So naturally, I took on the task to get as much out of Erek every time I have spoken with him.
Now a junior, Hansen is more used to the spotlight of media day, even if still a little bit uneasy with all of the attention.
It's difficult and cumbersome to try and explain the facial expressions and emotions I saw when interviewing Erek this year, but there were a lot of smiles and he was more relaxed.
However, I got the impression that being relaxed is not something that comes easy to Iowa's shot blocker.
Without further adieu, here is my 2004 attempt at getting to know Hansen a little bit better.
Q: How was it to finally able to get in and mix it up last year. Were you pleased with how you played overall and do you feel that you made some improvements this off season.?
Yeah, I was happy with how I played. I was nervous when I first got out there, and I was surprised that I was able to keep myself together and play well. I think that I will be a lot better this year because I am more relaxed.
What game was it last year where the light went on for you from a confidence standpoint? Was it the Illinois game where you tore it up during a brief span on the court?
Actually, that is the game I was thinking about. That is after we found out about Reiner and I was thrown into the mix. I was scared at first, but I went in there and played like I do in practice. I started feeling more comfortable.
Do you really feel that things are slower to you now, because you are used to them and how well do you think you can play this year?
Now that I am more confident, I can do the things that I do in practice without worrying about messing up.
What do you do in practice well that we have not seen?
I am more aggressive in practice, and I am more calm. So when I catch the ball, I do my moves and go through they too fast in a game and getting some turnovers.
You were among the nations leaders last year in shots blocked per minutes played. Do you want to lead the nation in blocks, along with the obvious team goals?
Yes, that is one of my goals. I would like to be up there and get to where I can be number one, or top 10. That would be great.
To do that, you have to play a lot of minutes. What area do you feel you need to improve most in to make sure that happens?
The main thing is just getting comfortable on the floor so I don't get nervous. I did that last year and it would wear me out real quickly, to where I could not go for more than 10 to 13 minutes. If I calm down on the court, I can last longer.
Do you feel that you will be improved in rebounding? Do you feel that you have added strength to your upper and lower body to where you can hold your own?
I think that I have. I have been working a lot on squats and my lower body strength. I put on a couple more pounds and have been working on block outs, so I hope that will bring my numbers up this year.
Does going against a Doug Thomas help you battle, because he is strong and physical?
Yes, it does. It's always good to have another strong guy out there to battle with.
In the past, when you were a freshman and when Reggie Evans was there, you frustrated him with blocks in practice…do you take pride in that?
We get real competitive. One wants to dunk on the other, and one wants to dunk on the other. That is good, because it makes us work twice as hard because we are trying to get back at the other person. But it all stays here on the floor. Even after something happens, we still pick each other up and tell one another that it was a good play.
Compare things right now to a year ago today. From an outsider's perspective, the team seemed to have good chemistry last year at media day, then once again you were beset with adversity. Do you think the chemistry there this year?
I do. We have such a big junior class and we are all watching each other's back to make sure we are all staying on task academically and outside of class and off the court. Just making sure that we do not have any problems like that.
Why do you think that it wasn't there in previous seasons? Do you think some of the guys wanted to take that role, but because they were underclassmen, there were issues and now those issues are resolved?
I think that is how it was. You don't want to step in and mediate and tell people what to do when you are younger. But now that we are older, we can start stepping in and take control of things.
Does it help you to step into a role like that because you had a situation where basketball was taken away from you?
I bring that to the freshman as to how hard it is to get started in college and the change, and just let them know that ‘this is the approach I took, don't take that approach.' They need to take it more seriously. After the first year goes by, usually it's pretty smooth.
Do you think the fact that you, Mike Henderson, Pierre Pierce, Adam Haluska and Doug Thomas have had basketball at this level taken away from you at some point, that the scar tissue will make you that much stronger?
It makes us want to be stronger. We want to come out and show people that we are better because of it.
Who is the best player on the team?
That is real hard to say (laughs).
What do you think Haluska adds to the team?
He is a great hustler, has a real good shot and he is just really athletic. I think he will bring a lot.
You have a legitimate shot at starting; what do you think it will be like if you start and hear your name called with the lights down and the spotlights on here at Carver?
I don't even know how that would feel to come out with that many people looking at me.
So the stage fright is still something you are battling with?
Maybe at that point. But when I get on the floor, I will calm down. I have never started, so that would be something new to me.