Inside Iowa Basketball With Bobby Hansen

If we had to pick just one person to be our Hawkeye Basketball expert, offering our readers the same type of insight into the basketall program that Chuck Hartlieb has provided us for Iowa football the past two years, the choice is easy: Bobby Hansen. The former Hawkeye, former teammate of Michael Jordan and a man that has a World Championship ring from the Bulls is also Iowa's radio color commentator. And he is HN.com's basketball expert. Here is our second conversation with Hansen.

What were your impressions of the game and how the matchup was received in Dallas?

I think it's a good two-game series taking the place of the ACC Challenge. We never really got much out of the ACC Challenge. I guess if you get an opportunity to play North Carolina or Duke down there, it would be worth taking an away game. But with what we had in the past, this is a much better game. And I think there's a lot of interest with Bobby Knight.

I joined the team late. They had a good trip with being able to see a little bit of what the NBA life is like. They stayed in a hotel where the (LA) Clippers were also staying at. They got to see how big some of the guys are up close - Elton Brand, Corey Maggette, Quentin Richardson - seeing those guys in the lobby. And then Coach Mike Dunleavy addressed the team. I think that was Sunday. They got to hear from a good man there on how hard you've got to work.

Did you play against him?

Yeah, I played against him. It was at about the end of his career and the beginning of mine. He was really scrappy and a smart ballplayer. That's why he's a good coach. He's turning that Clipper thing around. One time he was in Iowa City that played the Olympic team. It was a bunch of NBA guys. I've known him for a number of years. I didn't get a chance to spend any time with him (in Dallas). But I think it's good for the players to see that side of basketball. You see the luxurious hotel you get to stay in.

As far as the game went, I thought they did a real good job marketing it. Getting the crowd that up to only a few weeks before was at about 5,000. Bobby Knight made some appeal and they got to 10,000. With the good weather they had down there, they had a good walk-up crowd of about another 5,000. That goes to show you that you've got to advertise. You've got to market. You've got to out there and sell these tickets. It can be done.

The game itself, I thought the way it might go at the beginning was kind of the way it was - the real, hard defensive pressure that Bobby Knight is going to come at you with. I was impressed with their quickness on the wings. The athleticsim of their guards, they got out and really made it hard for us to run our halfcourt offense. That led up to a lot of run-outs for them. That's where the kid Andre Emmett got a lot of his points early there in the first half.

For us, listening to the game plan and what (the Hawkeyes) wanted to do you kind of got the idea that they wanted to sag in on their man-to-man (defense) and keep them on the outside. But, they really couldn't because they got behind and sort of started scrambling. You get behind by 12 or 13 points, and you're back on your heels. How SMU beat Texas Tech was by sitting back in a zone. Iowa eventually went to that in the second half and looked a lot better. They started to get some confidence. They started to control the boards. They started to get their fastbreak going.

I thought Pierre Pierce carried the team at that time by getting the ball and taking it hard to the basket. The flip-side of that was at the foul line. That was the one downside of it that sort of magnified everything. I guess that's the big question. How do you have kids step up there and knock them down without telling them about it all the time and then it sort of becomes really contagious?

What are the keys to being a successful free thrower?

Number 1, you've got to have good technique. I think we, for the most part, have pretty good technique. I think Pierre moves a lot on his free throws. He's the one glaring poor percentage from that game, one out of eight. Jared missed a front end of a one-and-one. That obviously got magnified.

That's probably that contagious thing that you talked about.

Yeah. That's part of the contagious thing: "Oh, I can't be the next guy to miss." You do think that, believe it or not. The kids are conscientious. They want to do well. They want to make the shots. But they start thinking that. That's what you've got to guard against.

The remedy for poor free throw shooting is repetition. It's time spent at the free throw line. I was talking to someone at the airport about how Lute Olsen would have us practice free throws. We did a lot of our conditioning and running at the beginning of practice and then shot free throws when you were tired. You never shot free throws to kill time, to just spend 10 minutes. You always went over there while you were breathing heavy after completing some one-on-one drills or something like that. That's part of it. Conditioning has got to get better in a lot of cases. And you need to concentrate.

I struggled with free throws at times in my career, and I made big free throws at times. I can't sit here and tell you that I was a great free throw shooter. It's one of those things that takes a lot of practice. You really have to block out all of the negative thoughts that the human mind wants to enter into the equation. "I can't miss this. Are they talking bad about me on the TV? The crowd is going crazy back there." You really have to block all of that out. What I tell my children and the teams that I coach in AAU in the summer time is what I learned from (former Utah Jazz coach) Frank Layden. He would come up to me and tell me, "Just realize Bobby that there are five billion chinese people that just don't care. Don't act like the weight of the world is on your shoulders." That's sometimes how you feel up there. That's the mental toughness. You've got to block everything out, think positive and put yourself in that happy place. You've got to have some success. If you start making one or two, you'll continue to make them.

The guy that I consider the most dominant basketball player in the world can't make fouls shots.

Yeah. No one else gets a pass but Shaquille. In his cae, his hands are so big. And I thought even Dr. J, my hero, had that problem.

