Talented Hawks are a mild disappointment at best

Talented Hawks are a mild disappointment at best

by David Morain

The question: Which of these has been the biggest disappointment? A) The French Army, 1940-44; B) Paul McCartney and Wings, 1971-80; or C) Iowa Hawkeye men’s basketball, 2001-02?

The answer: Although the Nazis ran through France like frat boys on a panty raid and the ten years McCartney spent with Wings could have been better spent if he had been in a coma, the correct reply is “C”.

Never have the Hawks had a more highly touted team than this year. Coming off an improbable run through the Big Ten tournament and a first round win in the NCAA tourney, expectations were high in Iowa City and around the country for the Hawkeyes to become one of the nation’s elite teams this year. ESPN picked them to finish second in the Big Ten behind Illinois and also ranked them at number nine in the preseason Top Twenty-Five poll.

Individual honors were also expected for a few of the Hawks this year. Power forward Reggie Evans, coming off a season in which he averaged 11.4 rebounds to lead the nation was a preseason first-team all-American. His teammate, 6-6 wing/playboy Luke Recker, was also named as a pre-season all-American by ESPN.

Their supporting cast was deemed strong as well: Duez Henderson (Mr. Basketball in Michigan his senior year of high school), Brody Boyd (shoots the three extremely well though he closely resembles Frodo from “Lord of the Rings”), Glen Worley (perfect basketball body but about as much athleticism as 220 pounds of mashed potatoes), centers Sean Sonderleiter and Jared Reiner (who Des Moines Register columnist Sean Keeler collectively refers to as “Sonder-Reiner”), Ryan Hogan (decent shooter who plays “Tina” to Recker’s “Ike”), and highly touted freshmen Pierre Pierce and Chauncey Leslie (both are quick and can fill the basket if given the opportunity). Add up-and-coming head coach Steve Alford to the mix and you have all the ingredients for a serious run at the Final Four.

Why, then, does this Iowa Hawkeye team stand with a record of 5-11 in the Big Ten, 16-14 overall going into the conference tournament?

These guys started with big wins against Memphis and the then-number-three Missouri, resulting in the Hawks being ranked as high as eight in the polls. Then the egos stepped in. Evans wanted more points and rebounds, Duez wanted more points and minutes, Recker wanted more points and girls, Alford wanted complete control of the team, and Brody Boyd wanted to grow about a foot and a half. None of them ended up happy.

After topping out with a record of 12-3 overall, after a win against the eventual co-Big Ten champion Wisconsin Badgers, the Hawks would lose all but four of their next fifteen games. There hasn’t been a crash like that since the 1972 Uruguayan rugby team. Hopefully Alford and the rest won’t have to resort to cannibalism.

For any Iowa State fans pointing and laughing, ask yourself two questions: 1) Which is worse, going 16-14 or 12-18 and 2) Who does Larry Eustachy more closely resemble, Bobby Knight or Harvey Firestien?

Barring another run through the Big Ten Tournament like last year, the Hawks won’t make the NCAA tournament. Hell, they’ll be lucky to get into the NIT.

With seniors departing this year for the NBA (Evans), CBA (Recker), Europe (Henderson), and Burger King drive-thru (Hogan), the Hawks will be short on leadership next year. They have a top-fifteen recruiting class that includes in-state prospects Jeff Horner and Greg Brunner, but will it be enough to get this shambled Iowa program back to the Promised Land? Alford only wishes he could click his shoes together and go home to Indiana.