Summer hoops Q & A with Randy Larson

BY DI STAFF | JUNE 08, 2012 6:30 AM

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DI: What is purpose of the Prime Time and Game Time?

Randy Larson: It's to provide a more structured playing environment during the off-sesaon so the college players can have the highest level of competition possible. It's not quite as structured, of course, as the college game because there are no practices, and they don't know each other before they get together. But by making it a competitive atmosphere and drafting the team so they're all pretty equal, you get to put high-level players against each other and see which ones can play the game on offense and understand classic basketball concepts … We've always put an emphasis on playing the right way and playing the way you want your teammates to play: everyone talking on defense, getting back in transition, playing hard and together. We can try to teach them good habits so that the athletes aren't going from the end of the season in March to the beginning of the season in November without being reminded a little bit of how they should be playing in the off-season.

DI: Can you talk a little about the draft process?

Larson: We pick numbers out of a hat. This year we'll have four teams, so the four coaches will get together in my office and we'll establish the order by picking numbers out of a hat. The first guy gets the first overall pick, up until the fourth guy, who gets four and five. Then the third guy gets the sixth pick and so on … Some years, the No. 4 pick is as good as the No. 1 pick. Some might say that's how it is this year … But I think what's most important is to pick 10 guys who are going to play together and have a common goal, and work together.

DI: How does Northern Iowa's absence this year affect the state of the league?

Larson: I know the players are going to miss it. But Ben Jacobson [Northern Iowa men's basketball head coach] just felt like — with the four practices a week that they're now allowed to do for the first time — that he was asking too much of his players to put in the time commitment of the trip down here once or twice a week… I respect that decision on his part. He put it to me: "Let's try skipping it this year, and we'll see if we can come back in years to come as we figure out what time commitment our players can handle."

DI: What expectations do you have for the upcoming season?

Larson: Last year, if you include the then-current, incoming, and ex-Hawkeyes and the current, incoming, and ex-UNI players, and the other guys that maybe go play at some other college, there was 30 Division I players, divided by six teams. That's five per team. This year, there's probably 20 of those kinds of guys, divided by four teams, and it's still five per team.

The competition level will be just as good. We will miss the UNI guys, because I think that a lot of people came to the league as Iowa fans but left thinking a lot about the UNI players. Plus, I think the UNI players really enjoyed playing any time they could get the best of an Iowa player — who's always going to be a little more famous and had better offers but maybe isn't any better as a player.

DI: So even without the Northern Iowa players, the competition and the league itself will be the same?

Larson: There will never be anyone on the floor who anyone isn't interested in seeing. How is Jarryd Cole after a year of playing in Europe? How is Ulthoff after a year of practicing with Wisconsin and now being the newest Hawkeye? How is Marble adapting to playing two different positions? How is Basabe? How are White and McCabe? … Is Mike Gessel ready to be a Big Ten starting point guard? For those reasons, and in the fact that Hawkeye fever is as high as it's been since Steve Alford was here, I think it'll be standing room only.

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