Hansen Happy to be Back in Black and Gold

Erek Hansen spent last season working on his game at Kirkwood. The Texas big man has returned to Iowa City to give the Hawkeyes an intimidating defensive presence inside. HawkTalkOnline spoke with Hansen recently and found out how last season went and what he expects out of the upcoming campaign.

Concentrating on the interview became more and more difficult for Erek Hansen. Each time the Iowa sophomore tried to answer a question, teammate Mike Henderson distracted him.

A funny face here, a gesture there, frazzled Hansen. But he would not have it any other way.

Henderson was playing his part on a very close-knit Hawkeye team. Like friends and brothers, they pick on each other, joke with each other and push each other toward a common goal.

Perhaps nobody appreciates that bond more than Hansen. He returns to Iowa after spending last season at Kirkwood Community College working on his grades.

Hansen redshirted during the 2001-02 campaign with the Hawkeyes. He signed a national letter of intent with Iowa almost three years ago, and this fall he will finally wear its uniform in a game.

"It's going to be weird," Hansen said. "I've waited a long time. I'm looking forward to it. There's a little difference playing in the Kirkwood gym and the Iowa gym."

Hansen made a difference at Kirkwood. He averaged 7.6 PPG and 6.0 RPG as the school finished third nationally among Division II junior colleges and posted a 33-4 record last season.

It was on defense that the Texas native shined. The 6-foot-11 center averaged an amazing 5.3 blocked shots per game.

The Hawkeyes believe Hansen can intimidate their opponents too.

"He adds a tremendous defensive presence," Iowa forward Sean Sonderleiter said. "He can block just about anybody's shot. He blocks like two or three dunks every time we scrimmage. He's just so long and lanky."

Erasing would-be baskets has become Hansen's trademark. He averaged 5.8 rejections as a senior at Trinity High in Bedford, Texas. He recorded 5.0 blocks during his junior season.

Hansen also possesses good athletic ability.

"He's one of the fastest players on the team," Sonderleiter said. "He runs like a deer out there. I'm not kidding either. The kid can get up and down the floor. Hopefully he can get a lot of breakaway dunks that way."

Summer workouts by Hansen have centered around improving his offense. He has shown a nice face-up, 12-15 foot jump shot in the Prime Time League.

"I got to work on my offense at Kirkwood," Hansen said. "I got some good experience. We finished third in the nation. A lot of work went into that."

The final piece needed to complete the Hansen puzzle might be improved strength. The 20-year-old still is having trouble bulking up his 210-pound frame.

Iowa strength and conditioning coach Bill Maxwell directs Hansen to eat a lot and has him drinking protein shakes.

"I've gotten stronger, but my weight really isn't going up," Hansen said. "I think I'll be able to put some bulk on. But I still want to be able to move and everything. That's the whole purpose of it."

Iowa senior big men Sonderleiter and Jared Reiner have been testing Hansen's strength. The upperclassmen have handed out many lessons.

"It helps a lot," Hansen said. "They're a lot more experienced. And when you play against them, they play like they're playing a Big Ten game."

Hansen takes comfort in knowing that Iowa has plenty of guys capable of scoring. Reiner, Pierre Pierce and Glen Worley probably will be the main offensive weapons in '03-04.

"My strength is defense," Hansen said. "I know I need to step up on the offensive end. But I can't get caught up on the numbers. I can't be hung up on that."

The 34 on his Iowa uniform will be the most satisfying number for Hansen.

He considered returning to a Texas junior college last season. But he decided to remain in Cedar Rapids where he could drive to Iowa City and be close to the Hawkeyes.

"I'm glad I stayed," Hansen said. "I'm comfortable here. I like the coaches and the players. This is where I want to be. I'm close to the people here."

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