Coach Alford Weekly Press Conference

Iowa Coach Steve Alford met with the media on Monday to discuss his team's road game at Wisconsin on Wednesday. Among the other topics touched on by the coach were the Hawkeyes' NCAA chances, the progress of Iowa's four freshmen, the struggles of Erek Hansen, the pursuit of filling Pierre Pierce's scholarship and much more in this HN.com Premium Q&A Package.

Was Saturday a glimpse of what we might see from Adam from here on out?

He's been playing pretty solid. That was a good scoring game for him. Adam has had a pretty consistent year for somebody that had to sit out a year.

I don't know if that's a glimpse because it only gets tougher for Adam. With Pierre out and now Adam does this, each team we play that's going to be a focal point.

A big key is going to be what can we get out of those guys that are the X factors? What can Mike Henderson provide? Can we get any scoring at all out of our center position? Those are going to be some things that are still going to have to happen for us to be successful.

With that said, Adam and Jeff have to score. But the scouting report has changed a little bit for Adam now.

Are you going to stick with Erek in the starting lineup?

Ah. Not for sure. Probably leaning that way. This is a team where a lot of it might be a gametime decision. We're not for sure how Wisconsin will go. They have at times played Wilkerson at the five and Tucker at the four. Sometimes Tucker is the three.

So, a lot of it will probably be matchups from that standpoint. But we definitely have to get some consistent play out of Erek and Doug.

Seth is somebody now that has waited patiently. He's practicing better and better. When Helmigk and Butch plays, that gives Seth an opportunity to play as well. With Seth, it's kind of a matchup situation.

What's happened to Erek's game? Is it just confidence?

I don't know. His step is back. He seems energized again. You watch tape, he's tremendous defensively. The foul trouble has just gotten him out of flow. Not being a go-to-guy anyway, if you're third, fourth, fifth option at times and you're out of flow with playing time.

When he's really playing well, he gets 25-27 minutes. That's a lot different than here lately where he's been getting 14 or 15. He's just got to get on the floor more but a lot of it has to do with him.

Have teams scouted him and pretty much know that he has a tendancy to leave his feet? Are the taking the ball to him?

I definitely think they go at him. And that's a smart thing to do. But he still has an uncanny ability to block shots. His blocks are even down. A lot of that is because of the foul trouble.

He's just got to be smarter. Some of it has kind of been silly fouls. They've been the help side or people driving him and him not being in his stance. He's gotten in foul trouble that way, very similar to Bru.

So, does he have to sit there and take the charge at 130 pounds?

I've asked everybody to take charges but not him. He's a shot blocker. But when people try to drive, you've got to keep people in front of you. You can't sidestep, let them go by and reach. You get silly fouls that way.

What can you do to coax some more offense out of the center position?

I don't know. We went into the season not expecting a whole lot from an offensive standpoint. I'd like to get some more because when we were really clicking in the nonconference we were getting nearly 8-10 points combined out of that center spot.

Doug and Erek both are capable of scoring. But I don't want them to get out of what their real role is. If they would still defend and rebound, and defending is staying out of foul trouble, that's still the role that they could best help us with.

I don't need them now feeling the burden that they have to go out and get 10 points a gme. It's still in my mind - defend, rebound. If you do those two things really well, we'll get the scoring other ways. And their scoring will pick up because they're going to be on the floor longer.

How would you evaluate the four freshmen?

J.R. has not played very much. That evaluation is hard. He's still a good year out from that happening.

Seth is right there. He's worked himself in where maybe he's going to crack that 8-9 man rotation. I'm ecstatic about him because he's got a great touch. It's just a learning process of playing the level of pace that you have to play at this level. That's what he's learning. But I've been very impressed with his work ethic and how he handles the ball. He's a good passing big man.

Carlton has done a lot of good things. He got kind of thrown to the wolves on Saturday and he played that way. He'll calm down and relax and be able to give us some good stuff here in the last eight regular season games.

But I've really been impressed with his progress. He's somebody that can really shot it. He's the quickest guy we've got on the team. His defensive is constantly improving.

Alex has been slow, but a lot of his has been playing time. It's been five or six minutes here and that's hard. And to be honest with you, I don't think he's ready to play inside as much as he is outside. And it's taken awhile to kind of figure all of those things out. We haven't had a need for him on the outside because we've been so deep.

Now there might be a need there with Pierre gone. We can play Alex out on the perimeter similar to what Wisconsin does with Morley. They're able to get away with having a 6-8 guy out there playing.

He's much better playing from the baseline down right now than he is getting in there. Physically, he's just not ready yet. And Carlton is kind of the same way. Their bodies just look like freshmen.

Carlton looks just like Pierre's body when Pierre got here. And you look at Pierre and Carlton today and it's night and day body wise. That's hopefully what Carlton will end up looking like and keep his speed. Alex is somebody that just needs 15 or 20 pounds and a good whole year of a college weight program.

When these four freshmen are juniors can they be the nucleus of a good team for you?

We hope so. You've got a center, a power forward, which I think Alex will end up playing. Carlton is definitely a Pierre type. Carlton will end up being able to play three different positions. And J.R. can really shoot it. J.R. has just got to learn the guard position.

If J.R. can learn the guard minutes down the road and have a chance. If he can't learn the guard position, it will be hard because he's not going to be able to play the four position at this level.

