I know the numbers as well as the next guy. One NCAA Tournament appearance in the last five seasons. A 34-46 (42.5%) record in the Big Ten the last five years. Attendance numbers are dipping to the lowest points since Carver-Hawkeye Arena opened. And on and on.
Sometimes, it can be difficult to find a silver lining in the cloud when you're a sports fan. But, Iowa fans need to look no further than a swingman from Carroll to find reason to feel some hope for the winter of 2004-05.
And I'm not talking about "Rob Griffin hope" or "Sam Okey hope" either. I'm talking about a player who—if he stays healthy—will provide the Hawks with a consistently productive perimeter player, who can make a difference at both ends of the floor.
Adam Haluska transferred to the University of Iowa almost a year ago. After sitting out this season, he will join his Hawkeye teammates on the court next fall and have three seasons of eligibility remaining.
As someone who has seen this young man play a lot of basketball the last five years, it's easy for me to say that you're going to be impressed. There are many reasons that I think this is going to be a perfect fit for the Hawkeye program, including…
Haluska's experience. As a freshman at Iowa State in 2002-03, he started all 31 games, averaging 29 minutes, 9.2 points and 3.6 rebounds. He developed into a very good defensive player, as well. Plus, he can really shoot the ball from the perimeter…and at the free-throw line.
A big, athletic perimeter shooter is something Iowa was missing. Athletically, the Hawks have only one other perimeter player in Haluska's "league" and that's Pierre Pierce. A big difference is that Haluska can stick three-pointers with regularity, as well as the pull-up jumpers from 15 feet. And when you can knock those types of shots down, defenses have a much more difficult time keeping you from getting to the basket. Haluska's combination of skills and size remind me a little bit of Luke Recker, which is the type of player—physically—who can be tough to find…and very difficult to guard.
You can't have too many shooters. Never, ever does a team have TOO MANY shooters. And with the loss of Brody Boyd, the Iowa team is in desperate need of another perimeter shooter to go along with Jeff Horner in the Hawkeye lineup. The best college basketball teams in the nation typically have three perimeter shooters on the floor, which keeps the defense spread out…and opens things up considerably for penetration and post feeds. With Haluska on the court, one defender will be less likely to give help to either "double down" or cut off penetration…or at least this defender will be much less aggressive about it. Think about how much better Iowa's offense looked this season once Horner found his three-point stroke. As a freshman at ISU, Haluska nailed 40 of 119 three-pointers (34%).
Haluska is an unselfish player and an under-rated passer. One of the main things that struck me about this young man when I watched him play in high school was how unselfish he was…especially considering how much better he was than everyone else on the floor each night. Believe me, if he had wanted to score 40+ points per game, it was there for the taking. Rather, he worked to get his teammates involved by penetrating and pitching…and rarely, if ever, putting up bad shots himself. Unless you've seen a lot of high school basketball, you probably don't realize how unusual those traits are for a gifted prep athlete. But, many of those "little things" told me a lot about the type of player Haluska is. He is also very skilled at passing the ball in traffic, which requires quick decisions and solid ball-handling abilities.
He is a former Iowa prep, who will give the effort we've seen recently from players like Horner and Greg Brunner. Regardless of how the last few seasons have ended, you cannot deny that you've appreciated the physical efforts of Hawkeye players like Horner and Brunner. Leadership comes in all different forms and giving a full-out effort is one of the ways I will expect Haluska to help lead next season's Hawkeye team.
With one year under his belt in the Iowa program, Haluska should be ready to go right away. There should not be a huge adjustment period, as he has been around Coach Alford's system for a year…and his teammates should be well aware of Haluska's strengths and abilities. There will undoubtedly be some nerves prior to that first tip-off in Iowa City, but I will expect the sophomore to be productive from the start.
Don't get me wrong…I'm not expecting a "savior" here. I know very well that Haluska will make mistakes, miss plenty of shots and turn the ball over on occasion. Of course those things will happen. But, I just think that this player is joining this Iowa team at the right time…and at a time when Hawkeye basketball fans really WANT something to cheer about. I know that Haluska will help the Hawkeyes put an improved team on the court, which is always good news.
All of these things considered, I think it's exciting to think about a lineup that includes Horner, Haluska, Pierce, Brunner and either Doug Thomas (JC transfer) or Erek Hansen. That's a core group that is athletic, quick and aggressive…and all will be at least three years removed from high school ball. If Coach Alford and his staff have recruited well enough to give this team some quality depth off the bench, getting back to the NCAA Tournament should become a reality.
Next season might be Year 6 in the "Alford Era," but it might also be the START of something very good in Iowa City.
(Marty Gallagher founded the popular web site IowaSportsOpinions.com and now publishes IowaPrepsToday.com. E-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)