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Saturday, July 16, 2005
 
Shaping Up
More press for Greg Brunner's newly cut physique, this time from Kelly Beaton of the W-CF Courier -
It was clear to all in attendance in North Liberty that night, as it has all
summer, that Brunner is a man who has undergone a metamorphosis: From a freshman
huffing and puffing up the court at Florida State, to a leaner, meaner senior
who's a threat from 20-feet on in.
I'm as excited as anyone by what we've seen from Brunner this summer, but I'm also pretty excited that Greg's attitude is rubbing off on his teammates.
“Guys are just really trying to get into shape,” said teammate and Waterloo
native Mike Henderson. “Everybody on our roster ... Brunner’s cut weight, I’ve
cut weight, Jeff (Horner’s) cut weight, Adam (Haluska’s) cut weight. Erek
(Hansen’s) putting on weight.”
I've read a lot about the benefits of proper nutrition for my own sake over the past year, and I think people often overlook its importance. There's a notion that athletes work so hard on the court and in the weight room that they can eat whatever they want, and while they can get away with more than inactive people, athletes can really enhance their performance with a healthy diet.

Beaton also wrote an article about former Waterloo East teammates Henderon and Carlton Reed moving in together. My favorite line -
". . .Reed, who carried a rather pedestrian 1.09-to-1 assist-to-turnover ratio
last year, is making a concerted effort this summer to work on his ball-handling
- especially while navigating through traffic. Henderson could probably
teach his younger buddy a thing or two in that department."
*Cough, cough* Um, Mike Henderson, he of the rather awful 0.66 assist-to-turnover ratio is going to teach Reed? Mike Henderson, he of the 2.3 assists per 40 minutes while playing point guard is going to show Carlton Reed, he of the 2.7 ast / 40 min while playing off guard, how to distribute the ball? Let's hope that's just unconfirmed speculation. By the way Beaton, Henderson had 59 turnovers last year, not 59 assists. At least according to ESPN, Hawkeye Sports, and Sports Illustrated.
Friday, July 15, 2005
 
Reader Response Question of the Day
Due to students' refusal to further acquiesce rising tuition rates and the resulting budget cuts, the Iowa Board of Regents must consolidate the athletic departments of Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI. Your job, as coach of the new basketball superpower, is to select your starting five from among the three schools' collective roster.

Here are the rules. . .
- Iowa, Iowa State, and UNI players only
- A player must be expected to make a roster for the 2005-06 season (e.g., Theo Davis is OK, Jared Homan is out).
- No positional requirements. i.e, you can pick five guards, but you better be prepared to back up your choices.
- Choose players that you think would best allow your team to win right now. Offense and defense both matter.
- Choose five players, and five players only. Don't say, "I'll take these four guys, and these two guys will each play 20 minutes." The less players you can choose, the harder the choices become, and the louder the debate gets.
- Incoming freshmen are allowed.

Will you build around speed? Outside shooting? Tough post play? Who will distribute the ball? Who will shutdown other teams' go-to guy? There's plenty of quality guys to choose from, but it won't be easy to cut the list down to five. Here are links to rosters to get you started.

Iowa
Iowa State
Northern Iowa

You can post your starting five (and supporting reasons, if you like) in the comments of this post. I'll get my lineup out soon - by Monday for sure.

Like Jim Rome says - "have a take and don't suck!"
Thursday, July 14, 2005
 
New Hawkeye Hoops Stats Primer
If you're ever confused by the numbers/stats/terms I use on my blog, I'd advise you to check out my new Stats Primer. If you're new to this blog (and I think several of you are recently), you might want to familiarize yourself with the concepts in the Primer, because I won't be using many traditional stats in my posts in the near future. You'll also want an understanding of that stuff if you feel like checking the archives of posts I wrote during last season.

The Primer is intended to replace my Stats Glossary, which will be gone when I add the individual stats to the Primer.
 
