Aug. 9, 2004
Building on a fourth place finish in the Big Ten Conference and a fourth straight winning season, Iowa Coach Steve Alford and his staff welcome the return of three starters and six lettermen. The Hawkeyes will pursue not only a fifth straight post-season invitation, but a return to the NCAA Tournament. Posting a 16-13 overall record and a 9-7 mark in Big Ten action a year ago, the Hawkeyes came very close to earning their first NCAA Tournament invite since the 2001 season. Last second losses to Wisconsin and Northwestern during the late stages of the season could have been the difference between the NIT and the NCAA as Iowa became the first fourth place team in the Big Ten not to receive an invite to the big dance.
Still, after losing at Northwestern on a shot at the buzzer in the next to last game of the regular season, the Hawkeyes went back on the road three days later and earned a 63-62 win at Purdue, securing sole possession of fourth place in the standings. In earning their best league finish under Alford, the Hawkeyes won four road games in league play and did not lose consecutive games in conference action. Michigan State was the only other league team to avoid consecutive Big Ten losses. Only two teams won as many road games as Iowa and the Hawkeyes were the only team in the Big Ten that did not lose a game to an opponent with a sub-.500 record in league play. Iowa earned its fourth place finish after surviving some mid-season distractions. Two players were ineligible for the second semester, while senior center Jared Reiner suffered a stress fracture and missed the final 16 games. Another three-year letterman left the team in January due to personal problems and missed the final 12 games. After posting a 9-4 record in their first 13 games, the Hawkeyes were suddenly missing 30 points and 17 rebounds from the roster. “The leadership and experience of our junior class should be one of our strengths,” noted Alford. “This group has proven then can move in a positive direction when adversity hits. With the addition of good young talent, I believe this group is ready to make a statement. Our ability to score and rebound, along with our depth, should be strong points for this group.” While the squad was down in numbers during the second semester a year ago, the Hawkeyes head into the upcoming season with a 13-player roster. Fatigue and foul problems hurt the Hawkeyes late in some games last season, but Alford also knows where his team must make improvements. “To take the next step, we must improve on taking care of the ball and man to man defense,” admits Alford. “We must learn the value of each possession. Defensively, we have to be able to create problems with our pressure and position. We lost four key seniors in Brody Boyd, Jared Reiner, Glen Worley and Kurt Spurgeon. They set an example for our next set of leaders. We will miss their experience.” Alford also has changes in his coaching staff. With the retirement of his father, Sam, Craig Neal has been added to the staff as associate head coach. Rich Walker, an Iowa assistant for the past 14 seasons, takes over for Sam as director of basketball operations. Following his professional playing career that included stints in the NBA, CBA and Europe, Neal worked for the past eight years as an assistant coach and scout with the Toronto Raptors.
“The leadership and experience of our junior class should be one of our strengths. This group has proven then can move in a positive direction when adversity hits. With the addition of good young talent, I believe this group is ready to make a statement. Our ability to score and rebound, along with our depth, should be strong points for this group.”
The returning starters are juniors Pierre Pierce (16.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg), Jeff Horner (13 ppg, 5.3 rpg) and Greg Brunner (10.9 ppg, 8.2 rpg). Brunner was second in the Big Ten in rebounding last season while Pierce ranked among the scoring and defensive leaders. Horner led the league in free throw percentage and ranked high in assists (4.2 apg) and three-point accuracy (.425). Pierce and Horner earned third team all-Big Ten recognition. Pierce proved to be one of the top guards in the league, at both ends of the floor. Along with leading the team in scoring, he was one of the top rebounding guards in the Big Ten and he had 107 assists. Pierce always had the task of guarding the opponents top perimeter player. Horner continues to improve his game in nearly all phases. Playing over 37 minutes per game, he improved his shooting from the field and the free throw line, he averaged over five rebounds and four assists, and he was second on the team in steals. Brunner started all but three games and improved his skills as the season progressed. He had a career-high 26 points in an early season win over Louisville, and he rebounded in double figures in four of Iowa’s final five games. His rebounding total in Big Ten games (8.6) was higher than Reiner’s league-leading average in 2002-03 and he led the team by shooting 54.9% from the field. Iowa’s three additional returning lettermen include senior guard Jack Brownlee, junior center Erek Hansen and sophomore guard Mike Henderson. Brownlee, a walk-on, is the only senior on the roster. Hansen came on strong last season after Reiner’s injury. He averaged just 2.1 points and rebounds per game, but he also collected 40 blocked shots in 22 games and led the Big Ten in that category in league games only. Henderson averaged 3.2 points while playing in 10 games during the first semester. The returning lettermen scored over 1,200 points and had over 600 rebounds last season, totaling 60.1% of Iowa’s points, 56.9% of rebounds, 67.5% of assists, 64.4% of blocked shots and 45.2% of steals. In 29 games a year ago, a sophomore led the team in scoring 26 times and a sophomore was the top rebounder in 22 games. The seven additions to the roster include four freshmen, two juniors and a sophomore. Forward Doug Thomas joins the team after two seasons at Southeastern (IA) Community College, where he helped that program win back-to-back national titles. Thomas (6-8, 245) averaged 10.1 points and 6.7 rebounds as a sophomore, shooting 49% from the field. He led all players with 13 rebounds in the national title game last year and in two seasons helped Southeastern post a 69-5 overall record. Thomas averaged 21 points and 12 rebounds in one season at Christian Faith Center Academy (Creedmore, NC) before attending Southeastern. He is a native of Pasadena, CA. Sophomore guard Adam Haluska (6-5, 210) should step into the guard position vacated by Boyd. In his freshman season the native of Carroll, IA averaged 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds at Iowa State. He was the second leading freshman scorer in the Big 12 Conference in 2002-03 and was named to the Big 12 all-Freshman team.
