Oct. 13, 2003
With a 13-man roster that includes four returning starters and eight lettermen, Iowa Coach Steve Alford is looking forward to the 2003-04 season. Experience, depth, balance and flexibility should all work to his teams advantage as Iowa seeks a fourth straight winning season and post-season appearance. Following consecutive invitations to the National Invitation Tournament the past two seasons, Alford feels his most experienced team at Iowa has a chance to return to the NCAA Tournament after a two-year absence.
Iowa posted a 17-14 overall record a year ago, including wins over Valparaiso and Iowa State in the NIT before a last-second loss to Georgia Tech ended the season. Short on numbers and experience last year, the 2003-04 Hawkeyes will feature a full roster that includes eight lettermen and 11 players who were with the team for the second semester a year ago.
Iowa posted an 8-3 record in early season action a year ago, including a road win at 20th-ranked Tulsa and a narrow home loss to 16th-ranked Missouri. The Hawkeyes then won their first three Big Ten games, including home wins over eighth-ranked Illinois and 20th-ranked Michigan State.
Iowa’s inexperience and lack of depth showed at times as the Hawkeyes lost five of six. But just as important were hand and knee injuries to Jared Reiner, who missed all of three games. Still, Iowa never lost more than three straight games and gained some momentum with a late season win at Ohio State and an overtime loss at Indiana.
Iowa earned its second straight NIT bid after falling to Ohio State on a last-second shot in the Big Ten Tournament. That loss, plus all three of Iowa’s games in the NIT, came down to a final shot, with Iowa defeating Valparaiso and Iowa State, thus avenging a regular season loss and falling to Georgia Tech.
“I really liked the strides we made last season in a number of areas outside of wins and losses. This group worked hard, played together, and moved the program in a positive direction. It was a very enjoyable year. We look forward to building on that foundation as we head into the upcoming season.
Iowa Coach Steve Alford
Iowa’s roster consists of five seniors, a junior, five sophomores and two freshmen. And, 11 of the 13 players have spent at least one semester with the program. Ten of those players competed during a five-game tour in Australia over the summer. The Hawkeyes earned four wins on that trip and gained valuable experience for the upcoming season.
The losses from last season are guards Chauncey Leslie and Josh Kimm. Leslie enjoyed an outstanding senior season, leading the team in scoring with a 15.8 average. His overall quickness and dependability will be missed, while Kimm provided a steady back-up in the guard court while playing in 21 games.
“We’re going to miss Chauncey,” admitted Alford. “He’s a guy who stepped up during his senior year and really provided leadership and consistent play for us. He had an outstanding senior season. We feel our new seniors can follow his footsteps in really taking charge and providing a solid core for us to build around with our younger guys.”
The list of returning players includes four returning starters and five seniors. Three of those players earned honorable mention all-Big Ten recognition a year ago. Four of the seniors made up Alford’s first recruiting class, a group that made a major contribution to Iowa’s 2001 Big Ten Tournament title and combined for 70 starts last season. The fifth, forward Kurt Spurgeon (6-5, 195), joined the program last season from Tyler, TX Community College.
The senior group includes center Jared Reiner (6-11, 255), who led the Big Ten in rebounding last season. Reiner averaged 9.7 points and 8.3 rebounds, shooting 54.1% from the field and 74.4% from the free throw line. Reiner played the best, and most consistent, basketball of his Iowa career towards the end of the season in earning honorable mention all-Big Ten. This despite suffering a broken bone in his right hand and a sprained knee during the Big Ten portion of the schedule. He heads into his final season as one of the top true centers in the Big Ten.
Forward Glen Worley (6-7, 218) has been a part-time starter throughout his career. He was second on the team in scoring a year ago (10.9) and also averaged 5.2 rebounds per game. Proving he can be a scoring threat and a solid rebounder, Worley must improve on foul problems that have hampered his progress and status as a go-to guy. Worley, last season, fouled out of 12 games and led the team in personal fouls. He still played well enough to be named honorable mention all-Big Ten.
Center Sean Sonderleiter (6-9, 235) has also improved with each season, raising his averages to 8.5 points and four rebounds as a junior. While Sonderleiter and Reiner have shared the center position over the past three years, Sonderleiter could also see time at the power forward position.
Guard Brody Boyd (5-11, 165) is the fourth player who is in his fourth year at Iowa. Boyd started nine games a year ago, averaging 9.7 points per outing. Boyd, a three-point threat throughout his career, struggled with his shooting at times a year ago, but still led Iowa with 55 three-pointers. He ranks among Iowa’s career leaders in both three-point field goals and attempts.
Season, single game and group tickets are currently on sale for the 2003-04 season of Coach Steve Alford’s squad. To purchase yours or for more information, visit hawkeyesports.com, call 1-800 IA-HAWKS or visit the UI Athletic Ticket Office in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
Reiner and Worley both had 26 starts a year ago and more often than not were joined in the starting group by guard Jeff Horner (6-3, 185) and forward Greg Brunner (6-7, 240), who were both in their first season. Horner started all 31 games, averaging 8.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game, breaking Dean Oliver’s record for assists by a freshman (140).
