Outlast, Outwit and Outplay: Brunner is a Survivor

Greg Brunner has always been a tough kid, but what he had to endure during his freshman season at Iowa was borderline ridiculous. If he would have been told at the beginning of the year about the physical pain he would have to endure, you have to wonder if he would have gone through it all the way that he did.

"I don't think that anyone could have envisioned something like that," Brunner said with a smile at Iowa Men's Basketball Media Day last week.

"I think I took the brunt of the hits for my four years. Hopefully I can stay healthy this year. I played through all of my injuries last year; a broken hand, a broken nose…I did what ever I could to be on the court. If I get hurt, I get hurt. I am willing to play with it."

Here is a list of the injuries that Brunner played with, in his own words:

"I had a couple of ankle sprains, a broken hand where I could barely move my fingers on my shooting hand. That was the hardest thing to adjust to. Two broken noses, a concussion…just a lot of things that went wrong."

Umm, yeah.

But through it all, Brunner still played in all 31 games with 23 starts and he averaged 24.4 minutes per game. His 5.2 rebounds per game tied for second best on the team and he shot .526 from the floor, also good for second best.

If Iowa would have had any kind of depth, Brunner probably would have been able to sit a few games and rest his ailments, but the Hawkeyes were not afforded that luxury.

This year however, that will be different.

We will be able to maintain our legs longer (due to added depth). I won't be on the court 25-30 minutes a game, but I could be out there for 20 and I will be able to run the entire time." Brunner said. "The fatigue factor won't set in as early as it did last year."

It's not often that you will hear a player speak about less playing time in the positive, but Brunner is savvy enough to understand that there will be more bodies this year capable of playing at a high level.

That is good for the team and should translate into more wins.

"The sky is the limit with this team, we have the ability to be a great team," said the 6-7 Brunner. "If we can maintain the same attitude that we had last year, and this year having more and better players, who knows what could happen."

But with the influx of some new faces, or at least players that were not available to play last year, Brunner also realizes that he is now one of the ‘old hats' on this Hawkeye basketball team and with that comes some responsibility.

"We have to take on more of a leadership role. Last year, the juniors and Chauncey (Leslie) all played a great role in leading this team and this year, Jeff (Horner) and I are more able to voice our opinions because we aren't the freshmen. We have a year under our belts and we have experience to say what we think." Brunner said.

Prior to the start of basketball practice, which began on Saturday, October 18th, Steve Alford had his players going through extra strength and conditioning workouts. Brunner thinks this approach will help get Iowa over the hump this year in league play, even though the experts feel that this Hawkeye team is destined for another lower division finish.

"The hard work that we are putting in now, the two weeks of conditioning that we did. We don't just want to get over that hump, but we want to leap over that hump." Brunner said.

"It's also great to be the underdog. It's easier because people might not expect much from you when you play them. You work harder during practice, because you know where you should be, but without the respect of others, you want to come out and earn their respect."

Brunner is now a ‘veteran' of Big Ten play, having gone toe to toe with some of the best athletes in the country last year, something that had him caught off guard at times as he was making the jump from the high school ranks.

"The physical presence intimidated me last year. I took the brunt of that, so I think I can take more of that this year, as I know what to expect. I already know what is going to happen so I can go out there and play as hard as I can."

We wanted to know if there was one player that he locked horns with that really made him realize that his days of going against 6-3 pivot players at Charles City were over.

"Anagonye." Brunner said, speaking of the former Michigan State power forward.

"He is a big guy. He was hard to move (laughs). I got him out of the block a couple of times. It took all of my strength to get him out, and I don't know if he was even pushing as hard as he could."

Brunner, like a lot of his teammates, was in a jovial mood at media day. The sky seems to have an extra hint of blue on media day and optimism is never on short supply.

"We have the ability to do what ever we want, as a team. How hard we work right now before the season starts will be the key factor. We have depth everywhere and we have great coaches. The sky is the limit."

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