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10 Iowa With Luke Recker healthy the Hawkeyes hope to fulfill the promise of last season

Nov. 19, 2001
Nov. 19, 2001

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Nov. 19, 2001

College Basketball Preview 2001-02

10 Iowa With Luke Recker healthy the Hawkeyes hope to fulfill the promise of last season

On most days, guard Luke Recker will punch in his alias to log on
to the Hawkeyes' Internet message board and read the latest
tabloid talk among fans about his star-crossed career. The most
recent nonsense? News reports that Recker had surgery on the
right kneecap he fractured last season (he never went under the
knife) and that his longer-than-expected recovery will keep him
off the court until January. (He has been playing since August
and says he's 100%.) "It's great to see how interested people
are," Recker says of his cyber-sojourns, "but people have
absolutely no clue what they're talking about."

This is an article from the Nov. 19, 2001 issue Original Layout

Recker's health is crucial for a reason: Iowa was 17-4 and
leading the Big Ten at the time of his season-ending injury;
without Recker's team-leading 18.1 points a game, the Hawkeyes
went 6-8 and were eliminated by Kentucky in the second round of
the NCAA tournament. "We had it rolling," coach Steve Alford
says. "Luke was the leading scorer in the Big Ten after sitting
out 15 months [following transfers from Indiana to Arizona to
Iowa], and he was just on the brink of breaking through."

Talking about breakthroughs, senior forward Reggie Evans returns
after a remarkable year in which he led the nation in double
doubles (22) and free throw attempts (346) and was second in
rebounding (11.9 a game). Like fellow Pensacola, Fla., native Roy
Jones Jr., the world's best pound-for-pound boxer, the 6'8" Evans
gets the most out of his body. Though he weighs 245 pounds, Evans
ran the fastest 40-yard dash during preseason workouts.

"If you watch tape, Reggie isn't a great block-out guy, but he
gets all the rebounds," says Alford. "He's like the pianist who,
instead of reading music, plays by ear." So skilled (and feared)
is Evans during Iowa's Rodman Drill--a no-holds-barred rebounding
melee held during practices--that he recently told Alford it
should be renamed the Evans Drill. If Evans can polish the rough
edges of his offensive game and improve his 63.0% shooting at the
free throw line, the Hawkeyes should have one of the best one-two
punches in the nation.

Alford has his concerns, though. Foremost is finding a
replacement for point guard Dean Oliver, who graduated. (The
addition of explosive freshman guard Pierre Pierce, the
runner-up to Eddy Curry--the fourth player taken in the NBA
draft--in last year's Illinois Mr. Basketball voting, promises
to help in that department.) The Hawkeyes also must find a
reliable center, and, perhaps most important, they must play the
kind of tight defense that was lacking last year.

As for Recker, in the wake of those transfers, his most recent
injury and a horrific car accident two years ago, he's finally
ready for a turmoil-free season at the wizened age of 23. "Coming
out of high school, I was just like any other kid," he says. "I
thought I'd be in school two years and go to the NBA. I still
think I've got a chance to play at the next level. I just took a
different route than anybody else."

--G.W.

COLOR PHOTO: MANNY MILLAN Evans, the country's second-leading rebounder, got to the line more than any other player, but he converted only 63.0% of his free throws.

REPORT CARD

GRADUATION RATE: 67%
AVERAGE NUMBER OF WINS: 19.6
NCAA TOURNAMENT RECORD: 7-6
TRANSFERS: 8
McDONALD'S ALL-AMERICANS: 3
PLAYERS IN NBA: 4

COMMENT: The Hawkeyes have made little noise in either NCAA
headquarters (no investigations under coach Steve Alford or
predecessor Tom Davis) or NCAA tournament, in which they haven't
gotten past Sweet 16 since 1987. Under Davis, forward Sam Okey
pleaded guilty to drunk driving charge in spring of 1998 after
transferring from Wisconsin, and at beginning of the 1995-96
season, guard Chris Kingsbury pleaded guilty to public
intoxication and was later suspended three games for instigating
fight against Penn State.

Grade: B

STARTING LINEUP

POS. PLAYER HT. CL. KEY STAT

SF Duez Henderson 6'7" Sr. 6.3 ppg[#]
PF Reggie Evans 6'8" Sr. 11.9 rpg[#]
C Jared Reiner 6'11" So. 2.9 rpg
SG Luke Recker 6'6" Sr. 18.1 ppg[#]
PG Pierre Pierce 6'4" Fr. 36.4 ppg*

2000-01 record: 23-12
Final rank (coaches' poll): not ranked
*As high school senior
[#]Returning starter