Basketball is more than just a game for Iowa City lawyer Randy Larson. It’s almost an obsession, how much he adores the sport.
Larson loves the Hawkeyes, even though he was born and raised in Ames, played basketball for the Cyclones as a walk-on guard in the mid-1970s and graduated from ISU.
His connection to both schools has Larson beaming with pride as the Hawkeyes and Cyclones prepare for their annual showdowns in men’s and women’s basketball. The women will square off Thursday at Hilton Coliseum in Ames followed by the men on Friday on the same court.
It’s always a big deal when Iowa and Iowa State compete against each other, but this year has added significance with all four teams being ranked nationally and combining for a 35-2 record.
“It’s a unique time,” Larson said. “You can’t think of another time when all four have been this good.”
Larson also thinks this level of success is just the beginning, thanks in large part to the four head coaches at the two schools.
“I think it’s a reflection of good choices made at the coaching level,” said Larson, who attended law school at Iowa. “And you have to have a little bit of luck, too, to have them all come around at the same time.
“But I think all four programs are at the level where they should be able to sustain this and we should see these kinds of days continue.”
Larson isn’t the only fan who is excited. A sellout crowd of 14,384 will watch the men play Friday, while the women’s game is expected to draw more than 10,000 on Thursday.
“It’ll be above that,” said Iowa State assistant sports information director Matt Shoultz said about the women’s game. “It should be a wild two days.”
Larson’s only regret is that he won’t be able to watch the men’s game Friday. He is also the boys basketball coach at Regina, which has a game Friday.
“I never miss them,” Larson said of the Iowa games. “Sometimes, I watch an Iowa game at three in the morning, because I watch my game always and then get to the Iowa game.”
Larson may not be able to catch the game live, but you can bet thousands of others will.
Larson gets acquainted with members of the Iowa men’s and women’s teams by running two summer leagues at the North Liberty Community Center. The Prime League, which Larson started in 1987, is a men’s league that features past and current Hawkeye players, while the Game Time League serves the same purpose for the Iowa women.
“It’s fun keeping up with them,” Larson said of the Iowa players. “I love getting to know them through the summer league process and then follow how they’re doing.”