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CEDAR FALLS -- Traveling together as teammates on the club basketball circuit, it didn't take Joe Wieskamp long to figure out the type of lifestyle that has allowed AJ Green to excel.

"He always ate healthy and went to sleep early at tournaments," Wieskamp recalls. "That's something that I was able to pick up off of. He was playing well, and you could tell that's because he was taking care of his body and things like that, that some people don't really think about."

Wieskamp and Green shared a backcourt from sixth grade through 17U competition within a Barnstormers AAU team coached by K.C. Schmitt. Each is quick to credit the other for creating scoring opportunities to impress college scouts as they rose through the ranks and became consensus top 100 national recruits.

On Saturday, these longtime friends will go head-to-head for the first time in an organized game when UNI and Iowa meet at 6 p.m. in the finale of the Hy-Vee Classic inside Des Moines' Wells Fargo Arena.

"It's going to be a lot of fun playing against him and UNI," Wieskamp said. "I have a lot of respect for their program. They recruited me. ... If it would have been last year (when UNI and Iowa played), I wouldn't have had that opportunity, so I'm thankful to be able to play them."

Green, a 6-foot-3 point guard, is leading UNI with 15.8 points per game and has knocked down a team-best 21 3-pointers at a 34 percent success rate. Wieskamp, a versatile 6-foot-6 guard, has similarly earned an immediate spot in Iowa's starting five, averaging 10.1 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.

"This has been both of our dreams," Green said. "I know it's always been his dream to play at Iowa, and he works very hard. To see him starting now and playing at the next level is really cool, and I think he probably feels the same way about me."

Green and Wieskamp have maintained communication throughout their high school seasons and into college.

"We kind of give each other advice back and forth," Green said. "We're just telling each other to always be aggressive, play our game, don't let this next step in college change who we are as a player."

Both are less than a year removed from making a lasting statement within a state that has produced stars such as Fred Hoiberg, Kyle Korver, Raef LaFrentz, Kirk Hinrich, Nick Collison, Harrison Barnes, Doug McDermott and Marcus Paige.

Wieskamp, a two-time Iowa Gatorade Player of the Year, finished his career as Class 4A's all-time leading scorer with 2,376 points. He averaged 33.5 points on 55.5 percent shooting, guiding Muscatine to its first state tournament appearance since 2002.

"That was something not many people could do," Green said. "Nothing against Muscatine, but they didn't really have too much other than him. Just for him to be able to kind of put that team on his back and get them down to the state tournament was really cool to see."

Green put together a historic season of his own, knocking down a single-season 4A record 119 3-pointers at a 48.8 percent success rate. He led Cedar Falls to its first state championship.

"He's never been really a vocal leader," Wieskamp said. "AJ's just kind of a guy that led by example and he got people to follow him that way. But I think you could really tell just by watching his team that he was the vocal leader for them and really carried them a long way."

UNI coach Ben Jacobson offered high praise for what both athletes accomplished entering college.

"They're two of the best high school players in the history of our state," Jacobson said. "I don't think there's any question. I know everybody has got their list of the top 25 or top 50, and there's a bunch of good players that have played high school basketball in the state of Iowa, but AJ and Joe are without a question two of the best to do it."

Neither Green nor Wieskamp is surprised by what the other has done so far in college.

"I knew going into this season that he'd probably be their leading scorer," Wieskamp said. "He just has that mindset and that ability to take over games and contribute right away.

"You can really tell the way he's built his body this year and how much he's transformed. He's gotten a lot stronger."

Assessing his own development, Wieskamp says the defensive end of the floor has been where he's tried to earn his minutes. He ranks among Iowa's leaders with five blocked shots and seven steals.

"Because he scored so much in high school, I think that's where people kind of start and stop with him," Jacobson said. "He's more than that. He's a very good defender, and he's got good size and he goes and rebounds. He isn't just a guy who is going to get points."

Iowa is off to a strong 7-2 start with Wieskamp returning from an ankle injury to play a role in last week's 98-84 win over Iowa State. UNI sits 4-5 and is working through a new offense while striving to play the rigorous defense that has been a signature of its successful teams in years past.

"Obviously wins and losses are going to have some effect on you, especially after coming off some tough losses," Green said. "I just have to always stay level, stay confident and trust in the work that I've put in, and the rest of the team."

No matter what challenges these long-time friends encounter, they have each other's support.

"Playing with each other for so long, we know what we like to do on and off the court," Wieskamp said. "If I ever need anything, I know that I can count on him, and I hope he feels the same way."

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Sports Reporter

Sports reporter for The Courier

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