Now lets not get out of control here, and think that Iowa is going to go undefeated throughout the entire upcoming season. They are what we would call a "work in progress". They are learning every time they step onto the court this season. Every practice and every game is a new learning experience for this group of Iowa Hawkeyes. They will take their lumps during the season, just like any other team will, but they will also show exactly what they are made of, and that is this is a team that will play together, and will leave everything on the court game in and game out.
Having been able to attend the two-preseason games, a couple of things caught my eye right away:
Freshman point guard Jeff Horner is the driving force behind this team. He leads them by his play. He is exactly what the Hawkeyes were missing last season, and he will no doubt give the Iowa fans something to cheer about during the season. Horner gets the ball to his teammates at the right time, and he will ultimately be one of the best passing guards in the Big Ten this season. He will learn very quickly this season, as he will not see very much time on the bench.
Senior combo guard Chauncey Leslie is a new man. He's expanded his game during the off-season, to where now he's able to slash to the basket and finish strong or lay up with that soft jumper in the middle of the lane. He's also shown he is capable of hitting the long ball from beyond the three point line. Leslie is still at his best when out in the open court, where he's able to blow by the opponents and get to the basket.
Combo forward Glen Worley has shown improvement as well from last season. He's shown his ability to score on the offensive end, both inside and outside. He has worked on his explosion to the basket, and that is beginning to show dividends for the junior from Coralville.
The time and work that junior center Jared Reiner put in during the off-season is going to pay off for him this season. He's worked on his baby hook shot down low in the post, and even increased his range out to fifteen feet. He is attacking the boards on both ends of the court, and his defense has been nothing but outstanding during the two preseason games.
Junior combo forward Sean Sonderleiter showed that his offensive game has expanded as well. He can step out beyond the arc and hit the three, or finish down in the paint with either hand. Sonderleiter also showed that he is able to get out in the open court and run the floor. He, along with the rest of the Hawkeyes are beginning to understand that if they run the floor, Horner will get them the ball.
Freshman Greg Brunner is no doubt going to be the fan favorite. This is a player that leaves everything on the court night in and night out. He's learning the offense as he goes, but he's beginning to see how it all comes together. He has the ability to step out and drain the three or he can take you baseline and finish with a monstrous dunk. Brunner will give the Hawkeyes minutes at both the wing forward and power forward positions this season.
Senior guard Josh Kimm is going to give the Hawkeyes some quality minutes off the bench this season. He's got the ability to knock down the three, or make that solid pass down low into the post. He's not flashy, but he gets the job done. Kimm definitely understands the game, and he knows his role on the team.
Junior forward Kurt Spurgeon is still in the process of learning the system. However, once he gets it down and has a grasp for it, he will be a solid role player, who can give you minutes at the three if Worley or Brunner get into foul trouble.
Granted junior combo guard Brody Boyd has yet to suit up for the Hawkeyes yet this season, but Iowa fans know exactly what he is capable of doing on the court. Boyd needs to help the Hawkeyes with his outside shooting and court leadership this season, as he will see time at the wing guard position. Boyd will also be asked to help out at the point guard position to give Horner a breather every once in a while this season.
The Hawkeyes showed that they will push the ball when they have the opportunity, and they will be patient on offense if they do not get anything out of their initial fast break. That patience has enabled them to score more than most critics thought they would in a game so far this season. Scoring was a big question coming into this season, however the Hawkeyes contribute as they should, with a balanced scoring attack.
Foul trouble and injuries and two things the Hawkeyes can do without this season. They can ill-afford to get anybody in foul trouble or lose a player for a specific length of time due to an illness or injury this season.
Coach Alford has shown in the two-preseason games, he is comfortable right now just going two deep into his bench. That means the seven players that are seeing time are going to log a lot minutes this season, and that is ultimately critical for the two freshmen that are being asked upon to step up and be accounted for right away this season.
The 2002-03 Iowa Hawkeyes have just begun to get their feet wet. They are definitely going to give Iowa fans something to cheer about, and it would not come as a shock if they overachieve more than some fans and the media believe they are capable of.
Iowa will begin its regular season on Sunday night at 7:00 pm as they host Florida Atlantic at Carver Hawkeye Arena.