Cyclone Quick Hits
Here's wishing a speedy recovery to Fred Hoiberg, the NBA veteran and former Iowa State guard who recently underwent open heart surgery, which included the placement of a permanent pacemaker. He was sent home after the initial surgery, but had to be taken back to the hospital after he blacked out while climbing his stairs. Doctors say he could play again, but will miss most or all of next season.

Hoiberg is a favorite of mine, not only because he's an Iowa native, but because he was such an efficient scorer in the NBA. His numbers bring smiles to the faces of stats geeks everywhere, including one of the mainstream ones. I don't want to go too in depth today, but suffice it to say that when (1) half of your field goal attempts are threes, (2) you lead the league in 3pt%, and (3) you don't miss many free throws, your efficiency numbers will look very appealing.

When I was an undergrad, I had an older professor who had spent time as an engineer, an attorney, and as a prominent city government official. He was basically retired and obviously didn't need the teaching salary, so his lectures often drifted from the course material and morphed into discussions of his colorful history, including this memorable story. He had an accident with his lawn mower one spring and lopped of the end of his thumb. He yelled into the house to instruct his wife to call ahead to the hospital. She excitedly dialed the ER, which caused a mild hysteria to spread throughout the area as rumors started flying. Once he arrived to the hospital, though, there was a collective sigh of relief. Why all the anxiety? Apparently March is a bad time to alert Ames residents that the Mayor just lost his thumb in a mowing accident.

One other link to pass along. Since I just recently got my internet up and going again, I've been bumming around different blogs to see what I've missed during the offseason. An old post at The Chris West Basketball Journal reminded of a (an?) hilarious blog that former Cyclone Paul Shirley typed up while on a road trip with the Phoenix Suns back in March. What I didn't know was that, due to popular demand, Shirley wrote a second rendition, this one during Phoenix's playoff run. There's plenty of stuff to read through on both journals, but they're well worth the time. Apparently, his blog has been so popular that Shirley will be writing a book, which he calls "a collection of all the ups and downs that have been my journey through professional basketball—overseas, the minor leagues, the NBA, maybe the occasional rock concert reference." If recollections of those experiences are as entertaining as his time with the Suns, I can't wait to reserve a copy.
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
 
Prime Time Recap - July 13
I felt that Monday's PTL action was some of the best exhibition basketball I'd seen in a while. Tonight's games veered sharply toward the opposite end of the spectrum. Turnovers, blowouts, uncalled fouls and questionable effort (even for a summer league) from some players diminished my enjoyment, but the night wasn't a total loss.

My night started in the old gym for the 6:00 game between Team 5 (Alex Thompson, Tony Freeman, Duez Henderson) and Team 6 (Erek Hansen, Ben Jacobson, Dean Oliver). Team 6 was playing shorthanded since two of their big contributors, Jordan Eglseder (Bellevue-Marquette) and Jason Bohannon (Linn-Mar), both played at last week's Nike All-American Camp. Of the remaining players, only Hansen had any size to defend the post, and only Jacobson and Oliver could be considered big scoring threats.

The game got so out of hand so early that I moved to the new gym at half time. Team 6 tried to work the ball into Hansen throughout most of the first half, which resulted in the expected dropped passes, stripped balls, and less surprisingly, blocked shots. I counted four separate times where Thompson redirected Hansen's shot, and I only saw the first half. To his credit, Hansen did knock down some mid-range jumpers, which he does consistently. Team 5 took advantage of plenty of turnovers for easy layups and dunks and ran away to a 57-31 halftime lead. Here's the scoring breakdown (first half only).

Players' schools listed here.

Team 5
Alex Thompson, 11
Tony Freeman, 12
Duez Henderson, 14
Jason Price, 2
Nate Swetalla, 16 (got hot and hit 4 threes)
Mason Stewart, 2

Team 6
Erek Hansen, 8
Ben Jacobson, 11
Dean Oliver, 2
Jake Lappe, 8
Tony Wilcox, 2

Like I said, I could only handle so much of a blowout in which one team had no offense, so I split at halftime to take in the second half of Team 3 (Adam Haluska, Grant Stout, Atila Santos) vs. Team 8 (Seth Gorney, Carlton Reed, Matt Burks). Unfortunately, this game was even more unbalanced. A 52-42 halftime lead for Team 3 exploded into a 122-87 victory over the next 20 minutes. That's no typo - Team 8's total disinterest with the concept of defense led to a 70 point half for Team 3.

