After watching Iowa's tremendous 81-75 victory over #25 Indiana on Saturday, which included another fantastic performance from Adam Haluska (33 points, 5 rebounds, 2 steals), I thought it might be a good time to assess the senior's career and whether he has a shot at making an NBA team next season.
While I am a big fan of Haluska's abilities, I must say that Rick Majerus (one of the best basketball analysts around) may be an even bigger fan of the Carroll, Iowa native. At one point during Saturday's ESPN broadcast, I think I heard Majerus say: "I am in love with Adam Haluska. Seriously. I am very much in love with him."
(OK, maybe that's not a direct quote. But still.)
I have stated since Haluska was a sophomore in high school that he had the best chance of making an NBA roster of any of the other Iowa preps in his class, which included the likes of Jeff Horner, Greg Brunner, Ben Jacobson, Nate Funk, etc.
I still believe that is true.
Haluska has the size, athletic ability and a marketable skill (shooting) that will give him a chance to make it. Granted, it would have to be with the RIGHT team and I'm certainly not guaranteeing that he would be drafted ... but he DEFINITELY has a chance to make a roster next season.
I think that many fans tend to underestimate his quickness and defensive ability. The guy is simply a phenomenal athlete.
These comments are not meant to either "knock" the other Iowa natives nor to GUARANTEE that Haluska is NBA bound. I am simply saying that the Carroll High graduate has the best chance ... repeat: CHANCE ... to make an NBA roster of any of the other Iowa preps from his Class of 2002.
One of the main reasons for that is that the other guys had some physical limitations that would decidedly limit their opportunities. Haluska, on the other hand, has some tremendous physical ability ... and not just the size and length, but also the lateral quickness that it takes to have a "chance."
Do I think Haluska will make an NBA roster next season? Maybe. It wouldn't surprise me if he did.
As I stated, he would have to be matched up with the right team in the right situation.
One former NBA player (and Hawkeye star) who Haluska is often compared to is Bobby Hansen.
Despite what some people may think, this comparison is not too far off base. Both of these guys are/were superior athletes who are around 6-5 or 6-6 tall wing players. Each has/had strengths that are desirable for NBA teams, including perimeter shooting ability from a long/athletic wing player who can defend.
Disclaimer: I remember watching Bobby Hansen play for Iowa and he remains one of my all-time favorite Hawkeye players. He was fantastic then … he was tremendous during his NBA career … as a Bulls fan, it was outstanding to see him win a title with the Bulls … and most recently, I thoroughly enjoy listening to him provide the analysis on the radio. I'm a big fan of Bobby Hansen.
Hansen played a very hard-nosed style of defense and was never afraid to throw his body around the court to make a play … at either end of the floor. He brought an energy level to the game that his teammates certainly drew from … and not only was he a great athlete who played very hard, but he was mentally tough and a very skilled player. (In the late 1980s, Magic Johnson commented that Hansen was one of the toughest defensive players for him to go against.)
Having said all of that, I think that there are many things about Haluska's abilities that remind me of Hansen's abilities. For example:
** Both are tall, athletic wing players. (Hansen was 6-6, 190 pounds … Haluska is 6-5, 210 pounds.)
** Both jump(ed) very well and could mix it up in the paint. (As a senior, Hansen averaged 5.3 boards … Haluska is averaging 4.5 rebounds this season.)
** Both could shoot the ball from the perimeter very well. (As a senior, Hansen made 10 three-pointers in the first season the arc was implemented. This year, Haluska has already made 70 three-pointers.)
** Both could shoot the ball well at the FT line. (Hansen was a career 72% FT shooter and 76% as a senior. Haluska's career FT percentage is 83% and he's at 88% this season.)
** Both could defend very well. (Hansen was extremely tough, physical and hard-nosed. People seem to forget that Haluska has drawn some of the toughest defensive assignments for Iowa the last couple of seasons. For example, remember who was isolated against Grier of Minnesota at the end of regulation and overtime last season?)
** Both would probably project as "possible" second-round picks in the NBA Draft, at best. (Hansen was taken by the Jazz in the third round of the 1983 draft, which of course, would make him an undrafted free agent today. If the draft lasted three rounds this June, the third round might be about where Haluska would go, as well.)
So, there are definitely some comparisons to be made between these two guys.
Am I projecting Haluska to have an NBA career like the one that Hansen put together? No, I'm not.
