Nov. 18, 2004
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The Hawkeyes aren’t tanned, rested and ready for the start of their season Friday night – that will come next week when the team travels to the Maui Invitational in Hawaii – but Head Coach Steve Alford has a complete team practicing for Western Illinois, and that’s a start.
“(Tuesday’s) practice was the first time we’ve had all of them practicing at once for 2 ½ weeks,” Alford said. “Through the next few days we have a full roster going into the season, which we haven’t had for a while. So hopefully that will help us.”
Haluska, a sophomore transfer from Iowa State, may still make the starting lineup for the 8 p.m. tip-off inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
“Obviously the X-factor is Adam and his health,” Alford said. “He’s had two weeks of missing an awful lot of practice through injury. But he practiced extremely well (on Tuesday) and is about as close to 100 percent as he can be, so I would assume by Friday all of that will be a go.”
Sophomore Mike Henderson has started in Haluska’s absence, but now that the start of the season is around the corner the coach hasn’t seen an increased level of competitiveness between the two players.
“I’ve talked to both of them, and Mike’s played very well in the exhibition games,” the coach said. “I think the outside gets more wrapped up in who starts and they make a big deal out of it. From a coaching standpoint, it’s more about who you’re going to play, how you’re going to play, how you’re going to guard.
“I’ve told Mike matchups are going to determine that. But we went into the year assuming that was going to be Adam’s spot, and do you lose that by injury? That’s going to be a hard thing. I think it really depends on the health and what we want to do going into that Western Illinois game, and then knowing that we’ve got Louisville three days later.”
Haluska agreed with his coach, saying that whoever starts doesn’t matter to him.
“I don’t really expect to,” Haluska said. “I think people are asking whether I care or don’t care, and I really don’t care. The team comes first and whoever the best five guys Coach thinks can get the job done are the five that will get the job done.”
Haluska said his hip flexor and abdominal strain are at about “75 percent,” and that a little of that is mental.
“I have a little ways to go,” the Carroll, IA.-native said. “I’m still pretty sore. I’m moving a lot better than I did on Sunday, and I’m starting to jump more than I did before, so I’m starting to get back into the flow.
“I think it’s a little in my head, but it’s still pretty sore and tender. And I’m kind of protecting it a little bit, but every day I step out onto the floor it’s getting better.”
The starting lineup will be essential to one of the early-season goals Alford has stressed through the two exhibition games: getting off to a better start.
“We’ve got some big-time travel ahead of us. We’ve told our guys that when that ball goes into the air on Friday night, it’s going to be up there for a while. There are a lot of games in a few days, and it’s going to challenge our toughness, challenge the character of the team very early in the season, and after seven games we’re going to get a pretty good feel as to where we’re at and what we’ve got to do going into those games with Northern Iowa and Iowa State.”
Head Coach Steve Alford
Iowa has had competitive opening 10-minute spans against Upper Iowa and Université Laval, which could be unrecoverable as the season goes on, says Alford.
“It’s something obviously we keep looking at, and that’s why we wonder do we need to make a change this early in the season?” Alford asked. “This can be a very good year and get off to a very good start if we just take care of home, and then steal the games we need to steal on the road or on neutral settings.
“My displeasure with the team has been the start. They’ve started the game in a different mindset than how they play the rest of the game. I don’t want to do that, because if we get off to the starts we’ve gotten in the last two games against a lot of the opponents that are going to be in here, we won’t recover from it. It’s a concern, it’s something we’re looking at, whether it means we’ve got to change lineups yet, I don’t know,” the coach added.
Whatever the problem may be, the Hawkeyes will have plenty of time to work it out. Iowa has seven games in the next 16 days and two tournaments – in Maui and at home with the Gazette-Hawkeye Challenge.
But that doesn’t mean the team is looking past the opener.
“I don’t think so,” Alford said. “We’ve got some big-time travel ahead of us. We’ve told our guys that when that ball goes into the air on Friday night, it’s going to be up there for a while. There are a lot of games in a few days, and it’s going to challenge our toughness, challenge the character of the team very early in the season, and after seven games we’re going to get a pretty good feel as to where we’re at and what we’ve got to do going into those games with Northern Iowa and Iowa State.”
Point guard Jeff Horner echoed Alford’s comments.
“We’re definitely not looking past Western Illinois, we know they can come out and beat us,” he said. “We’ve just got to be ready. We’ve already put in some of their plays, but we’re going to do some more in practice. Hopefully, nobody looks past them because they could be a test for us.”
As soon as the Western Illinois game is over, the team will head to Des Moines before taking an early-morning flight to Denver, making another connection in Los Angeles, and then flying to Maui.
“It’s a tough stretch for us, we’re anxious to see how things go, and we’re healthy,” Alford said.
Barry Pump, hawkeyesports.com