Holding Court: Coach Alford Talks Hawks

Iowa's bench general met with the media on Thursday at Carver-Hawkeye. He talked about his academic requirements, nagging injuries in his backcourt and the wild Big Ten. Get inside Hawkeye basketball with the press conference transcript, right here at HN.com.

How is Horner?

In what regard?

Brody said that he twisted his ankle.

One thing you've got to remember - When you start dealing with guys from Dugger, Ind., they wouldn't know a twisted ankle from seeing a buck go through the yard. (laughter) He thinks he's some big deer hunter. We had somebody speak to our team at Minneapolis and handed out these little things. What were those called? Knocks? I'm not a bow hunter. The only guy that knew what he was talking about was Brody. Unless you talk about deer, he doesn't have much of a clue to what he's talking about. (laughter)

No. Jeff's fine. Jeff turns an ankle about every time he takes the floor. That's just Jeff. I know that other than a broken ankle, Jeff will give me 150 percent. As long as I don't hear any bones crack, I don't worry about the ligaments because he's too tough mentally to let anything bother him. I didn't see anything today that was serious at all.

He's up over 36 minutes a game. Is that something you're watching?

To be honest with you, he's the kind of guy that could easily play 40. You're right. And that's something we've got to continue to look at and monitor, but he's just really good. And he's really competitive. He's maturing into someone that can play extended minutes. Wether that wears guys down, I...you've got certain players that if we tried playing Greg Brunner 36 minutes a game, he gets wore down. That's not a knock on Greg. That's just body type and makeup. It's a lot tougher to wear down a Jeff Horner. He's somebody that played 18 sports in high school. He can handle it if anybody can. We're going to keep him out there as long as we can.

Has Pierre's back been bothering him?

We've been watching him in practice. He hasn't gone full practice probably for the last three or four practices. It's just some tightening down there. We're just trying to be careful with him. It's just some spasms that he's trying to work out. He's getting a lot of treatment. It was a lot better today. He practiced for the full time today. Things were a lot better today. He gets one more into him tomorrow, and it's a homecoming, so he'll be ready.

Is this a bigger game for him because it's Illinois?

No. And that's what we told our guys. It's a big game because it's Game 4 (of the Big Ten season). I've been in this league a long time. You're three games into it, some team are two games into it, and you have no undefeated teams. There's quite a bit of parity in this league this year. Any team can do anything on a given night. We had to learn last week how he handled things that our seniors have been very much told how to lead and how to prepare teammates going game to game.

How about Sean? Will he be starting?

Definitely for Illinois baring anything crazy tomorrow in practice. He's earned it. He's played very well. He played very well up in Minneapolis. He was active. He was our best screener. He did a good job of defending inside. And he made his foul shots. That was a key. He'll get the start Saturday, and then we'll just keep playing from there.

Do you feel better about the Northwestern loss after seeing what they did to Illinois?

No. I don't think losses ever make you feel any better. From our perspective, we know they're better than what people though they were. They're a very good zone defensive team. They beat a very talented Illinois team by 19 points in one half. We know they're better than what people think. We just know that there's an awful lot of parity in this league. That's why we're kind of numbering the games instead of what team it is that we're playing. It doesn't matter the name of the team we're playing. Who we're playing can beat us. Likewise, we think that we can beat them, too.

Do you worry about running into a buzzsaw with Illinois having lost two in a row?

We have to focus on our own maturity as a basketball team. We can't really control what Illinois is thinking; what their mindset is. We have to approach it that this is Game 4, and we're better in Game 4 than we were in Game 3 in all areas. Our zone defense was very good at Minneapolis. Our man defense was awful. We can't be that way. And we turned the ball over too much.

Talk about Assembly Hall and what it's like to play there?

That's hard because the Assembly Hall that I remember is in Bloomington. They kind of copied our arena's name. (laughter) But it's a great environment. They sell it out. They've got great support. Their students are incredible. They get there early. They do a phenominal job of getting their team into it. There's not a lot of teams that go in there and win. Yet, Purdue has been able to do it. Illinois State took them to overtime. We know that we have to be confident going in there. We're playing pretty good basketball. We just have to hope that we get off to a good start. We have not had good starts in there.

Are you at liberty to say anything more than what you have about DeWitz?

No. Not at this time. Hopefully by early next week we can.

Will he, Hansen and DeWitz make the trip (to Illinois)?

