March 15, 2004
Head Coach Steve Alford said in a Monday teleconference that there won’t be any alterations to his Iowa lineup following a 79-70 loss to Michigan in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament last Friday in Indianapolis.
But there will be one player who is likely to see more playing time when the Hawkeyes take on St. Louis at 6 p.m. in the Family Arena in St. Charles, Mo., in the first round of the 2004 National Invitation Tournament tomorrow.
Redshirt sophomore Erek Hansen, who scored six points and had four rebounds and two blocked shots in the Michigan game, has impressed his coaches with his defensive performances over the course of 21 of Iowa’s 28 games so far, even while averaging just 2.1 minutes per game. Indeed, the 6-foot, 11-inch Texan has proven to be a source of defensive power for the offensively strong but depleted roster of the guard-heavy Hawkeyes.
“I don’t know if we’ll change lineups or things,” Alford said. “But I think, obviously, Erek is warranting more playing time. We’re near the end of the season, and we’re in post season, so I doubt there’ll be changes in the starting lineup, but I think you’ll see him earlier. You’ll get a chance to see him play more minutes – just because we like what he’s doing.”
Alford has reason to be pleased with Hansen’s play.
In his reserve capacity, seeing only 13 of 16 conference games, the center has recorded 32 blocked shots – second highest in the Big Ten – and leads the league in that category with a 2.46 block-per-game average. Hansen has a team-high 37 blocks in 21 contests this season.
The steps Hansen has made over the course of the season have been huge. After redshirting his first year at Iowa, he attended Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College where he averaged 8.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.3 blocked shots helping Kirkwood post a 33-4 record and place third in the Division II Junior College National Tournament.
Now in his first full year as a full-fledged Hawkeye, Hansen is just happy to be back out on the court playing for Alford and Iowa.
“I’ve been looking forward to playing here for two years, and now I’m finally getting to do it,” he said last November. “I’m not scared, but I might get a little anxious stepping out onto the court.”
But Hansen started to see more time after Iowa lost at Illinois on Jan. 17, and has said the nervousness has calmed.
“It’s a little better,” he said. “When I first started playing, I started rushing myself and doing things I probably shouldn’t have done. Now, I’m relaxing and just doing what I can do for sure, and just implementing the rest of my game slowly.”
“He’s starting to slow down and become more efficient on the offensive end – he got six points for us (against Michigan),” the coach said. “He runs the floor very well, and I think he’s warranted more playing time, and I think he’ll get that at St. Louis.”
“But I think, obviously, Erek is warranting more playing time. We’re near the end of the season, and we’re in post season, so I doubt there’ll be changes in the starting lineup, but I think you’ll see him earlier. You’ll get a chance to see him play more minutes – just because we like what he’s doing.”
Head Coach Steve Alford
An “extremely active” player at the defensive end, Hansen credits his ability to block to a simple formula: “Instinct, timing, being tall and being able to get up there and them not realizing it,” he says.
But Hansen does lag when it comes to the boards. Averaging just two rebounds per game, the center will have to work over the summer to improve that aspect of his game before he’s ready for the starting lineup, according to Alford.
“It’s kind of a hard thing to work on during the summer,” Alford said, “but he’s going to have to watch a lot of tape and he’s got to do a good job with figuring out how to rebound because the other things he does extremely well.”
Alford says that the 6-11, 210-pounder has some strength issues to overcome to improve his board play.
“I think most of it has to do with strength,” he said. “He does a good job of helping. He comes to help and block shots, and he’s not in position to rebound. I told him to just concentrate on the board play, and that he shouldn’t be missing the free throw block outs, and I think those things come with strength.
“He gets pushed out a lot and needs to get his hands higher and his body lower to do a good job of reacting to that loose ball.”
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com