One of the first things you notice about Team 8 is the odd body types. Aside from Gorney, who looks like the typical plodding center, you can see why this team can't defend and is on their way to a winless summer season. Burks is a poor man's Francisco Garcia, a tall, rail-thin wingman with a nice jump shot and some decent moves, but no match for Haluska, the muscular former sprinter. They also have Brennan Swayzer, a tall post player who makes Hansen look plump. The lineup is rounded out by Julian Seay, a point guard who might stand 5'6" and looks like he's spent far more time perfecting his NBA Live dynasty than his jump shot.

As for individual performances, Haluska looked capable of scoring whenever he wanted to. He must've had 30 pounds on Burks and had no trouble blowing past him for layups, but he often seemed more interested in getting his teammates involved (like Brett Wessels, who hit five threes in the half. Wessels looks like a solid shooter - it seems like he's been on fire every time I've seen him play. He doesn't offer much defensively, though). Stout and Gorney spent a good chunk of the half on the bench, so I can't say too much about their play. Reed really wanted to take on the defense by himself, which led to a few turnovers and some bad shots, but his teammates didn't exactly do much to help him out. He looks really quick on the floor this summer.

Scoring breakdown, second half only.

Team 3
Adam Haluska, 20
Grant Stout, 6
Atila Santos, 6
Justin Wieck, 8
Brett Wessels, 17
Dallas Hodges, 2
Kevin Andrews, 11

Team 8
Seth Gorney, 2
Carlton Reed, 7
Matt Burks, 14
Brennan Swayzer, 7
Julian Seay, 7
J.R. Rice, 3

The 7:30 round of games featured a matchup I was excited about for a few days. Greg Brunner's 7-0 Team 1 squared off against Jeff Horner's 3-4 Team 2. I pretty much go see Brunner's team play whenever I go to the PTL, so I've missed a lot of Horner's games. The league's top two draft picks going head-to-head was easily the marquee game tonight.

The game lived up to expectations early on. Every first half possession for Team 1 seemed to go through Brunner, and he had no trouble carrying the load. A mixture of strong post moves and short jumpers resulted in a 24 point half for the big guy. If you count the second half of Monday's game, that's a 40 minute stretch where Brunner scored 53 points (if you're scoring at home, or if you're by yourself). Horner played well himself, dropping three treys on the way to a 15 point half. Like Monday night, Team 1 held a one point halftime lead, this time at 48-47.

The second half was a different story for Brunner. He missed a couple threes early, and the team stopped going to him. He didn't make his first basket until the 14:30 mark. A few minutes later, Team 2's bench ignited a run that put the team up by 8 with 8 minutes to go. Ali Farokhmanesh and Bruce Sain each hit two threes during the rally. Team 2 held a comfortable lead until Kenyon Murray drove toward an open lane with his team down by three with about three minutes to go. He must've seen some movement out of the corner of his eye, because a seemingly easy layup from the left side turned into a reverse layup from the right side that rolled off the rim. Team 2 raced to the other end for an easy layup that pretty much put the game out of reach. Now that I think about it, it was fairly similar to the ending of the Iowa-Illinois matchup in Iowa City last year, where Dee Brown picked up a missed Iowa opportunity and raced to the other end to close it out.

Scoring Leaders

Team 1
Greg Brunner, 33
Kevin Sams, 15
Brooks McKowen, 10
Kenyon Murray, 17
Marcus Leloux, 12
Oral Wright, 4

Team 2
Jeff Horner, 27
Darryl Moore, 16
John Little, 7
Andrew Naeve, 8
Kyle Schlaak, 17
Matt Brown, 4
Ryan Kennedy, 2
Ali Farokhmanesh, 6
Bruce Sain, 8

That's all the PTL action until Monday, when there will be a couple more exciting matchups. Team 1, in first place at 7-1, will be trying to lock up the tournament's #1 seed and an easy first round game against Team 8 when they play a solid Team 7. In the 7:30 round, Team 2 plays Team 5, which will give us a chance to see Freeman go up against Horner, a battle of future vs. past point guards that might hint at who will be Iowa's PG of the present.
 
