SIOUX CITY — Kirk Speraw was happy to be home celebrating the Iowa Hawkeyes’ successes for another year.
Speraw, a Hawkeye assistant basketball coaches and a North High School graduate, was one of four Iowa coaches at the Siouxland I-Club event Tuesday at the Sioux City Convention Center.
The other three coaches were head football coach Kirk Ferentz, head women’s basketball coach Lisa Bluder and Sheldon native and associate head wrestling coach Terry Brands.
Speraw was the first of the quartet to arrive and greet fans decked out in black and gold.
“It’s always great being back home and seeing the people of Sioux City,” Speraw said. “I think it’s great for the fans to have the opportunity to see some of us and ask questions.”
During the event, Brands said that the dirt “smells better” in northwest Iowa.
Fans were allowed a question-and-answer session during the event as broadcaster Gary Dolphin emceed the event.
Dolphin received several rounds of applause after coming off two separate suspensions this basketball season for inappropriate comments.
Ferentz has strong NW Iowa ties
Even back in Ferentz’s early days, the Hawkeyes were targeting student-athletes from the Siouxland.
Ferentz remembered working with Sioux City’s Dave Croston in his first year as an offensive line coach at Iowa in 1981.
Of course, Sergeant Bluff-Luton graduate Cole Croston came through Iowa, and played in two games last season for the New England Patriots.
Nearly 40 years later, Ferentz still appreciates the talent in northwest Iowa.
“A lot of it starts at home, and Dave is a great illustration of that,” Ferentz said. “If you look at how many of our athletes have come in this part of the state, it’s a disproportionate number.”
Levi and Landon Paulsen are both linemen from Woodbury Central, and West Lyon’s Monte Pottebaum will be a redshirt freshman linebacker.
Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes played their spring football scrimmage on Friday with the spring season coming to a close.
The Hawkeyes’ season opener isn’t until Aug. 31, and Ferentz hopes to see more out of that game than he did last week.
“Friday night, I thought it was underwhelming quite frankly,” Ferentz said. “I thought our energy level was okay, but not great. I thought the overall body of work this summer was great, and a lot of younger players made some strides.”
Speraw talks Vanderloo, offseason
East senior Aiden Vanderloo is headed for Iowa City in the summer, and Speraw is eager to see how the Black Raiders star settles in.
“He’s really an intelligent, skilled, young basketball player,” Speraw said.
The most recent memory fans have of the Hawkeyes’ men’s basketball team is erasing a 25-point deficit in the second half against Tennessee during the NCAA Tournament.
Speraw, however, hopes the focus is on the whole season, not just the win against Cincinnati and the overtime loss to the Volunteers.
“I just think the year as a whole is something this group can build on, because we have a lot of people coming back,” Speraw said. “They’ve been through the rigors now. I think that part of it will carry as much as anything. We’ve got some things that we can be excited about.”
Brands knows expectations are high
The Iowa wrestling program craves another national championship.
It’s been 10 years since it hoisted the nation’s top honor.
Iowa has eight of 10 returners coming back, and hopefully they understand the message.
“We let our fans, we let our administration down in the fact that we did not bring back the national championship trophy,” Brands said. “That is what we expect to be the standard.”
Among those returners include two-time national champion Spencer Lee at 125 as well as five All-Americans.
“I think we have 20 guys in the wrestling room who know what Division I wrestling is all about,” Brands said. “It’s not an automatic because we have eight returning starters back.. Those guys are scrapping for their spot every day.”
Iowa WBB aiming to be guard-heavy
The Hawkeyes lose Megan Gustafson to both graduation and the WNBA. However, Bluder doesn’t believe it’ll be a hard task to rearrange the lineup for next season.
The Hawkeyes will turn to their guards to score more next season. The leading returning scorer in the backcourt is rising senior Kathleen Doyle, who averaged 12.0 points per game.
Mason City’s Makenzie Meyer also averaged 10.2 ppg.
“You just can’t expect the same-looking team out there,” Bluder said. “I think we have to adjust. One thing our staff does well is we emphasize our strengths and hide our weaknesses.”
The Hawkeyes are aiming to shoot more 3-pointers this upcoming season, and last season, they shot 5.6 3s a game.
Gustafson, meanwhile, leaves for Dallas on Thursday to start her professional career with the WNBA's Dallas Wings.