Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, February 9, 2017
It started with a simple question: What would it be like to watch the game tape of old Big Ten game while sitting and chatting with a player who played in that very same game?
Our intial answer: It was pretty cool.
Recently we sat down to watch Iowa vs. Illinois men's basketball from 1996 with Iowa basketball legend Jess Settles, who is also a BTN men's basketball analyst. We aired the entire session via Facebook Live – see the full event in the video in this post or click on over to Facebook and watch it there.
The whole session is also available on BTN2Go. This is something we hope to continue to do throughout the year, so stay tuned for future events.
Back to our game. Way back on a snowy Jan. 18, 1996, a young Settles led the Hawkeyes with 19 points in the thrilling win over the Illini.
More recently on the Tuesday when we watched that same game together, an older Settles had some great stories about that team and that era of Big Ten basketball. He also took some great questions from the Facebook Live viewers watching right along with him.
Here are some of the highlights of our conversation. You can also follow Settles on Twitter (@BTNJessSettles).
On staying home and playing for Iowa
"Most of us growing up wanted to play for the Hawkeyes. Some of us went to Iowa State. But we always respected the home schools. We didn?t want to leave. You saw Ryan Bowen with the nice pump fake and finish right there, he grew up right down the road from Iowa City in Ft. Madison. A lot of fans are reminded of Ryan Bowen when they see Nicholas Baer play. You will see Ryan on the floor a lot in this game, deflecting a lot of balls, making the extra hustle plays. He was the type of guy you couldn?t keep off the floor. Both of us grew up together and knew each other when we were young and in high school and wouldn?t have had it any other way than to go to Iowa."
On possibly playing for Michigan and the Fab Five
"I visited Michigan during the Fab Five era with Steve Fisher. I remember (Michigan coach) Steve Fisher walking me across Crisler Arena the night I was supposed to leave and he said to me, ?Jess, we would love for you to come here, but can you picture yourself being introduced in Carver-Hawkeye Arena wearing a Michigan jersey?? And I said I could with my mouth, but in my heart I knew there was no way I could do it. I went home, called Dr. Tom, and the rest is history. That was great of Fisher to put the picture in front of me because I had so many family members and consider so many Iowans to be friends that I didn?t want to leave. I think that?s how most guys felt in the 1990s."
On being asked about where are Dr. Tom Davis and Chris Kingsbury
"That?s the question I get asked the most. Kingsbury was ahead of his time. You talk about Steph Curry and the shots he takes. Kingsbury was taking them way back then. I think I say this correctly, he is in Ponca, Nebraska. His family has ownership in banks. And he?s a banker. Can you image going in and getting a loan from Chris Kingsbury? I didn?t know he took math classes in college. I didn?t know he was in class very often. I?m going to be honest with you."
On Illinois? Jerry Hester, who had a big game vs. Iowa
"Jerry Hester reminds me a lot of Vince Edwards at Purdue today. He was long, he was lean, he was tough, he had a mid-range game and he also could shoot the three. Jerry Hester was always a handful for every team."
On how referees called games differently in the 1990s
"They let us play a more physical style back then. We still got up and down. It?s not like it was a different game. But guys like (Caleb) Swanigan and (Isaac) Haas at Purdue would not have worried about fouling out in the ?90s as much as they do today. Even a guy like Thomas Bryant plays a little frustrated these days because he gets so many cheap fouls. I don?t ever remember having to worry about fouling out. You couldn?t mug guys, but you could sure keep your hands on them."
On Dr. Tom Davis? recruiting ability
"Dr. Tom used to take some criticism on recruiting. But when you look back, and you look at this team, you have Kenyon Murray who was a McDonald?s All-American, Chris Kingsbury was a McDonald?s All-American, Andre Woolridge should have been a McDonald?s All-American. And then we had three second-round draft picks (Russ Millard, Ryan Bowen, J.R. Koch). It probably hasn?t happened since. Coach Davis could get some great players in there who fit his system and everyone meshed well together."
On exploring going pro after his junior year
"I went through the process and thought at the time it was the right thing to do. It obviously is different than it is today with the evaluation process. We could still make the calls, have the workouts and try to find out where we were going to end up. I remember having great conversations with Jerry West. ? I wasn?t guaranteed to be a first-round pick. As an underclassman, it wouldn?t have been a wise decision."
On importance of rebounding under Tom Davis
"We used to chart every rebound in practice, in every drill, in every scrimmage. And you?d come off the court and go in the locker room, there would be a stat sheet from practice, and the emphasis was rebounding. You always felt bad even after a practice if you had two rebounds in your two-hour practice. That is what drove Tom Davis? thinking. And everyone on the court was expected to rebound. A lot like Matt Painter?s philosophy today. He demands rebounding. He knows that even when you have less talent, you can still end up having a pretty good year if you crash the glass. Michigan State has the same type of emphasis. I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night, wondering if I rebounded enough in practice."
On his hair cut
"Not only does (Illinois') Richard Keene?s stroke look nice, but look how much time he spends in front of the mirror. I got my hair cut at Wapello, Iowa, at Lonnie?s Barber Shop. It was five bucks. It was called the military cut. I probably got another couple extra hours a week in practice while (Keene) was getting ready for practice."
On J.R. Koch
"J.R. Koch lives in Peoria and is a very successful real estate agent. Wonderful family. Ended up getting drafted by the Knicks. Almost went to Indiana. Can you believe that? Almost played for Bobby Knight. I told him he wouldn?t have lasted there a week. He was versatile, could shoot the three and was a tremendous addition to this team."