DeWitz will not. Henderson we're hopefully will, yes, as well as Hansen.

Has DeWitz talked to you...Are you trying to find him another place to go?

We've been in contact. And really it's a matter of what I can and can't say at this time from an academic standpoint. There's really not much for me to say at this point. We've been in constant contact with Nick. Nick is in here every day. In fact, this was the first practice that he hasn't been at. He wasn't in practice today because he has that intersession class going on. He had to meet tutors this morning. That's the utmost thing of importance for him right now. I hope by next week we can have something more to talk about.

He's got to get enrolled somewhere, doesn't he?

Hopefully, next week, some of these things will clear up.

So, you're not going to use the zone anymore?

Oh no. The conversation (with Bobby Knight) wasn't that. I started to explain why we did it. Finally, he said, "You don't need to explain anything. He quiet, and let me talk." (laughter) But, it's one of those things where you just try it. That's why you use the zone, to see if people can play against it. Fortunately, Minnesota had the same trouble playing against it that we had against Northwestern. If it works, you stay with it. It was very much like our game at Michigan State last year. Coach Izzo is hardly ever going to play zone. But he plays zone because he's got a lot of walk-ons because it was senior day. We stood around and couldn't do anything against it. So as he subbed, he just kept playing it. That's kind of what happened at Minnesota.

How do you feel about being in first place in the Big Ten?

It's better than the alternative. Our guys have worked awfully hard to get to this point. We know we're in a difficult stretch. There's no question about it. That's why we've tried to look at it short term. At the start of practice today, I said, "We're aware of what's going on." They immediately said, "Yeah. We're in first place." It's about them knowing it and understanding it, and then really concentrating on Game 4. Then, we've got a week to get ready for Game 5 (Ohio State, Jan. 24).

Do you still feel like that Iowa has just as much of a chance as anybody (to win the Big Ten)?

Sure. I haven't seen anything. We're fragile. We're very fragile, just like an awful lot of teams in the Big Ten. The Big Ten is fragile. Anybody could suffer an injury that could be dramatic. Purdue changed when Booker's situation changed. Every game has got to be a war that you try to win. But if we get the production like we got from our seniors against Minnesota, and we get that consistently, we can compete with anybody. If we don't get that, than we become real fragile. That's the challenge that's in front of our seniors right now.

You've taken your share of criticism around here. Has anybody called to let you know you set a good example by leaving Mike Henderson home the other night?

I've had some of the high school coaches and just colleagues that have done that. But other than that, no. Unfortunately, that's kind of the way that society is. The wordly views are still about a scoreboard win and loss. Sometimes we lose perspective of what we're really in it for. There's nobody that competes or works any hard than I am or my staff does. We'd like to win more games. And we hope we can win more games. But you know what? I've never gone home at night and put my kids to bed and said, "I wish I could have done this, should have done this, could have done that." I can look in the mirror and know that I've given it everything that I've got, and I'm doing things the way I believe is the right way. If people, whether it's the administration or otherwise, see differently, then obviously you've got to talk about things. But we're doing things the way that we want our program done. Now, we hope wins can come out of that. If not, we want to at least make a difference in these kids' lives.

Is the system good as far as academics? How can this happen with the tutoring that goes on?

There are probably fans out there wondering about our system. What's wrong with your offense? Well, we're shooting 32 free throws a game. So, I think it's pretty good. But maybe the fan doesn't think it's very good because we've missed so many free throws. So now what happens? Do you blame the system for getting you to the free throw line? Or, do you blame the individual that can't make a 15-foot, uncontested shot. Regardless of the system, these guys come in and they know what's expected of them. I can't imagine a coaching staff doing more academically in pursuit of excellence in the classroom than what our guys do. I bug our staff daily on "Is this guy doing this?" From grade checks to class attendance checks to getting dismissed early from practice - Ultimately, it falls on the individual. Does your education mean enough to you? The system here is good. Our system is good. Now, the people that are in the system have to make up their mind to mature and get the job done, whether that's in the classroom, that's in the community or that's on the floor. Unfortunately, you've got some guys that try the easy way out or the short cuts. Short cuts usually end up getting you in the end. That's probably what's going to happen in this case.

When can you get that scholarship back if you end up losing Nick?

Well, I'd rather wait. That's something we can address next week if that happens. I don't want to talk about something that hasn't happened yet. Next week, maybe that's something we can talk about.

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