NORTH LIBERY, Iowa _ Glen Worley was needling Iowa teammate Sean Sonderleiter after their Prime Time League game here on Thursday night. Worley's team eliminated Sonderleiter's group in the first-round of the playoffs.
Sonderleiter ignored his friend as the two Hawkeyes received treatment from the trainers. And as the 6-foot-9 senior stood up, you got the feeling that he might enjoy the last laugh.
While it's never easy to lose, Sonderleiter can rest his injuries while Worley resumes playoff action on Monday. Worley has bruised quadriceps muscles in his right leg, which was wrapped in ice.
Sonderleiter looked like he needed crutches or a wheelchair. He was icing down tendonitis in both knees and a hyperextended tendon in his left ankle.
"The trainer told me it's the strongest tendon in the body," Sonderleiter said. "So, it takes a lot longer to heal. I'm nursing like three injuries, but besides that, I'm still doing OK."
A smile arrived on Sonderleiter's face as he finished the statement. Playing through injuries this summer has prepared him for his senior season.
"This is the last go-around," the Des Moines native said. "You can't take any time off. You can't sit out if you're hurt. We only have one more shot at it, and then it's over."
Sonderleiter represents an important cog in the Iowa basketball machine. The Hawkeyes will look to the senior for leadership and consistent play in their quest to return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2001.
"I just want to do positive things on the floor," Sonderleiter said. "I need to work hard and take care of the basketball."
Turnovers haunted Sonderleiter last season in what was an otherwise strong campaign. He averaged 8.5 points and 4.0 rebounds in 21.5 minutes. He also gave the ball away almost twice a game.
"I've mostly been working on ball handling and not turning it over," Sonderleiter said. "Sometimes I try to do too much. I just need to stay consistent and keep those turnovers down and pick up my scoring and rebounding."
Sonderleiter showed his ability during a three-game stretch last season when starting center Jared Reiner sat out with an injured knee. He averaged 14.7 points and 7.0 boards, including an 18-point, 11-rebound performance in a 75-55 win at Penn State.
During Iowa's three-game run in the postseason National Invitation Tournament last March, Sonderleiter averaged 11.3 points and 3.7 rebounds in 23.7 minutes per game. He scored in double figures in each contest.
"Sean definitely came on towards the end of last year," Reiner said. "He played really well, and he's been playing well this summer. His jumper is just looking phenomenal.
"He just needs to play as hard as he can just like everyone else, and he'll have a great year."
Sonderleiter averaged 2.0 and 2.2 PPG during his first two seasons at Iowa. He contributed 8.5 last season when he showed the ability to play offense with his back to the basket and facing up to it on the perimeter.
While his game as grown, Sonderleiter also has matured as a person. He has learned to manage time in a hectic schedule, which makes him more productive.
A year after taking part in off-of-the court problems for the Iowa team, Sonderleiter is focused on helping to lead the Hawkeyes in his final college season.
"We've had a lot of distractions," he said. "But people are getting over it and not talking about that anymore. Hopefully things stay positive and we can achieve our goals, which are the Big Ten (regular-season) Championship and the Big Ten Tournament Championship and an NCAA appearance."
Sonderleiter believes that Iowa can finish among the Top 3 teams in the league.
"We have a really good chance to win as long as we don't get selfish with the ball and we play as a team and play hard every night out," he said.
Iowa likely will be projected to finish in the middle of the Big Ten standings this winter. It would be a different position than it faced the last two seasons.
In 2001-02, the Hawkeyes were ranked in the nation's Top 10 early in the campaign. Most prognosticators expected a run deep into the NCAA Tournament, but instead got a team that struggled to a 19-16 mark.
"We took all of those words and we just kept repeating them to each other," Sonderleiter said. "We were like, "Look at us in the newspaper. We're ranked this high." We didn't play our game like were supposed to."
Predictions placed Iowa near the bottom of the Big Ten last season. It proved people wrong by finishing 17-14. Its seven conference wins were two more than it had in '01-02.
"This year, nobody will pick us to do really good and probably nobody will expect us to do really bad," Sonderleiter said. "That's kind of nice. We can just take care of what we want to do and hopefully we keep our heads. Mostly what we need is senior leadership."
Sonderlieter hopes that a successful final run with the Hawkeyes leads to more basketball in his future.
"Yeah, I definitely want to play beyond college," he said. "I love the game. I don't want to take it to the end here and just quit. I want to keep playing."