When the Iowa men’s basketball team shocked then No.6-ranked Michigan State, 43-36, on Jan. 12, a little party was held in its honor down in New Orleans. Former Hawkeyes Adam Haluska and Ryan Bowen filled up the ears of Hornets teammate and former Spartan Morris Peterson.
“We were excited down here with that big win they had against Michigan State,” Haluska said. “It’s kind of been the talk around here with Mo Pete on the team.”
New Orleans selected Haluska in the second round of the 2007 NBA Draft, the 43rd overall pick. He started the season on the inactive list and then injured his ankle in the beginning of December and missed six weeks.
Haluska finished his Hawkeye career No. 7 on the school’s all-time scoring list with 1,578 points, the most by a player with three years or less of action. The Carroll, Iowa native became the first player from the program to be selected in the draft since J.R. Koch went to the Knicks in ’99.
Haluska felt like he played well in the preseason and belongs at the highest level of the game.
“You don’t have to do a lot of things exceptionally well, but if you can find that one trait that a team needs, you can make it in this league,” Haluska said. “I always look at somebody like Ryan Bowen, who is just a hustle guy. He’s not going to go out there and score 20 points, but he’s going to do a lot of the intangibles, the little things.
“For me, I’m trying to find that. Obviously being a shooter, shooting is one of my strengths. But I’m just trying to do as much as I can to try and help the team and be a good team player. I definitely think I can fit in this league.”
The Hornets boast quite a bit of experience and talent in the backcourt. In addition to Peterson, the team employs Peja Stojakovic, Chris Paul and Bobby Jackson. Haluska figured his minutes would be limited.
New Orleans placed the rookie on the inactive list to start the season, but Haluska worked hard practicing and taking part in all other team functions. Then, while playing five-on-five in a workout, he came down on his ankle while contesting a shot.
“I don’t know how I didn’t break it,” Haluska said. “It didn’t even look like a foot, even after a week.”
Haluska said he strained ligaments and tendons. It was the worst injury of his basketball life. He was in a boot and couldn’t put pressure on the foot for several weeks. Trainers told him that a break probably would have healed faster than the severe sprain.
“It was kind of tough for me to sit back and watch practice every day just because during my career in high school and at Iowa I was always healthy and I always played,” Haluska said. “It was a chance to reflect, but I’m getting back on the court and I’m feeling a lot better. So, hopefully soon I’ll have an opportunity to get out there and play and help this team out.”
The injury probably couldn’t have occurred at a worst time for Haluska. Peterson and Stojakovic were hurt for a time in December and chances were good that the former Iowa star might have gotten his first NBA minutes. Plus, he missed six weeks of development and conditioning, although he worked on cardio like the stationary bike and the swimming pool.
“Yeah, that was one of the disappointing parts about the injury,” Haluska said. “Prior to that, I felt like I was probably in the best condition of my life. I was working out a couple of times a day. Without playing in games, I was really pushing myself and running extra just in case I had to go to the D-League or in case someone injured himself I wanted to be ready.”
Right before the injury, Haluska approached general manager Jeff Bower about a possible trip to the NBDL. The rookie was looking to get some game experience.
“If there’s a stretch where they know you’re not really going to have a chance or an opportunity with guys being healthy and the playing situation the way it went, it helps to go down,” Haluska said. “One of the things about our organization is that we don’t really send a lot of guys down because in practices we really utilize the whole team. We practice hard every day. As far as the team does, we like having everybody around to practice and to keep things pretty much normal.
Haluska said there wasn’t a timetable for him to go down to the D-League and it wasn’t eminent. However, he still could see himself running for a week or two at the lower level, and he’s perfectly OK with that.
“I would think it’s a possibility,” Haluska said. “It’s really up to the general manager and the coaches to decide. Time will tell on that. It’s not a bad thing. Some guys get disappointed when a team tells them they’re going to go down to the D-League for a little while. You have to look at it as an experience and an opportunity to play. You get a feel for getting up and down in a game situation. You really just have to embrace it and look at it as an opportunity.”