Wilt Chamberlain struggled (at the foul line, at least).

Yeah. Wilt had trouble. But it's such a critical part of a basketball game. In high school, we used to have a librarian at Dowling. She was a nun. She would just read us the riot act if we missed free throws during study hall. There were times when I'd think of her up there. "I don't want to hear her. I better make these shots." You've got to find something that works. Again, you've just got to shoot hundreds and hundreds of them all of the time until it just become routine.

Do you get a sense that it's real frustrating for Steve because he was such a good shooter?

Yeah. He was one of the greatest to ever play the game at making free throws. He was automatic. He reminded me of a Calvin Murphy or a Kyle Macy. All of those guys had the routine. They did it so many times that it became second nature. Now to see people that you care so much for, the guys that are part of your team, struggle sometimes you feel like you don't have the answer. I'm sure Steve will become more involved and spend a lot of time with the guys that are getting to the free throw line a lot.

Is it tough get and maintain a flow as a basketball player in cases like this month when the Hawkeyes had so much time off?

It's very difficult. The important thing there was that they had to pay attention to final exams. But the Iowa State game was supposed to have been scheduled on that Saturday (Dec. 13). They couldn't do it there because of the girls tournament. They were kind of stuck there for a game. Now, do you put another game in there? I don't know. I don't know how scheduling works. But it just didn't work. You have to deal with it. But you knew they were going to feel a little slow. You can have as good of practices and you think you're having, but there's no way to duplicate gamae speed even if you have referees or scrimmage every day or whatever you do. There is absolutely no way to duplicate that.

In the NBA, we never took more than two days off. Even when you did, if you came back that second day after not being on the court, you felt like you hadn't been out there for a week. The ball felt like a big 'ol pumkin. It seemed like everybody was going 120 MPH and you were going 30 MPH. It would come. You would get it back up there in the second half. That's another one of those mental parts of the game.

Does this team have a knack for being able to come back and always being in games at the end?

They came back in that Northern Illinois game. That's a postive in that you don't give up. Nobody is whining and complaining and placing the blame on anybody. They're actually digging down deeper and trying to find a way to get back into the game. That's a big plus. It shows character when they don't quit when their backs are against the wall. They do some out swinging.

I thought they were going to win that (Texas Tech) game they got it down to six points, four points. It really looked like the momentum had swung completely around. Then, there were the missed free throws that squelched that.

Other than (the free throws), there were a lot of positives there. They handled the boards there in the second half. They had too many turnovers. Glen seems to still be plagued by the turnover problems. But he played better. I thought we saw good minutes from Mike Henderson. He showed some toughness out there. We need to get him to the free throw line because I think he's a good free throw shooter.

How do we get Jared Reiner going? It might be time that he takes a seat and watches for a little while. You go with Greg Brunner maybe in the middle. Go with the guys that are going to play hard. Go with the guys that are going to compete, especially in this game against Eastern Illinois. Obviously, they're at the bottom of the (RPI) rankings. For all practical reasons, we should win this basketball game. Put the guys out there that are going to give you maximum effort. Right now, Greg Brunner is one of those basketball players that we need out on the court for long stretches of time.

What is it with Jared? Is he too nice?

I don't think he posts up strong. It's something maybe that they could work on. He needs to demand the basketball and get into better position. Once he gets bumped off of the low block, he seems to give up. He's got to come up with a move where he can spin back or go away and then come back to the basketball. Only one time in the (Texas Tech) game did I really see him call for the ball. That was late when they found him wide open underneath. He got great position and got fouled. He missed the front end of the one-and-one. It was the one time that you could really see from our angle that he was wide. He was down low with his backside out. He had the guy burried underneath the basket. We got him the ball but he didn't do anything with it.

We can't trade him. This isn't the NBA, Rob. There is no trading deadline. I'm just saying that humorously. They are ours. We've got to stay behind them. We've got to keep working them.

Isn't it frustrating when you see the game Jared had at Indiana last season?

I think you can get that with him with lots of hours in practice and lots of individual work with him. Show him a post move to get free in there. Maybe he sets a cross screen with a guard or a smaller player so they can't switch. Try to get a mismatch for him.

Sometimes when I sit back and I think about the game, I think maybe Jared isn't a low-block player. Maybe he needs to play in some sort of an offense where you can use his passing skills at the high post. It seems like he does a real nice job with that high-low thing. Maybe Brunner is your low post player or Worley. Put Jared up there. He's a good free throw shooter. He's got a good touch to 15 feet and he's an outstanding passer. Maybe you tweak the offense a little bit where he doesn't have to dominate on the low block. It's kind of like a Reggie Evans' thing where he's not a low post player. He's a garbage man and maybe Jared is a high-post center. And there's a lot of good ones in the league. You need to find an offense where you're using your players to the best of their abilities.

Is Steve still working with his rotation trying to find the right combinations?

Yeah, and it's been disrupted by injury. It's been disrupted by Mike Henderson's academic indiscretions, for lack of a better term. They should be pretty solid here going forward against Eastern Illinois and then the big road trip down to Columbia, MO.


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