Heading Out The Door. . .
It's Wednesday, which means more PTL basketball later tonight. I'll be going back, so expect a recap of the games I see, in a similar fashion to my post from the other day. That will be up late tonight or early tomorrow, now that I'm returning to insomnia. The league finally decided to update their own website, and they promise fresh stats by the end of the week. Geeks like me are holding their breath.

In the meantime, be sure to check out Illini Wonk and Mark Tupper (here and here) for updates on Sherron Collins, the high school point guard who most experts rank as #2 at the position nationwide. He hasn't committed to a college yet, but it appears Iowa and Illinois are his top choices.
Monday, July 11, 2005
 
From The Bleachers
I was back in North Liberty tonight for what turned out to be some of the most exciting exhibition basketball I think I have ever seen. Most of the fun stemmed from the up-tempo action taking place on the court, but I also derived a certain geeky satisfaction from remembering to bring a pen so I could take notes and keep track of individual scores.

Tonight was each team's seventh game of the Prime Time League season, and I quickly noticed how much more cohesive the teams were compared to their performance from the two or three other nights I showed up to watch. Plays were smoother, passes crisper, athletes more conditioned, and alley oops better coordinated. Heck, I think Erek Hansen even hung onto a couple passes! Just kidding, I didn't see his team play tonight. (All joking aside, I heard he played pretty well.)

Team Seven 101, Team Three 87
From the six o'clock matchups I chose to watch Team 3 against Team 7, which featured Iowa's Adam Haluska and UNI's Grant Stout against Erik Crawford and Matt Schneiderman, who are current and former Panthers, respectively. My main reason for watching this game was that I hadn't seen Haluska play yet this summer. That will probably be my reason to watch his team again on Wednesday, because Adam hardly played tonight. For whatever reason, he spent 1/3 to 1/2 of the game on the bench. When he was on the court, Haluska used his athleticism to post up for short bank shots and layups, but his jump shot was consistently off the mark, and he only finished with 11 points. This game turned into a showcase of current and former UNI players. It was close until about 7:00 remained, then Crawford led a charge that enabled Team Seven to pull away.

I was very impressed with Stout from UNI in this game. I'll admit that I didn't see the Panthers play much last season, so I'm a little unfamiliar with the UNI guys in the PTL. The talent from UNI in this league has been eye-opening. Back to Stout - he handled the interior well, making the close shots and grabbing lots of rebounds, but his range was a surprise to me. He knocked down four treys, and added excellent defense. I didn't keep an official count, but he must've blocked at least three or four shots. Crawford reminds me a lot of Haluska - both are strong, quick wingmen who are just as comfortable slicing toward the basket as they are burying their opponents with threes. He and Haluska guarded each other when both were playing, and Crawford easily won the matchup. He took over the game late with some hot jump shooting and finished with 27 points.

Note - The game was tied 4-4 when I first showed up, so there are eight points unaccounted for in the following list.

Leading Scorers, Team 7
Erik Crawford, UNI..........................27, four 3FG
Jared Josten, UNI...........................15
Daniel Bohall, Iowa.........................13
Matt Schneiderman, ex-UNI...........12
David Haywood, ex-Chicago HS....10
Ev Pedescleaux, UNI.......................9
Carlos Taylor, SE CC......................7
Travis Brown, UNI............................2
Nick Iversen, Kirkwood.....................2
Jimmie Hobart, Iowa City HS...........0

Leading Scorers, Team 3
Grant Stout, UNI.............................27, four 3FG
Adam Haluska, Iowa.......................11
Atila Santos, UNI.............................11
Dallas Hodges, Wayne St...............11
Brett Wessels, Iowa.........................7
Justin Wieck, Iowa............................5
Kevin Andrews, CR Xavier HS.........5
Brian Haak, UNI.................................3
Brett Baumgart, Grandview..............3