On what type of tattoo he would have gotten had they been the rage in the 1990s
"I remember Tim Dwight our All-American football player and I believe he had the barbed-wire on the biceps. I would have probably have copied him. I also would not have been allowed in the farm house that night. My mom would not have put up with that. It is crazy how everything has changed with the tattoos."
On Andre Woolridge arguably being one of the best point guards ever at Iowa
"Ronnie Lester is probably in a league of his own when you talk to the old-timers. If you read Lute Olson?s book, he will tell you had Ronnie Lester not been injured, Iowa probably would have won a national championship that year (1980). Magic Johnson raves about Ronnie Lester. It seems like B.J. (Armstrong) nationally doesn?t get the due that he probably should because Iowa didn?t go to a Final Four in 1987 when it collapsed against UNLV. Had B.J., Roy (Marble), Ed (Horton) and (Kevin) Gamble and (Brad) Lohaus and those guys been able to get to a Final Four, I think they would be considered one of the elite teams in Big Ten history. I had breakfast with Bobby Knight once, probably 15 years ago after a game. And out of the blue he brought that team up and said he thought that was one of the most talented teams he had ever coached against."
On how no lead-for or against-was safe for Iowa
"With us, a 15-point lead was never safe and a 15-point deficit we didn?t worry about because we played so fast and so hard. It was hard not to turn the ball over on us. I think Coach Davis said Kevin Johnson, the NBA player, was about the only point guard who could consistently break his pressure defense. Otherwise, it was helter-skelter and we could make runs. That?s why our fans loved to watch these teams."
On if Iowa should name its basketball court in honor of Dr. Tom Davis
"I think that?s a great idea. All-time winningest coach. Did so much. I will say this, I know Iowa fans weren?t only sad to see him go; sometimes when you look back 10 years later, you don?t know what you had until it?s gone. The Hawkeyes went through some rough stretches without him, that?s for sure."
On if he could you have played for Bob Knight
"Yes, I could have played for the General. He loved hard-working kids, players who liked to pass. I think my freshman year would have been very difficult. I was a homebody. I was only 40 minutes (from home) up the road in Iowa City. I had a hard first semester just being away from home. So when you throw that pressure which is very intense into Bloomington, Indiana, working out under those banners and everything that Bob Knight is, that would have been very difficult. I think my sophomore through senior year, it would have been no problem. But my freshman year, I?m not sure I could have hung."
On the death of Chris Street
"I played with him in the summer leagues. Had wonderful chemistry with Chris. I felt like we would have been a great duo. I would have come off the bench for him his senior year. But when the tragedy happened, and on top of that Kevin Smith who was our point guard was excused from the team ? all of a sudden, I remember it like yesterday, Coach Davis calling Chris Kingsbury and I into his office and saying we don?t make promises around here, but we expect you guys to play big minutes right away. That is something you love to hear as a freshman. On the other hand, we all were still in mourning because Chris wasn?t there. I know I would not have played those minutes and would not have been freshman of the year had he still been around. I know that. … I wish it wouldn?t have happened like that. It?s a bittersweet award, to be honest with you."
On his back injury
"I had fits with it. I had missed seven or eight games my sophomore year. Lost a step. Had to reinvent myself my junior year. I spent a lot of time in the weight room. Tried to put more weight on, get bulkier, because I had lost my quickness and verticality. So I changed the way I played and ended up having a solid year as a junior. Just watching myself, I look tight out there. Can?t move quite as how I wanted. But I could still throw my hands in the air and celebrate."
On who would get more high fives in Iowa City today: Jess Settles or Chuck Long
"If they knew it was Chuck, then it?s Chuck Long. But those guys have the helmet in front of them. We are out there in tank tops and shorts. We are usually much taller than the football guys. Just people seeing a 6-8 guy, they connect that once they start staring you down. But listen, Chuck Long is the man. I?d carry his dang suitcase for him."
On if Iowa native Raef LaFrentz had gone to Iowa instead of Kansas
"It probably would have changed Iowa basketball history. Raef was an All-American at Kansas, a lottery pick, had a good pro career. So devastating to a program to lose the home-grown kids. It always has been and always will be. Just imagine him on the court right now with this team and the way we could pass and his skill-set. He obviously could shoot the three as well, so he would have enjoyed playing for us. He played on an AAU team with (Kent) McCausland and Ryan Bowen, so those guys were buddies. That gave us an opportunity, a shot, at him. But it?s hard to turn down Roy Williams or Mike Krzyzewski. We were able to recover from it. And later, when they didn?t renew Tom Davis? contract, we ended up losing Kirk Hinrich and (Nick) Collison. So we took a hit as a program. (Greg) Brunner and (Jeff) Horner stuck around and salvaged that era. Those two young men were phenominal and are great Hawkeye legends. But to lose those three guys like we did was tough."
On best player he played against and with
"By far, the best player of that era was Glenn Robinson of Purdue. ? I had to play him as a freshman. As a sophomore, I probably could have given him a little more. But as a freshman, I remember right out there at the top of the key ? I must have hit a few shots in a row and played pretty well offensively against him that afternoon. I was feeling my oats and I challenged him, I said, 'Come on, Glenn.' And he started laughing at me right on the court and then blew by me. I think he ended up with about 33. At Iowa, it would have to be Wooldridge. Woolridge was very special. I played with James Winters. He was always great. Kingsbury. Bowen, a lot of great players."
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