Brunner (6-7, 240) started 23 of 31 games as a freshman and averaged 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. He shot 52.6 from the field and blocked 20 shots. His consistency should improve with a year of college experience under his belt.
In addition to those four experienced seniors, four other players who have been with the program are ready for action after not playing for the Hawkeyes a year ago. Guard Pierre Pierce (6-4, 195) averaged 7.1 points and 3.3 rebounds in 2001-02 before redshirting last season. Pierce and Horner are the only two Iowa freshmen to ever record over 200 points, 100 rebounds and 100 assists in a singe season.
Sophomore forward Nick DeWitz (6-8, 215) joined the Iowa program for the second semester a year ago after playing one season at Utah Valley State CC. He averaged 9.3 points and 4.7 rebounds during his freshman season and adds both size and athleticism to the mix.
Sophomore center Erek Hansen (6-11, 210) redshirted at Iowa in 2001-02 and returns to the roster after playing at Kirkwood CC a year ago. Hansen averaged 7.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.3 blocked shots per game while for a Kirkwood team that compiled a 33-4 overall record and placed third in the junior college Division II national tournament.
Junior guard Jack Brownlee (6-0, 165) played two seasons at Kirkwood CC before joining the Iowa program a year ago. Brownlee redshirted last season.
The only two players on the roster who have not yet been in the Iowa system are a pair of talented freshmen, guards Mike Henderson (6-2, 190) and Ben Rand (6-6, 185). Henderson attended East HS in Waterloo, averaging 18 points, six assists and four rebounds per game as a senior in helping East win the state title with a 26-1 record.
Rand comes to Iowa from Rochelle, IL HS where he averaged 23.5 points and 8.3 rebounds as a senior. Rand earned first team all-state honors in Illinois as a senior. In three seasons he helped his team post a 61-22 record while scoring 2,144 career points and collecting 829 career rebounds.
“I like the versatility this group provides,” added Alford. “We add depth at every position, and I think the skills that our new players bring will compliment our returning players. We’ve added size, quickness and shooting ability to a veteran group that understands what it takes to have success at this level.”
The success in Australia over the summer was also a bonus for the upcoming season. “The program had a great summer,” said Alford. “On and off the court, the guys have matured and are focused on basketball. Our seniors know this is their team, that it is time to step up and be leaders for the younger guys.”
While winning four of five games on the summer tour in Australia, the Hawkeyes featured a balanced scoring attack, with seven players averaging in double figures. As a team Iowa shot 50.2% from the field and 36.5% from three-point range. Iowa held a rebounding advantage in all five games, but shot just 65% from the free throw line and had a large number of turnovers.
Pierce led the squad in scoring by averaging 20.8 points per contest. Horner (17.8), Boyd (14.2), Reiner (14.2), Worley (13.2), Brunner (12.4) and DeWitz (10.4) also scored in double figures. Reiner averaged 10.4 rebounds, while Brunner, Worley and Horner all averaged over six per game. Six Hawkeye players shot over 50% from the field and Boyd shot 45.2% (19-42) from three-point range.
“Brody had an outstanding summer, he’s much improved and that showed in the five games,” pointed out Alford. “As a team, I think we gained some confidence in our offense, that we can score points. Jared continued to play well, both scoring and rebounding. Overall, I think this team has a lot of offensive talent.”
Iowa’s schedule is a challenging one, boasting road games with the likes of Louisville and Texas Tech on top of a full Big Ten slate.
Alford’s fifth Iowa team will face a strong non-conference schedule before entering conference play as seven non-conference opponents were in post-season play a year ago. Non-conference home dates are scheduled with North Carolina-Asheville, Drake, Wisconsin-Green Bay and Eastern Illinois, while away dates are scheduled at Northern Iowa, Iowa State and Missouri. The Hawkeyes will also meet Louisville in Indianapolis as part of the John Wooden Tradition and Texas Tech in a neutral site game at Dallas, TX. Iowa’s Gazette Hawkeye Challenge includes Northern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago and Eastern Washington.
Among the non-conference opponents, Missouri, UNC-Asheville and Louisville were in the NCAA Tournament last season, while Texas Tech, Iowa State, Eastern Washington and Illinois-Chicago joined Iowa in the NIT field.
The 2003-04 Hawkeyes will make their first public appearance when the team stages that annual Black and Gold Basketball Blowout on Saturday, Nov. 1. General admission tickets cost $5 and are available for purchase at the UI Athletic Ticket Office.
Iowa’s 16-game conference schedule includes single games with Penn State, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan State, with the Nittany Lions and Badgers visiting Iowa City and the Hawkeyes traveling to Indiana and Michigan State.
“I really liked the strides we made last season in a number of areas outside of wins and losses,” concluded Alford. “This group worked hard, played together, and moved the program in a positive direction. It was a very enjoyable year. We look forward to building on that foundation as we head into the upcoming season. Our summer experience only added to the way our guys were progressing at the end of last season.”