Erek Hansen Comes Full Circle

Erek Hansen had his 'cup of coffee' at Iowa two years ago. But some academic issues forced Hansen to leave Iowa City and he spent the last year at Kirkwood Community College. Now that he is back in good standing academically, Hansen is eager to set foot on the Carver Hawkeye hardwood for more than just practice.

If you follow Major League Baseball at all, you will no doubt have read about the travails of the minor leagues and the mental sit-ups that can take place each and every September when the rosters expand and minor leaguers get a one month ‘cup of coffee' in the bigs' a chance to show their wares.

Then 30 days later, it is over and it's off to the fall and winter instructional leagues for most of them.

Getting a taste and having it taken away from you can be as bad as never having made it in the first place.

Iowa sophomore Erek Hansen can relate to that.

He signed a letter of intent to play for Steve Alford's Hawkeyes back in November of 2000 and was focused on doing just that during his senior season.

When he got to Iowa, the coaching staff chose to redshirt him, but he was still able to practice and travel with the team.

During that redshirt year, Hansen had some issues in the classroom that ultimately made him ineligible at Iowa for the 2002-2003 season.

After considering his options, Hansen chose to attend nearby Kirkwood Community College with the hopes of returning to Iowa City once he took care of his academic obligations.

Hansen earned honorable mention all-Region honors last season, averaging 8.1 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.3 blocked shots per game. He helped Kirkwood post a 33-4 record and a third place finish in the Division II Junior College National Tournament after they had won the Region 11 Title.

Hansen now finds himself back in the black and gold of the Iowa Hawkeyes and he is about 10-pounds heavier than he was his freshman year.

At 6-11, he might never look like Jared Reiner, but Hansen runs the floor as well as any player his size has any right to and he has the ability to be a strong presence for Iowa on the defensive end with his shot blocking abilities.

Hansen will play behind Reiner and Sonderleiter this season, but he gives coach Steve Alford another option due to his athleticism.

After a longer than expected journey, Hansen has come full circle and is eager to step onto the court of Carver Hawkeye Arena when it matters.

"Now that I am going to be playing, it is even more exciting. It was hard to sit there and watch the team play (two years ago), especially when we struggled; I had to sit there and wonder if I could have helped the team out." Hansen said.

"Right now, I am working on getting my shot back. When I was at Kirkwood, I didn't have to take too many shots far away from the basket. But being back in the Big Ten, there are so many more stronger players inside that I will have to work around."

Hansen had a significant height advantage at Kirkwood, but that is not always a great thing.

"There is a big difference when you have a smaller guy on you. It is harder to keep track of where they are. When you try to post up on them, they try to run around and front you so you would lose track of them." Hansen said.

"Most of the players I went against last year were 6-5 to 6-7. I ran into a couple of them that were bigger, but those players were not necessarily fundamentally sound."

"But getting back to the Big Ten and playing against the bigger guys again, they will present another challenge, because they will try to push you off of the block and not let you get to where you want to go, so there is a big difference."

While at Kirkwood, Hansen was able to work under former Iowa Hawkeye legend Greg Stokes.

"He and I spent a lot of time together and he taught me a few tricks." Hansen said.

"I feel that I gained a lot of experience at Kirkwood. I got a lot of playing time and was able to work some on my offense. You always improve when you play."

When pressed on the question, Hansen said that he probably gets more satisfaction out of blocking a shot that putting one in the goal himself, but quickly added that "I have a pretty good turn around jumper and I am also working on my hooks."

When the conversation turned to the prospects for the 2003-2004 Iowa Hawkeye team that he will be a part of, Hansen's comments were right in step with what his teammates had been saying at media day.

"I think this team can be great. We have a lot of depth, so if anyone gets injured or gets fatigued, we have another solid player that can come in and take care of things." Hansen said.

"I know that we are going to win this season and I can't wait to get on the court and help this team do that."

"It feels good to get back here, back to where I started."

Jason Miller also contributed to this story

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