It's September in Iowa, and with the resurgence of Iowa Hawkeye football as a Top 10 program nationally the past two years, the only ball that matters to Hawkeye fans this time of year has laces and white lines.
So you will be forgiven if you may not have noticed that Steve Alford's Iowa Hawkeyes snagged their first verbal commitment of the 2004-2005 recruiting class.
That honor goes to St. Joseph's (Chicago) Tony Freeman, a 6-foot-1 combo guard who is the son of Tony Freeman, Senior. The elder Freeman played with Alford at Indiana during the mid-1980's.
St. Joe's head coach Gene Pingatore feels that Iowa got a steal in Freeman.
"I think anybody that got Freeman, I felt would be getting something that they didn't have a handle on. His intangibles are extremely good, and you would not know that unless you really watched him a lot or if you got him, have him play for you." Pingatore said.
"Some kids are listed as winners; that is the kind of kid that he is. He knows how to win, he is great under pressure, he wants the ball in crunch time, and he is a big play kind of guy. He also possesses excellent skills. He is an superb shooter, he is strong, he can run, he has become a very good defender, so he is the total package."
Freeman has gained a reputation on the AAU circuit as well as on the high school hardwood for being an excellent shooter. He has played the ‘two' guard position at the high school level, but his coach feels he can play both the one and the two at the next level.
"He has been more of a two for us because we need him to score. There were games where he had him run the point, so he is capable. He is the kind of kid that can adjust. He can do whatever you need him to do. He has very good ball handling skills, he is an excellent passer, so he can do those kind of things." Pingatore said.
If Freeman sounds like an unselfish star, a bit of an oxymoron in this day and age of basketball, his coach can vouch for that.
"There is no question about that. He did that this summer, and as a result, he probably didn't get the recognition that he should have gotten coming off of two summers ago where he was highly touted."
While various reports have Freeman being listed anywhere from 5-10 to 6-2, Pingatore insists that he is 6-1 in shoes, the only measurement that counts, since players do not hit the floor in their bare feet.
"I think one of the reasons was that they (Iowa) wanted him badly. There is an old adage that you had better go where they want you. They made him their #1 priority." Pingatore said.
"The thing that was part of what Alford told us about their observations of Tony, was that they really liked him because of his leadership qualities, the fact that they feel he will not only run the show, but that he will bring other people into that program. People will come to that program because of Tony Freeman. We felt that here when he came here."
That was a response that required additional explanation, so we asked Pingatore for his thoughts on why other players would want to play alongside Freeman at Iowa?
"Because of the fact that he is known, they know what kind of player and person he is; good and unselfish players tend to do that." Pingatore said.
Pingatore certainly is glad to have Freeman on his team, but he also has heard from his peers in Illinois high school coaching circles as to what type of player and person that Freeman is thought of.
"He is a leader and a workaholic. Sometimes he works too hard, to the point of exhaustion. He is always in the gym; he is your typical gym rat. He will be a very good example. To add to that, he is a good student and he knows how to hold a conversation. He has the total package."
Freeman can sign a letter of intent with Iowa in mid November and join the program early next summer.