In what areas was Hansen's game "better" than Haluska's as a college senior? I think this is a fair question. To me, Hansen was a tougher defender than Haluska is right now (although as I've said, most Iowa fans don't give Haluska the credit he deserves as a defender). Hansen was just one of those guys who would always throw his body around recklessly to make a play … he always seemed to be diving for loose balls or mixing it up in a physical way. That was his style and his personality.
Some have tried to say that Hansen was a much better perimeter shooter than Haluska. That's simply not true … at least not from behind the arc. Hansen was a good shooter, no doubt. But his strength as a shooter in college (and part of it was the nature of the game then) was his mid-range game. And Hansen's mid-range game was slightly better than Haluska's is right now, in my opinion.
Hansen was also better (or at least, more consistent) at feeding the post as a senior than Haluska is today. Again, part of that is due to the personnel that each is playing with as Hansen was looking at Greg Stokes and Michael Payne in the post, while Haluska doesn't have that kind of player on the low blocks with him. (Tyler Smith is the most consistent low-post threat on this year's team.)
However, I think it's worth noting that NEITHER Hansen nor Haluska plays (played) with an ounce of selfish attitude. I think that both players would much rather win than achieve any statistical glory.
I certainly have enjoyed watching them play for the Hawks.
But, I am a little disappointed (though certainly not surprised) at the number of Iowa fans who are so much more willing to talk about Haluska's perceived weaknesses than his strengths. I think that, as a fan base, Iowans generally are awfully tough on Iowa natives who play basketball for the Hawks. I'm not sure why … although I suppose I could pose some theories sometime.
Most basketball fans don't watch defense much. They don't really care who is matched up with the opposition's biggest threats. They aren't all that concerned with who Iowa's best players are being defended by … or how opposing teams set out to stop the Hawks' top player(s). But, these are still very important factors in how an individual performs and what opportunities are available.
As with Jeff Horner, I think that Iowa fans will develop a greater appreciation for Haluska after his career is over. I think that's too bad, but that's the way it is, I guess.
Here are some statistics that are worth noting:
** Haluska has scored 1,696 points in his college career. If he continues to average 19.9 points this season for another 8 games, he will finish with 1,855 collegiate points. Just for comparison's sake, only one Hawkeye has ever scored more points in his college career: Roy Marble (2,116). Pretty interesting stat, I think.
** Even if you take away Haluska's freshman season at ISU (285 points), if he continues to average 19.9 points this season for another 8 games, he will finish with 1,571 points as a Hawkeye in three seasons. That would put him at SEVENTH on Iowa's all-time scoring list (behind Marble, Earl, Stokes, Armstrong, Lester and Settles).
With a couple of tourney victories at the end of the season, it's possible Haluska would pass Settles for SIXTH place on the all-time list at Iowa. IN THREE SEASONS!
In those three seasons, Haluska will have scored more points than four-year players like: Dean Oliver, Greg Brunner, Jeff Horner, Ed Horton and Bobby Hansen.
And in his three seasons, Haluska will have scored more points than three-year players like: Andre Woolridge, Don Nelson, Bruce King, Dave Gunther, Val Barnes, Chris Kingsbury and Kevin Kunnert.
** Since 1971, only two Iowa players have averaged more points in a single season than what Haluska is averaging right now (19.9): Roy Marble in 1989 (20.5) and Andre Woolridge in 1997 (20.2).
** Haluska is on pace to make more three-pointers this season than any other Hawkeye in a single season other than Chris Kingsbury's 117 in 1995. And he will likely finish with the second-most made three-pointers in Iowa history (Horner made 261).
That's a pretty impressive list of stats, don't you think?
Certainly, it's impressive enough to spend a little more time discussing the type of player that Haluska "is" and not quite as much time discussing the type of player he "is not." (With apologies to Coach Norman Dale for paraphrasing his quote.)
To summarize, Haluska is a 6-5 wing player who is a tremendous athlete. His skill level is great enough that he is on pace to finish his collegiate career with more points than all but one Hawkeye player in history (and he would finish 6th or 7th on Iowa's all-time list in just three seasons at Iowa). He was also a preseason First-Team All-Big Ten selection for a team that was picked to finish near the bottom of the league.
In addition, he will surely be named to the Academic All-Big Ten Team this year for the third consecutive season. And it won't be surprising if he improves on his Third Team Academic All-American selection of a year ago, either.
Do I think Haluska will have the same type of NBA career as Bobby Hansen? No.
But, does he have a "chance" to make an NBA roster next season? Yes, he does.
And do I hope that Iowa fans appreciate that the Carroll, Iowa native has quietly put together one of the finest careers in the history of Hawkeye basketball?