Team One 108, Team Five 100
This looked like a fun matchup on paper, and it played out as an even better game on the court. It presented matchups like Greg Brunner (1) posting up the kid (Alex Thompson, 5) who's trying to earn minutes alongside him in the upcoming season, Kenyon Murray (1) taking on a similarly-styled former Hawk (Duez Henderson, 5), and the Chicago native, future team PG (Tony Freeman, 5) taking on Brooks McKowen(1), a former Mr. Basketball in Iowa and the state's all-time leading high school scorer.

This game was fast-paced and intensely fought throughout, and you could sense that the crowd was really enjoying it. Team 1 started on an eight point run, but former Hawk Jason Price went on a ridiculous tear to bring Team 5 back. He hit five threes before the midpoint of the first half and had 17 points at the break. Price handled the scoring load while his teammate Tony Freeman seemed to struggle against the bigger, more physical McKowen (that would change). Team 1 was much more balanced in the first half - Brunner, Murray, and UNI's Dylan Grimsley each hit two first half threes and had 14, 10, and 9 points, respectively, at intermission. Team 1 held the slimmest of leads at 47-46.

In the next half, Freeman picked up right where Price left off. He dropped four bombs from outside the arc in the first 5:30. He could not miss on his jump shot (OK, he did miss one or two, including an ill-advised deep shot late in the game), and wound up with 22 second half points and 7 threes overall. I also thought his quickness defensively was a real asset, as he held McKowen to 10 points.

Funny thing was this - you got the feeling that hardly anyone noticed Freeman's Alford-esque torching of the defense, because the second half belonged to Greg Brunner. He pulled out all the stops - there were easy putbacks off rebounds, slick up and under moves, turnaround jump shots, and the ever-increasing barrage of three pointers. He even owned the crowd, drawing a round of chuckles with a "I didn't hear anything" remark after his teammate made a clearly audible slap at the ball. At this point, Brunner can do no wrong (which is more than I can say about this lonely bystander. The picture might not be clear, but that is in fact Mr. Pierce).

The much discussed weight loss, in my mind, makes Brunner more agile in the post. He seems to go from offensive rebound to easy layup more quickly than ever. Increased quickness shouldn't hurt his defense, either. Thompson looked quite frustrated with his inability to do anything against Brunner in the first half. Alex scored two buckets as soon as Greg went to the bench for a breather, and Team 1's coach wisely sent him back in. I know it's only a summer league and too far away from the start of the season to get too excited, but I'm getting giddy about what this guy (I'd say "kid" if it weren't for the hair) could accomplish during his senior season. I'd expect plenty more shots from spots like here and here this year. We'll get a good guage of where Brunner is rather soon when he and Jeff Horner try out for the World University Games.

As for tonight's game, Brunner was way too much down the stretch. He poured in 29 second half points to help his team pull away in a game that was tied with under six minutes to go. Brunner also pulled in a game high 17 rebounds.

Worth noting - Team 5 connected on a jaw-dropping 20 three-pointers. Team 1 managed "only" 15.

Leading Scorers, Team 1
Greg Brunner, Iowa...........................43, six 3FG
Dylan Grimsley, UNI..........................20, four 3FG
Kenyon Murray, ex-Iowa...................16
Marcus Leloux, ex-NW College.........12
Brooks McKowen, UNI......................10
Rodney Jackson, Kirkwood.................6
Ron Steverson, ex-Clinton CC............1

Leading Scorers, Team 5
Tony Freeman, Iowa...........................25, seven 3FG
Duez Henderson, ex-Iowa...................22
Jason Price, ex-Iowa...........................20, six 3FG
Alex Thompson, Iowa..........................14
Mason Stewart, UNI...............................9
Shaun Logan, Kirkwood.........................4
Nate Swetalla, Augustana......................3
Dain Swetalla, Augustana......................3

Ahhhhh, it feels good to blog again. I hope you agree.

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