Sonderleiter Likely out vs. Penn State

Iowa Head Coach Steve Alford conducted his weekly teleconference with the media on Friday. The situation surrounding starting center Sean Sonderleiter was the main topic of discussion: "Sean's had an awful lot thrown at him in the last five months. Whatever those issues are personally/family, those things have to be most important to him. We've got to give him some time to sort those things through. We'll see where we go once it gets sorted out."

OPENING STATEMENT:

There's not a whole lot, gang, that I can really tell you. I met with Sean (Thursday). He's battling some personal family problems right now. Basketball has got to take a back seat to that. We've got to just let that run it's course. How long that's going to take or what all of the issues are? I'm not at liberty to say or even know at this time. We've just got to support Sean during this time and know that basketball is out of the equation for right now. That's basically all that I know. I don't know a time. I would say that he's doubtful for Saturday just because of no practicing (Thursday) and probably not being at practice today. That's really all that I know on the situation right now.

Q&A

It would be safe to say at this point that he still is a member of the team?

Yeah. He's just fighting some inner stuff. To be honest with you, I don't know all of the ins and outs of it. I just know there is some family and some personal things that he needs to deal with. We want to give him the time to do that. I'm sure that it will run it's course, and we'll know more down the line. But, that's really all we know right now.

Let's take this towards tomorrow night. Who starts in his place, and how do you deal with that?

Well, we'll probably go with Bru and Glen and go smaller. Obviously, it affects our bench. That puts Erek into a role of much more minutes. It puts a lot of stress on the defense of staying out of foul trouble. Then, it brings into the picture Ben Rand, Jack Brownlee, Kurt Spurgeon. They all have to be ready to go. I've said all along that I'm confident that they can do the job. They've got to be ready to enjoy the opportunity and make the most of it.

Did Sean practice (Thursday) or what were the chain of events (Thursday)?

No he did not. We had a film session. We were under the impression that he was sick. Then, I met with him when the guys were lifting weights (when) he arrived on campus. I met with him at that time. It was at that time that he just voiced some personal and family issues that he really needed to take care of.

Did anybody on your staff know about this?

No. This was all from left field (Thursday).

It's just been one thing after another. How do you feel about the big picture?

It's tough. We've got to keep fighting through it. That's all we can do. We've got to be a team, individually and collectively, that just perseveres through just a very difficult set of circumstances that's been dealt our way. We've had the better part of two consecutive years where we just haven't been able to create a break and become fortunate. But you can't sit around and mope and want self pity. Whatever cards you've been dealt, you've got to make the best of the hand. I really like the guys that are in the locker room. I feel for them. At this current time, you're two senior centers are out of the picture. Then, the academic casualties of DeWitz and Henderson, it really hurts. We just have to hope now that the guys towards the end of the bench creep up the bench have fun playing the game; don't put pressure on them. Hopefully, they can have some production.

Is Sean still in classes?

Yes.

Is it fair to say that these are very serious issues that (Sonderleiter) is dealing with?

Again, I don't know what those issues are. I would think that they're serious enough because he's got a great relationship with his teammates and a geat relationship with the coaching staff. We've all been through a lot together. He had a family member lose their life, I think it was in August. Sean's had an awful lot thrown at him here in the last five months. Whatever those issues are personally/family, those things have to be most important to him. We've got to give him some time to sort those things through. We'll see where we go once it gets sorted out.

Have you thought at all of going to the intramural league or looking for football players?

Well, I talked to (Associate Sports Information Director) Steve (Roe) about 10:15 just because we don't have a lefty on the team, and we just got beat by Michigan, who had five lefthanded players. We haven't really gone the intramural route, but Steve Roe, if he meets age requirements, would be somebody that I'd be very interested in. The age thing he might not qualify for, but the academic thing being an SID...and you throw Phil (Haddy) in that hat, it could be scary academically. But no, we haven't gone to that point. What we have done as coaches...this hit us really late in the day and really from left field. Sean is leading the Big Ten in field goal percentage. His numbers have really jumped since Jared's been out. It's going to be how we practice. We're going to have to do an awful lot of individual work; a lot of one on nobody. Offensively and defensively, we're going to have to do a lot of five on 0. The risk of an ankle sprain or a thigh bruise really hurts us. We can't control that in a game, but we may have to do some of that in practice.

How have these tough breaks affected the team?

The guys in the locker room are tough-minded. It hasn't been just about tough breaks for us as a coaching staff, we're a very close unit team. You feel for the guys because they've worked awfully hard. They deserve some good breaks. For whatever reason, it hasn't happened that way. Now, we've got to make the most of it. I'm glad the guys that we have are unselfish. I know with whatever we come up with as far as game plans and strategies, they're going to do everything they can to try to execute that.

Are you still enjoying what you're doing?

I think that I enjoy it, Rob, because of my players. That's the thing that keeps me going. The thing that I enjoy the most are the players; the breaking down of the film...it's almost like I wished we practiced at 10 in the morning so I could get the guys in here early. Sometimes it's a long wait until 3 o'clock to get them in here. I understand that. I've got to be resilient, and I've got to be somebody as the leader that they see still believes. I do believe in the guys, and they believe in the system. I do enjoy the practices and being around the team.

Have you talked to the team about Sean's situation, and how did they take it?

I spoke with the team briefly before training table (Thursday) night. It was very much my reaction and the coaches' reaction. It really was from left field. Nobody saw it coming. He rooms with players on the team. We just had gotten back from Ann Arbor. I talked to his roommate then. It was kind of a disbelief in the locker room. It hit the players and the coaches with the same magnitude of just shock and kind of "What's going on?" type thing. We've just got to hope that Sean can fix the personal and the family issues that he's going through right now.

Penn State is a team with some size. Is that a major concern going in?

If we've got any depth at all left, we've got more guys that can play the guard position. They're the flip of it. They've got bigs that can come in off of the bench, but they have no guards. Their two starting freshmen guards are playing almost 40 minutes a game.

Was the other night the first game that you've coached without your father there in a long time?

It's been nine years.

Will he be around (Saturday) night?

No, I don't think so. The funeral is Sunday and Monday in Washington, Ind. He and mom will be leaving (Saturday) morning.

What's your schedule, if we may pry?

I'll probably going out early Sunday morning.

You'll rejoin the team on Tuesday?

Yeah. Monday night or Tuesday morning.

Do you have any thoughts on Jeff Horner's up and down play the last five games?

As I said when he was shooting well, it doesn't what he scores as long as we win. He was the first guy in to watch tape (on Thursday). I spent an hour with him watching tape. People are preparing for him a lot different. They're getting into him. They know he can score. They know he can shoot. He gets a little bit too frustrated early in the game when things don't go well. That's a maturing process. That's a process that he'll continue to improve on. In the Michigan game, he lacked the pace that he's got to play at.

How much do you anticipate Erek Hansen's minutes going up, and what can he handle at this point?

He's very capable of it. But he's got to produce, and he's got to stay out of foul trouble. Glen is in the same boat. Glen has done a nice job since getting the starting nod. But it really becomes of great importance that our bigs do a great job of defending and not getting into foul trouble. I would think that Erek's minutes would drastically go up.


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