Luke Recker’s first impression of Iowa City left much to be desired.
While Recker was a member of the Indiana University men’s basketball team for two seasons from 1997 to 1999, Indiana coach Bob Knight had his team stay at the former Highlander Inn on the outskirts of Iowa City the night before a game. The area around the hotel has since been developed, but it was mostly just an open field when Recker played for the Hoosiers.
“I’d be like, ‘Gosh, it’s so desolate out here,’” Recker said. “It’s really true; Iowa is just farmland. At that time, they didn’t have any of the buildings out there that they now have.”
Recker wasn’t impressed by the drive on gameday from his hotel to Carver-Hawkeye Arena, either.
“It seems like they almost took the back way into Carver-Hawkeye because you didn’t really get a chance to see Iowa City,” Recker said.
Recker now can’t think of a better place to live than the town that once seemed so empty and dull.
“It was amazing how I ended up here, but I wouldn’t change it for the world, that’s for sure,” Recker said.
So many things had to fall into place for Recker’s improbable journey to happen. It helped that former Hoosier legend Steve Alford was the Iowa head coach at the time and that Recker’s father lived in nearby Washington.
But it still took a tragic event to finally steer Recker to the University of Iowa.
Recker had transferred to the University of Arizona when he was involved in a serious automobile accident in July 1999 near Durango, Colo. The car in which Recker was a passenger was struck head-on by a drunk driver of a pick-up truck that was carrying 11 passengers. One person died and 14 were injured.
Recker almost lost his left ear and he still has a noticeable gash that stretches from his jaw to his neck. His girlfriend at the time suffered a broken neck and a severely bruised spinal cord, leaving her partially paralyzed.
Recker decided after the accident that he wanted to be closer to his family in the Midwest. His parents were divorced, but most of his relatives, including his mother, still lived in his hometown of Auburn, Ind., which is located in the northeast corner of the state.
But it was Steve Alford, along with Recker’s father living so close to Iowa City, that sealed the deal.
“So many things had to happen for me to get here,” said Recker, who turned 35 on June 17. “You never wish harm on anybody and that was obviously a tragic event. But it kind of led to where I’m at today. I’m not thankful, obviously, for what happened. But I’m thankful it brought me to where I’m at and kind of changed me as a person as well.”
Recker met his wife, Megan, at the University of Iowa and they now have two children, a daughter, Avery, 5, and 2-year old Bennett, who will scream “Go Hawks” almost on command.
Megan also graduated from Iowa, as did her younger brother and her father, who originally is from Davenport. Megan’s mother worked as a nurse at UI Hospitals and Clinics until the family moved to Madison, Wis., in the late 1970s. Megan grew up in Madison, but she and her family always have considered Iowa City to be home.
“It’s always been a place that’s been close to my family,” Megan said. “I don’t think there is a better place to raise a family. And I don’t even want people to find out about it. It’s like our own little utopia.”
Megan knew about Recker transferring to Iowa because it was a national story. Her brother explained to Megan in more detail the circumstances surrounding Recker’s transfer to Iowa.
Megan then returned home for winter break and saw Recker being highlighted during a telecast of an Iowa men’s basketball game. Recker wasn’t playing in the game because of a knee injury, but his story was still grabbing headlines.
“My parents were watching the game and they did like a close-up on him and he wasn’t playing,” Megan said. “And I was like, ‘Who is that?’ And my brother said, ‘That’s the guy I was telling you about.’ And I’m like, ‘I’ve got to meet him.’”
She met him at a party and they started dating about a week after that.
“The chain of events that had to happen for us, an Indiana kid and a Wisconsin girl ending up in Iowa City is crazy,” Megan said.
Recker played less than two full seasons at Iowa, but it was enough time to make him a Hawkeye for life.
“When I was growing up and going through the recruiting process, I probably never thought I’d be wearing a Hawkeye uniform,” said Recker, who works in the medical supply business. “A lot of things had to occur and happen for me to get here and I definitely didn’t write that script in my head.
“But it worked out and I wouldn’t change it for the world. It was a blessing in disguise. I fell in love with Iowa City and the University of Iowa. I met my wife in school here and all of my best friends in the world are from Iowa. It’s just been a wonderful place for me personally to grow.”
Recker said the only time he returns to Indiana is to visit his relatives in the northeast corner of the state. He has been to Bloomington, Ind., which is home to the Indiana campus, only once since transferring and that was to play in a game for Iowa as a senior.
“It is weird,” Recker said. “Bloomington’s a great town. It’s eerily similar to Iowa City. It’s similar in size and everything revolves around the university. It is weird that I haven’t been back.”
Indiana fans were upset and surprised by Recker’s decision to transfer because he had played a key role for the Hoosiers in his first two seasons and because he was a homegrown talent.
“Ninety-five percent of the Indiana fans are great fans,” Recker said. “But it’s those 5 percent that made it so difficult and were so malicious.”
Recker said he speaks with a few of his former Indiana teammates every once in a while. He had a recent phone conversation with former Indiana forward Andre Patterson and he spoke with former Indiana guard Dane Fife while attending the Big Ten Tournament in Chicago this past March. Fife is now an assistant coach at Michigan State.
“They all look at me as a former Hawkeye,” Recker said. “There is no doubt that I’m black and gold all the way.”
Recker said the people are what make living in the Iowa City area so enjoyable. All that separates his Coralville backyard from the backyard of Iowa men’s basketball coach Fran McCaffery is a row of trees.
“We obviously don’t have the best climate in the world,” Recker said. “So that’s probably not the number one reason to live here. But when you look at the people and just how special they are and the friendships that you create, it makes it tough to want to go anywhere else.”
Recker played professionally in Europe for six seasons after finishing college. He then returned to the United States and landed his first job in Milwaukee.
But he and Megan wanted to return to Iowa City, and the opportunity finally came when former Iowa football player Matt Stockdale told Recker about a job in medical sales. Recker landed the job and has been growing closer to the community ever since.
“I just never thought in a million years that I’d be living in Iowa permanently,” he said. “To be honest with you, when I finished playing basketball, we could have went anywhere. I spent six years of my life in Europe and my wife and I were just happy to go anywhere where they spoke English. We’re just so thankful that it worked out.”
Category: Iowa Hawkeyes men's basketball