Obviously, our guys are very excited. Most of them, in fact all of them, have been on campus all summer long. It's been a great summer for them of getting better and competing. Probably the thing that I'm most excited about is our leadership. We've talked about that before.
The three guys that we have as captains - Horner, Pierce and Bunner - these are three guys that really understand what we're trying to do whether it be system; whether it's playing here at Iowa; whether it's playing in the Big Ten; playing at a high level; trying to win championships.
Pierre has been here four years. Jeff and Bru have been through two years. It's been either Bru playing out of position in both years or Jeff really having a lot of pressure on him from handling the ball, taking care of the team. They've just done a phenominal job. Now, they've gotten a little bit more health.
I'm real excited about not just what those three individuals can do but the impact they're going to have from a leadership standpoint on a lot of new faces. (Iowa has) seven guys that are totally new or didn't play all of last year that are back. As talented as they may be, they're going to be fresh to a whole new level.
We're excited about Saturday (the first day of practice). We open up things at noon and continue for about five days before we take a day off. It's been a healthy fall for the most part. Hopefully we can have a healthy winter.
Where does Adam sit in? What do you expect him to bring to this team?
Well, we've had Brody for the last four years. Brody has done a phenominal job of getting the most out of somebody that's 5-10 and just had to go through a Big Ten battle each night of trying to compete against 6-4, 6-5 shooting guards.
We've talked about it before. Brody came in strictly as a shooter. He left us he led our team in steals. He led the Big Ten in steals last year. He really developed in a lot of areas and it's a great credit to him.
Now we come into this year and you replace that with a 6-5; athletic; strong; like Brody can extend defenses because he can shoot the ball out to NBA range. He's got great experience in that he played on year in the Big 12. He's sit out and seen our system for a year.
You look at a guy like Adam, he's going to be asked to do a lot of things from Day 1. He's eager and hungry for that.
The new gang, how do you plan on working them into the mix?
That's the exciting part. Michael is back. Henderson is back. He's done a very good job in the spring semester and then going through summer and now what's he doing in the fall.
He's in great shape. He looks really good. If you ask all of our guys, the one guy that has had the kind of summer and fall that has really stood out it might be Henderson. That's going to be big for us because that gives you four guards with good experience that have been here; understand things. Guys like Carlton Reed and J.R. Angle that can play in the guard position, that really helps.
Seth Gorney has been a pleasant surprise because he's a little bit further ahead in a lot of areas than what we thought would happen coming into the start of practice. Now you start practicing and things can take on a new demeanor because of the speeed of the game; the battling; the 5-on-5, which we're not allowed to do a whole lot of here in the fall at least with coaching supervision. But I like what he's done. He's got great hands. As he develops the footwork inside, he's going to be...because you can't teach the size. Seven-foot, 255 pounds is a big body.
Alex Thompson really has a chance to come on the seen in a hurry. He's a great athlete. He's a great conditioned kid; a big time worker. He's somebody that's 6-9 almost 6-10 that can play out on the floor because he can shoot the ball well. He drives it well and he can post and play defensively inside.
He's a versatile big, which helps because Bru has kind of played that role and he's about 2 1/2 inches taller than Bru. That gives Bru some help up front.
Doug Thomas is just recovering. He's just about 75, 80 percent. We hope that by practice he's going to be cleared to do everything. He had some things cleaned up and is really progressing well there. He'll remind fans a little bit about Reggie (Evans). He's probably more athletic than Reggie. He doesn't really go after the ball like Reggie did yet. I didn't see many others, maybe Buck Williams, that did pursue the rebound like Reggie did. But that gives us a force inside that maybe hasn't been there in the past.
I mentioned a little bit about Angle and Reed but these are two guards that really have done a lot of good things. Angle, (is) very fundamentally sound; works hard; can really make shots. And then Carlton adds athleticism to our backcourt that really makes our backcourt deeper than what we've had.
We go through this practice season now to see how all of that filters out. You know, who's going to get the minutes? Who's going to get the backup minutes on the depth chart and then who is going to have to wait their turn patiently and just continue to compete against guys that might be a little more veteran and older than what they are?
What was wrong with Thomas?
He just had a scope of a knee (left) just to clean things out about five weeks ago. He's really produced extremely well. He'll be full go by Saturday.
What kind of a defensive team can this team be?
Well I hope more aggressive man-to-man. We've kind of played band-aid defense for two years. we've hung around. We've kept games close. We've had a chance to win late in games. There are very few games in last two years where people have just ran away from us.