The Hornets currently have Haluska on the inactive list (
Click here for inactive list rules). He could be a backcourt injury away from NBA action.
“Every guy on the team is pretty much healthy, and we’re playing pretty well right now,” Haluska said. “So, they’re not really going to shake the lineup too much. It’s a good chance to get in extra work. I kind of look at it as an opportunity on game days when I know I’m not going to play to really get a good workout in, get a lot of shots up. I work on my ball handling and maybe get a lift in as well. It’s one of those things where, yeah, you’re on the injured reserve list, but it’s also an opportunity to work on some weaknesses.”
Going into Sunday’s action, the Hornets were tied with Dallas for first in Southwest Division at 27-12. Those teams also were tied for second in the Western Conference, a half game behind Phoenix.
Haluska really likes the New Orleans organization, but he doesn’t have a good feel for his future. He is playing with a one-year guaranteed contract with the Hornets holding an option for Year 2.
“It’s hard to tell,” Haluska said. “You definitely have to just come in and try to prove it every day that you’re a valuable asset. I just go in every day just like I did at Iowa and play hard, work hard. Whether or not the team resigns me, it’s been a great opportunity. It’s been a blessing. I’m having a lot of fun with it.
“It’s just hard to tell how the team is going to handle you. You never know at the end of the season how things play out with the playoffs or what an organization is going to do in the draft or with free agency. There are just a lot of things that are not under your control.”
Haluska has meshed well with head coach Byron Scott.
“Byron is a coach that’s really serious about the game,” Haluska said. “He’s a younger coach and he’s someone that played the game at a high level. He won championships with the Lakers. He’s someone that played my position. Whenever he’s giving out advice, it’s always great to listen.
Haluska feels fortunate to have played for Scott and Steve Alford at Iowa. Both mentors played his shooting guard position.
“Coach Alford was one of the most prolific scorers in college and then Byron doing it in the NBA,” Haluska said. “He had a great run there. He’s done a great job here. It’s hard moving a team from Oklahoma City to New Orleans. With the instability of everything he’s really managed to get this team play at a high level.”
Alford, now at New Mexico, and Haluska talk on a regular basis. Haluska also keeps in frequent contact with his former Iowa teammates.
“I’m always checking up, text messaging guys, talking to them on the phone, making sure they’re hanging in there,” Haluska said. “It’s always good having another Hawkeye on the team with Ryan Bowen. After our games, we’re checking our cell phones to see with our families how the Hawks did. So, trust me, I’m staying on top of those guys and always making sure I’m looking out for them.”
Haluska also has kept in touch with members of the current Iowa staff. Even though he didn’t play for Todd Lickliter and his assistants, he spent some time getting to know them before he left for New Orleans.
“He’s doing a great job,” Haluska said of Lickliter. “Obviously it’s a tough transition year. There have been some highs and lows. But I think this staff is going to do wonders. I know they’re excited. I know the players are excited. Time will tell, but I think Iowa basketball has an exciting future.”
Haluska and his wife, Kendra, recently received some exciting news away from the court. The couple, who married last summer, was told that it would be having its first child in late June or early July.
The Haluskas are going through life changes as living in New Orleans is the first time either has resided out of the state of Iowa.
“It’s an interesting city, that’s for sure,” Adam said. “Moving down here from Iowa, it’s just a lot different. My wife and I really had to adjust because it’s our first time away from home, but the city has been great, especially when you consider the food and the weather. It’s a lot warmer down here.
“There’s a lot to see and do. There’s been a great recovery effort and there’s always something going on. You had the Saints and then all the bowl games that were here. Now, the city is kind of gearing up for Mardi Gras. There’s a month celebration of that. We have the all-star game coming. Every day there is something new going on.”
As for Haluska’s basketball future, he’s not looking too far ahead. He hopes to finish out this season strong and see what happens next.
“I’m going to let basketball take me where I want to go because I enjoy the game so much I want to continue to play,” Haluska said. “I’d love to stay with the Hornets, but if that doesn’t happen, so be it. I’m excited. There are a lot of things coming up in my life, and we’ll see where everything takes me.”