“I think it’s tough for a kid of any age to decide where you’re going to go to college,” Muscatine coach Brandon Welsch told the Register in May. “There’s a lot of pressure that comes with the decision and there’s going to be a lot more publicity surrounding him for the next three years, but he’s handled that well.”
Expectations are sky-high. But his teammates can see the potential up close.
“We heard about him coming up, it sounded like all hype,” said senior Ben Morgan. “He’s the real deal. He’s shown it.”
The fifth and final thing you need to know about Joe Wieskamp is also the funniest.
He is not transferring to Iowa City West.
The rumor started — his family has no idea how — and spread that the state’s top sophomore-to-be would be driving to join the 4-A powerhouse and Barnstormers teammate, Connor McCaffery.
“A kid I was playing tennis against back in May told me that he knew for a fact that Joe was transferring,” Morgan said after rebounding for Wieskamp at West Middle School. “I was like, OK, this is getting ridiculous.”
Wieskamp is Muscatine to the core.
His parents both graduated from the high school.
His father is owner and operator of Muscatine Physical Therapy Services and his mother and grandmother work in the office.
His grandfather rebounds for him when teammates aren’t available. That’s going to be tough to leave even 45 minutes away when he plans to move to Iowa City in 2018.
“Joe thinks he wants to do something medically-related, but yet he’s 15 and he hasn’t had a lot of exposure,” Dana Wieskamp said. “The fact that Iowa is so close to home and they do have a med school is great, but it’s a large enough university there are plenty of other options if he changes his mind.”
He’s determined to turn the Muskies into a winner. It’s a tough task: they finished 7-15 last season.
“We’re trying to get some wins, but we want to bring the community into it too,” Wieskamp said. “Filling up the stands would be great for us. If we can produce on the court I think more people will start showing up and showing support for our program.”
Muscatine’s last state tournament appearance came in 2002. Before that? 1960.
“Football is the big sport at our school,” Morgan said. “The past 10 years or so we haven’t been very good, but we’re trying to change that or at least turn it around a little next season. Bringing in Joe is a big help to our class.”
He’s a strong building block in an undersized lineup, and the target on him in conference play will only grow with time. Wieskamp was the highest scoring freshman in the state last season and finished seventh in 4-A scoring, behind six seniors.
“I’ve been here seven or eight years and we’re still building a program here,” Welsch said. “Joe is kind of a unique situation for us.”
Wieskamp still wants to enjoy normal summertime activities while he can — playing golf and tennis for fun and hanging out with friends. He just might be running out of that normal time.
“I have to do some things for fun, because you don’t want to solely focus on basketball for eight years straight,” Wieskamp said.
Basketball will have to do for now. The Barnstormers leave for the West Coast on Monday and will play in Milwaukee and Kansas City later in July.
“There will be some things over the next couple years that may catch him by surprise, but I think he knows what’s on the horizon,” Schmitt said.
It all comes back to that focus.
Joe Wieskamp has lots of basketball, school and life left before arriving on campus in Iowa City three years from now.
But everyone should know more about him by then.
Joe Wieskamp was Muscatine’s top scorer and rebounder as a freshman and finished the 2014-15 season as the state’s top freshman scorer.
- PPG: 18.6
- RPG: 6.1
- FG%: 47.1
- 3FG%: 40.0
- FT%: 78.8
IOWA GOING IN-STATE
The Hawkeyes have already secured commitments from the next three classes of Iowa prep products, and likely have a fourth from coach Fran McCaffery’s son, Patrick, who enters high school this fall.
Class…Name School Height
- 2016— Cordell Pemsl Dubuque Wahlert 6-8
- 2017— Connor McCaffery Iowa City West 6-5
- 2018— Joe Wieskamp Muscatine 6-5
- 2019— Patrick McCaffery Iowa City West 6-6