But we've kind of had to just hang in there and not play the way that we want defensively because we're trying to keep a Horner out of foul trouble; trying to keep Pierce in the floor as long as possible. So, sitting in a 2-3 matchup or just trying to slow things down and keeping people out trouble.
This year, we can get back to playing the way that we want to play. We really want to get the ball down the floor. If you look at our personnel with the guards that we have they all fly the floor. Jeff is as good as anybody at getting the ball up the floor. Mikey is a tremendous ball handler that can push the ball up the floor. You look at our bigs - Brunner, Thompson, Hansen - are great runners of the floor. We've got to be a team that pushes it and forces the action.
You've got to complement that with good, solid aggressive defense. That's got to be man-to-man. That's probably my biggest concern going in because we've not played as much man-to-man defense in the last two years as I would have hoped that we would have.
Now these guys have got to turn the switch of it's not as much guarding a certain area and that's what you're responsible for. You're going to be responsible for your man and help side and directing where those things go. That's going to be a little bit of an adjustment for them.
What is the status of your big guys? That would appear to be the team's biggest problem in terms of depth.
If you had to start things today and you looked at veterans, you've got Hansen and Brunner. Brunner is the leading returning rebounder back from the league. Hansen is the leading shot blocker back from the league. And Hansen might be as improved as much as anybody because of the confidence that he gained last year. Those are two really good veteran big men.
If you look at depth charts there, you've got an Alex Thompson that can play the four, he can play probably some of the guard positions as well before it's all said and done. He's a special talent and he's going to be able to play right away.
Doug Thomas has incredible experience. He just won two national JUCO tournaments. He'll add a lot of athleticism to the frontcourt. Seth Gorney being a 7-footer is somebody that gives us that size that Jared (Reiner) gave us.
Obviously we hope that we don't get injured in the frontline. But there's enough depth there that we can still do a lot of the things we want to do.
The exciting thing about this team is that we can go big and athletic. We can also go small and get real athletic. We have not had that opportunity over the last two years.
How has Erek (Hansen) looked?
Very good. He's had a great spring. He was fired up after last season after getting an opportunity to play. Erek made the most of it. He gained an incredible amount of confidence. He carries himself differently now. He wants it. He wants to be a part of it.
Guys mature differently. He has really matured well. Knowing that we've got that kind of shot blocker over the next two years can really be a catalyst to our defense and allow our guards to get out and get after people more knowing you've got that back there protecting the basket.
His offense is improving. That's what he wanted to see. We're going to go to him early in the season and we're going to try to build even more confidence down there. Getting out and running will give him some opportunities as well. He's more of a running big man than he is your tradition plodding center that just wants to get in halfcourt wars all of the time.
Can you expand a little more on the progress that you think Mike Henderson has made?
Last year, Mike had a pretty solid November. His summer last year of you ask (Strength and Conditioning Coach Bill) Maxwell might have been as good as any incoming freshman that we've had. A lot of those guys want to test you in whether they want to attend workouts on time. He did everything that you were asked to do. He had a great fall and a terrific November as far as getting things going in the right direction.
Then he came in to some academic problems in December that eventually caught him in January. He played awfully well against some very good Purdue guards before he was suspended for the rest of the year.
At that point he had a chance to go one of two ways. He's really taken a positive approach. I saw him (Tuesday) and asked how things were going. He just looked at me and said national dean's list. (laughs)
I don't know if he's really ready for national dean's list. But he's turned that corner of understanding. Having basketball taken away really affected him. It turned the light on. He's doing the job in the classroom.
What he's done on the floor is he's shooting the ball better. His ball handling has picked up. His decision making has picked up. He's really going to enjoy the transition game that we're going to play.
Is depth at guard going to be the biggest difference for this team?
Yeah. The last couple of years, we've been able to hang around and make some positives because of some really good solid guard play. But it hasn't been deep guard play.
This year, we've got deep guard play, and they're so versatile. And we've got some guys that I think we can post. Pierre is hard to guard anyway. But putting Pierre in the post; putting in Adam Haluska with is strengths in the post; giving these guys a chance to play a lot of different areas are something we haven't been able to do in the past.
We were small in the backcourt last year. This year we get bigger and more athletic. That just allows you a little bit more freedom from a coaching standpoint to do some things defensively. (A lack of depth at guard) probably affected is more defensively than offensively.
Last year, we weren't very deep but we were hard to guard. This year we'll still be hard to guard. But if we want to do the things that we want to do and build towards championships, we've got to really buy in and understand how hard it is to play man-to-man defense and commit to it. If the guys do that, they've got a chance to be really good.