Tweener Label Works in Brunner's Favor

Greg Brunner is a hard one to classify. You definitely can't call him a "5" and his body doesn't fit a "4" or a "3". Perhaps he should just be known as a basketball player. A recent surgery should help Greg play better this season.

Like in so many sports, numbers define basketball. Statistical averages, wins and losses, and home attendance often times measure success and failure.

The game also assigns figures to the five positions. Sometimes the system fails. Iowa sophomore Greg Brunner lives as proof of that point.

"You can't put a number on me," the 6-foot-7, 245-pound Charles City native said. "I'm a three and a half. I'm an undersized post and oversized guard."

Brunner is what is called in the sport "a ‘tweener" – someone stuck "between" two positions. Slick wing players often fill the "3" spot. Pushy power forwards inhabit the "4."

A "‘tweener" can be a negative label – a misfit, if you will.

Brunner views his lot in basketball as an enormous positive.

"I'm basically a mismatch either way," he said. "I feel like if I have a guard on me, I feel like I'm bigger and stronger and can post up. If I have a post on me, I can beat them with quickness."

His competition at the Prime Time League can attest to that.

"Brunner is a tough guy," said Iowa incoming freshman Ben Rand, who played against Brunner on Thursday.

"He's gotten so tough. He's gotten so much bigger. You can tell how much he has worked in the offseason. He's only getting better. It's going to be fun to watch him play and to be able to play with him."

Brunner displayed real promise as a freshman. He netted a team-high 18 points at Florida State, and scored 14 in back-to-back games against Wisconsin and Ohio State.

But typical of first-year players, Brunner battled fatigue and inconsistency in a season that saw him average 7.5 points and 5.2 rebounds.

"The amount of effort that you have to put in is amazing," Brunner said. "The (college) season lasts from August until May. We're in Carver about seven hours a day. It's either watching films, workouts, lifting, running...

"You're playing from November to February (in high school) and you're done. That was the hardest thing for me last year."

A team short on depth forced Brunner into playing a lot of guard in 2002-03, an unfamiliar position for his body type. He lost what he calls "a lot of weight."

"I was used to playing at about 250 pounds," Brunner said. "Now that I'm gaining more weight, it feels more natural to me."

With the help of Hawkeye strength and conditioning coach Bill Maxwell, Brunner looks incredibly fit this summer. He increased his bench press from 210 pounds last season to 300 now. He also has added quickness.

Brunner turned 20 on June 15.

"I'm starting to get older and my body is starting to mature," he said.

An inability to breathe through his nose also has hampered Brunner. Doctors recently removed the adenoids from his sinuses to eliminate the problem. He missed about two weeks of training.

Brunner is working hard to get back his conditioning. Iowa's trip to Australia next month represents an opportunity to show coaches that he deserves minutes.

The addition of five players increases competition for court time. Sean Sonderleiter, Erek Hansen, Glen Worley, Nick DeWitz, Kurt Spurgeon and Pierre Pierce all could be looking for minutes at the three and four spots.

"With the team that we have, it's going to be a battle for playing time," Brunner said. "With seniors like Glen, Sean, Kurt and Jared (Reiner), it's going to be hard to play. But I'm just going to do whatever I can to earn any minutes I can get."

From shooting to ball handling to defense, Brunner has worked to improve his entire game this offseason. His good friend, Iowa point guard Jeff Horner, has supplied Brunner with dribbling drills.

"I can't even explain them all," Brunner said. "There's just so many of them."

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