Dec. 4, 2003
In the late 18th Century when Pierre L'Enfant was planning the United States' capitol, he intended it to be intimidating for visiting world leaders, while being a symbol of pride for Americans. In the 1980s, when Carver-Hawkeye Arena was being built, there's no doubt that the structure was to do the same for Iowans on a much smaller scale.
For freshman Ben Rand, it worked. On a recruiting trip last year, he walked in at the top of the arena, looked down at where he could be playing and decided to come to Iowa.
"That kind of drew me here," he said. "It's just a great place to play, with great fan support. There is a lot of focus on the players, and the fans here are great and really loyal."
Rand and the unbeaten 2003-04 Iowa Hawkeyes will play back-to-back nights before their fans when Coach Steve Alford's squad squares off Friday against Eastern Washington in opening night action of the 2003 Gazette-Hawkeye Challenge. Iowa will meet either Northern Illinois or Illinois-Chicago on Saturday night. Tickets for both night's of this year's Challenge are available.
The 6-foot-6, 185-pound guard from Rochelle, Ill., was convinced to turn down offers from Marquette, Notre Dame and Michigan State after visiting Iowa City and building a solid relationship with the players and coaches in the Hawkeye program.
"In high school, you're the top dog and own every game. Now you just have to find that comfort level again. For me, it's been in finding my shots - when to shoot and when not to."
Iowa's Ben Rand
This year, Rand gets to fulfill his greatest accomplishment yet in sport: playing for a Division I university.
But Rand is quick to point out that the journey to this point has been just as fun. As a player for the Rochelle High School squad, he helped lead his team to regional titles as a sophomore, junior and senior. He averaged 23.5 points, 8.3 rebounds per game as a senior and holds the school record for rebounds (829).
He also competed for an AAU team that placed in the top 20 at its national tournament in Orlando, Fla. And while playing with his AAU team in sixth grade, Rand made up his mind to focus his attention on basketball.
"That's when I stopped playing baseball, and it just developed from there," he said. "I found a real passion for the game in junior high and just kept it. I've always been successful at it, and if you're good at something you want to keep doing it."
So far in the young season, Rand has made a strong showing in a "yet to be defined" role on the team. In the season opener, Rand played nine minutes and scored five points and had one assist and one steal.
"I'm just helping out right now," he said. "I'll find my role. But I am starting to feel more comfortable and the nerves are starting to go away a little bit.
"The biggest transition is just getting to a certain comfort level," Rand added. "In high school, you're the top dog and own every game. Now you just have to find that comfort level again. For me, it's been in finding my shots - when to shoot and when not to."
But now the business major and four-year honor roll member in high school has to balance a schedule that has him going in all directions for a solid 16 hours a day. Yet , Rand has a uncanny faith in his own success.
"It was just the way my parents brought me up," he said. "My dad said if a person's going to do something, he should do it right. I feel if I just keep at it, success will follow."
One way Rand has kept a level head through the major transition between high school and college has been through poetry.
Rand has developed a style of stress-relieving, stream of conscious free verse. But the 18-year-old wouldn't say whether he considered himself talented.
"That's really up to other people to say," he said. "It's just a release for me. Whenever I get stressed out, I write a lot - but just stuff off the top of my head."
A fan of Rudyard Kipling, Rand keeps a copy of his famous poem, "If", hanging in the room he shares with fellow freshman Mike Henderson.
"I think it's pretty relaxing," Rand said. "I try to read that when things are getting too chaotic."
With such a full plate, Rand is in direct position to test whether he can "force [his] heart and nerve and sinew/To serve [his] turn long after they are gone..." and "hold on".