Alex made some good moves out there on the floor.

He's getting more comfortable when he's out on the floor. The problem is when his back is to the basket. He's not strong enough to be confident enough that he can take people in the post. That will come. I don't think that's anybody's fault. We were just deep at guard, and he was probably better at forward for us this year.

Now, with what's happened maybe we can get him at the guard position a little bit and go a little bit bigger and play him at that three spot some and see what he can do and not have to bang as much. Eventually, he'll be OK with that. Right now, body wise, he's not ready for that.

You mentioned last week, and maybe it was just because of the situation, that you felt that you probably had to get nine (conference wins) to get to the Big Dance. Is that still pretty accurate for any Big Ten team?

Nah. We still have the value of winning 12 nonconference games against very good opponents. The RPI and those things are going to be pretty good.

We haven't put a number on it. And the last thing I want to do is add more pressure to this team.

There have been teams in the major conferences where 7-9 have got you in. The rule of thumb has always been that you had to get to 8-8. But there have been teams that have got to 7-9 and not have a whole lot of total wins but their strength of schedule and their RPI carry them.

That's hard to figure out. I just want this team to relax and play and try to learn how to play without their best players and their most creative player and just see what happens. I don't want to put a number on them.

I know and can sense there's enough pressure on them that I don't want to put a number out there that they have to get to. I know we've got eight games left. They're all against very good opponents. But they're all games that we can compete in and do some good things in and see what happens.

This team, if it will continue to fight, just like they did against Michigan State, good things will happen. We're guaranteed nine more games; a chance to play 10, 11, 12 more games. So, there's plenty of games out there. We've just got to start winning some of them now.

If Pierre appeals his dismissal, what does that involve?

I have really no idea of that whole process. There is protocol on what has to take place of there is an appeal. But I don't know much about it. Regardless, it doesn't really change the situation here any.

It gives you an extra scholarship for next year. Do you have a thought on what you might do with it?

Well, we're out looking. Obviously thinking that Pierre was going to be here for the next year and half, he was a big cog to the whole situation. He was big for the development with Carlton, Mike. So, that affects a lot of things. It doesn' just affect us immediate. It affects the long term.

With a Tony Freeman coming in now, and Tony is having a tremendous season, could end up being Mr. Basketball in the state of Illinois, this is somebody that had to opportunity to play right away. He'll get even more of an opportunity next year. He'll be ready. He's a tough kid.

We're out there looking for any type of swing type player that could help our backcourt.

A pure shooter?

Pierre wasn't really a shooter. Pierre was a scorer and big-time athlete that can guard. Along those lines is going to be important. If he could shoot, that would be nice, too.

But we're looking at that type of player, a 6-4, 6-5, swing guard that can create offense and defense because of athleticism. If you saw anything in the Michigan State game the thing that was missing with Pierre being gone was being able to match Michigan State's athletcism.

If Pierre is in that mix, you don't sit there and go, "Wow, there's a huge difference in athleticism." With him not there, there was a pretty good difference there.

Is it too late to think in terms of an incoming freshman? Would you have to go junior college?

I don't think you have to. Obviously starting that process in February, it gets a little bit more difficult trying to find a four-year kid. But we're out there looking and looking very hard. And junior college is a possibility as well.

Who's your most athletic player now?

Adam is very athletic. Carlton and Doug are very athletic kids. Alex in his own way is athletic. Bru, when he decides he wants to play athletic can play athletic. He's somewhere between athletic and plodding. (laughter) It all depends on what level he wants to play at.

Just from pure athleticism and just the ease of running, jumping, you're probably looking at Doug and Adam with Carlton right there. Carlton is our fastest kid. He's got the fast twitch muscles. He's definitely ahead of everybody in that regard.

Can you take anything from Minnesota's win against Wisconsin or was it the fact that they were playing at home?

Yeah, they were at home and they're playing very confident right now. They just had a huge double digit win at Michigan. And, their team is intact.

There are some differences. We're going to a place where they're 37-1 out of the last 38 games.

But you watch the tapes. During the last two or three days, I've seen the Indiana game, the Purdue game, the Minnesota game and the Michigan State game. You try to take a little bit out of all of those things that can help your team.

Can you get some easy baskets against them?

We've got to try to find a way. They're as good as anybody in the country. They allow on average 5-6 points in transition.

To begin the year through mid-January, we were as good as anybody in transition. When people scouted us, they said you've got to stop their transition game. The leader of that transition game and the best maybe in my mind in the country in the open floor is now gone.

It's not like we're not going to run in transition, but we've also got to be realists in that our transition game has changed a little bit, too.

The students in Champaign and East Lansing help a lot with the environments by being right on the court. It's not like that in Madison. Why is the place so difficult?

This is a place where the adults do a good job of getting into it, if that makes any sense. Not to characterize the students as not being adults, but sometimes I don't know if they really are.

But the majority of that crowd knows how to stay in it and they can get a feel, a read. I was watching the Michigan State game, and Michigan State had them. Then, the volume got going. They never missed free throws. Michigan State missed free throws down the stretch and turned the ball over twice in their press.

They don't get to practice in there a lot. They've got their own practice facility. So, it's not like they're on that floor every day. Yet, they have done a very nice job of taking care of home. It's a good environment. It might not as intense as Illinois or a Breslin, but it's equally as loud and they get going and they dress in red. They do it up right.


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