Sept. 18, 2003
The University of Iowa men’s basketball team got an early start on aseason that doesn’t begin until November with a 12-day trip to Australialast month.
The team played five professional Australian basketball clubs, took inthe sights of Sydney and Brisbane and also went out to the Great BarrierReef on their first summer tour since 1998, when the Hawkeyes travelledto Europe.
“The trip came at a good time for our team as we look forward to nextyear,” said Iowa coach Steve Alford. “We have 10 players who played onthe trip, which is a good number. Nick DeWitz and Pierre Pierce hadpracticed with us, but they hadn’t played in a game in nearly a year anda half. It really helped both of them heading into the year.”
The 10 members of the team who travelled down under included eightletter winners from last season. The returning players who made the tripare: Brody Boyd, Jared Reiner, Sean Sonderleiter, Kurt Spurgeon, GlenWorley, Jack Brownlee, Greg Brunner and Jeff Horner. Pierce and Brownleeredshirted during the 2003 season, while DeWitz joined the program forthe spring semester a year ago.
“It was a great opportunity for our student-athletes to travel to aforeign country, experience the culture and the people. We had 10 daysof practice in advance of the trip, and we played five games againstvery good, professional teams,” Alford said. “This was my first trip ascoach and I really looked forward to it. As a player, I was able totravel to China and Japan, among other places. For a lot of differentplayers, this could be a once in a lifetime situation.”
Iowa came off the series with a 4-1 record, losing 133-124 to theAustralian National Basketball League Final Four team Wollongong Hawksin its second game.
“It was a great opportunity for our student-athletes to travel to aforeign country, experience the culture and the people. We had 10 daysof practice in advance of the trip, and we played five games againstvery good, professional teams.”
Head Coach Steve Alford
On the first game of the tour in Sydney, the Hawkeyes defeated the NBLchampion Sydney Kings 100-99 in overtime when senior center Jared Reinerscored on a tip-in basket with just four seconds left on the clock.
Reiner was the series’ top rebounder with 52 grabs. He also scored 71points to average 14.2 a game.
The trip was Reiner’s first to Australia but fourth internationaljourney, having visited Germany, France, Belgium and the Netherlands inhigh school and as a member of the Big 10 travelling team.
Reiner said that there were no real differences in the game, except forthe pace and extended time of play. The Hawkeyes played four, 12-minutequarters as opposed to the 40-minute college game and had a 24-secondshot clock.
“We were just trying to find our legs, but we kept pushing and we gotthe win,” said Reiner. “Playing against professional teams is a littledifferent. You had a lot more shots and scored a lot more.”
Boyd, a senior guard, agreed.
“It just seemed that every time there was a dead ball, it was in playand going the other way,” he said. “We adjusted to that, and we workedon that in those 10 practices.”
Boyd said that those 10 summer practices beginning at the end of Julywere important in their success on the island continent but also as agauge for the upcoming season.
“The 10 practices we had before we went were big for us,” Boyd said. “Wegot a jumpstart on the season, with what coach wants and what we’regoing to do in the season. That was a big plus for us. Going into thosepractices, we wanted to begin where we left off. We did that.”
For both Reiner and Boyd, the 20-hour trip to Australia was perhaps themost frustrating aspect of the experience. The team travelledcommercially, as opposed to their chartered flights for season games,and endured a 16-hour transpacific flight, which also included acomplete day-change of lag.
“It’s a pretty rough ride,” said Boyd, who was on his firstinternational trip. “But it was fun. It was a great experience for us.My parents tell me it’s something that they probably will never be ableto do.”
Boyd said that he’s been able to have a lot of experiences at Iowa thathe wouldn’t have had elsewhere.
“No doubts about it,” Boyd said. “At the Big 10 level like this and withCoach Alford having the experience that he has, knowing where to go,what to do and the places to play helped me out a lot to do thosethings. If you don’t have an experienced coach, you’re not going to beable to do those things.”
Boyd and Reiner were both able to catch some of the surfing along theSunshine and Gold Coasts near Brisbane. The team was also able to headout to the Great Barrier Reef.
“That was unbelievable,” said Boyd. “A lot of people can’t say they’vebeen there.”
“We should be really, really good. It’s every day we’re outhere playing five-on-five and doing our individual drills. We’re gettingafter it.”
Iowa senior Brody Boyd
While in Sydney, the entire team was able to scale the 71-year-oldHarbour Bridge at a height of 1,650 feet. The tourist attraction boastssome of the greatest views in the city.
“It was just neat to be around a lot of different people and see thethings we got to see,” Boyd said. “It was a phenomenal experience forme. To be able to climb the bridge in Sydney as a team was a lot offun.”
Both Reiner and Boyd hope that the fun and experience gained inAustralia will help the Hawkeyes into the regular season. The 2003-2004Iowa team will be the most experienced that Alford has had in his tenurein Iowa City, as his first class of recruits become seniors.
“We should be really, really good,” Boyd said. “It’s every day we’re outhere playing five-on-five and doing our individual drills. We’re gettingafter it.”
By Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com