Jeff Horner will be back at point guard next season
“I like the dimensions our new guys add to the mix,” said Alford. “Adam is strong and athletic, and a great long range shooter. He is an experienced sophomore who has a chance to be a very good defender. Doug is a terrific athlete. He is very explosive and takes great pride in defending, rebounding and winning. He adds instant athleticism to our frontcourt.” The four freshman include guard Carlton Reed, guard/forward J.R. Angle, forward Alex Thompson and center Seth Gorney. Angle (6-7, 205) averaged 27.2 points and 11.5 rebounds as a senior, scoring 1,689 career points at Indian Creek HS in Trafalgar, Indiana. Gorney (7-0, 245) adds size to the roster after averaging 21.3 points as a senior, helping his team post a 17-7 record by shooting 75.3% from the field. Gorney attended Butler HS in Vandalia, Ohio, where he was a three-year starter. “J.R is a versatile guard/forward. He is solid fundamentally, he can shoot the ball with range and he has great footwork,” added Alford. “Seth adds size up front. He has soft hands and a soft shooting touch. He needs to gain the experience of competing at this level.” Thompson (6-9, 215) earned first team all-state honors as a senior at Ames (Iowa) HS. He averaged 14.6 points and 7.4 rebounds in helping his prep team post a 15-8 mark as a senior. Following his high school career Thompson played a key role as his Iowa AAU team claimed the national title. Reed (6-4, 180) joins the Iowa program from East HS in Waterloo, Iowa, where he was a prep teammate of Mike Henderson. Reed was selected as Iowa’s “Mr. Iowa Basketball” as a senior. He was a first team all-state selection his last two seasons and the captain of the state all-tournament team as a senior. Reed helped East advance to the state title game three consecutive years, winning the title as a junior. In his final season Reed averaged 21.9 points, including 25 points in the championship game and 68 points in three state tournament games. Another addition to the squad is walk-on forward Justin Wieck, who attended West HS in Iowa City before playing two seasons at Kirkwood (IA) Community College. Wieck (6-6, 185) helped Kirkwood place fourth in the nation among Division II junior colleges. He was named to the all-tournament team after averaging 16 points and seven rebounds. As a prep he earned all-state honors after helping West place third in the state tournament as a senior. “Alex is a versatile big man. He’s a tireless worker and possesses a lot of guard skills,” continued Alford. “Alex runs the floor well and has a nice shooting touch. Carlton is very athletic and one of his strengths is speed. He will be a very good defender and a change of tempo player. Justin is a hard worker and very sound fundamentally. We hope he brings similar intangibles that Kurt Spurgeon gave us the past two seasons.”
“Once again, our schedule is demanding, both non-conference and in the Big Ten. With the addition of the Maui Invitational, we have the opportunity, before conference play, to compete in two tournaments, play strong opponents on the road and host home games against post-season teams from last season. Plus, our game with Texas Tech gives us a game at the United Center before the Big Ten Tournament. All of this adds up to 13 non-conference games and gives us numerous opportunities for growth before heading into league play.”
Head Coach Steve Alford
Iowa’s schedule is as demanding as it is attractive. After opening the season by hosting Western Illinois, the Hawkeyes will take part in the Maui Invitational as part of a field that includes Brigham Young, Chaminade, Louisville, North Carolina, Stanford, Tennessee and Texas. All seven teams that visit Maui were in post-season play last season, with five of the seven participating in the NCAA Tournament. Additional non-conference home games are slated with Northern Iowa, Iowa State, Western Carolina, Air Force and Saint Louis. The Hawkeyes play at Drake and meet Texas Tech at the United Center in Chicago, the home of the 2005 Big Ten Tournament. Northern Iowa, Air Force and Texas Tech were in the NCAA Tournament last season, while Iowa State and Saint Louis joined Iowa in the NIT. Iowa’s Gazette Hawkeye Challenge includes Centenary, North Carolina-Greensboro and Southern Mississippi, with Iowa hosting Centenary in the first round. The Big Ten portion of the schedule once again includes single games with Michigan State, Indiana, Penn State and Wisconsin, with the Spartans and Hoosiers playing in Iowa City. “Once again, our schedule is demanding, both non-conference and in the Big Ten,” said Alford. “With the addition of the Maui Invitational, we have the opportunity, before conference play, to compete in two tournaments, play strong opponents on the road and host home games against post-season teams from last season. Plus, our game with Texas Tech gives us a game at the United Center before the Big Ten Tournament. All of this adds up to 13 non-conference games and gives us numerous opportunities for growth before heading into league play. “We’re excited about the Big Ten race,” concluded Alford. “The top five teams in the league standings last season, including our team, all return a lot of experience. “I think the Big Ten will be stronger, deeper and much more respected nationally than last season.”