By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – If anyone can relate to how Kylie Feuerbach feels as a former Cyclone turned Hawkeye, it’s Adam Haluska.
He made the same move nearly 20 years ago in men’s basketball that Feuerbach made this spring when she announced that she would transfer from Iowa State to Iowa to continue her basketball career.
Feuerbach and Haluska both made the switch after having played a key role as freshmen at Iowa State.
Haluska would go on to be a three-year starter for Iowa at shooting guard and he led the team in scoring as a senior in 2006-07 with a 20.2 per-game average.
“She made the move, which is the toughest thing to do, to make that decision that you’re going to transfer,” Haluska said Friday afternoon. “It’s not easy. You’re leaving behind a lot of friends, relationships.
“I’m sure she had a lot of good experiences over there. But she made that decision and I think she’s got to be confident in it. And she’s got to have fun with what she’s doing.”
Playing time wasn’t a factor in Haluska’s decision to transfer from Iowa State, nor was it a factor in Feuerbach’s decision to leave Ames.
Haluska made the Big 12 All-Freshmen team in 2003, while Feuerbach, a 6-foot-0 shooting guard from Sycamore, Ill., started 24 of 28 games as a freshman for Iowa State this past season, and twice earned Big 12 Freshman of the Week honors.
Her father Steve and mother Lisa also attended college in Ames, as did her brother, Nick.
So Feuerbach grew up cheering for the Cyclones and was part of a heralded recruiting class. She also was ranked the 71st best prospect in her senior class by ESPN.
“That was similar for me when you start not liking basketball and it’s something that you grew up passionate about, then you need to make a mental change just for mental health and to love the game again,” Haluska said. “I think she’s doing it for all the right reasons.”
Unlike Haluska who had to sit out his first season at Iowa under NCAA transfer rules, Feuerbach can play right away next season.
“Which is a huge thing,” said Haluska, who grew up not far from the Iowa State campus in Carroll. “That was hard for me, and I think it would be hard for any other player. So I think she’s got a leg up from she can say right away I’m a Hawkeye and I’m sure she’s looking at trying to get on that team and start and make a huge impact.
“I had to sit out and watch those guys for an entire year. I couldn’t travel with the team. I couldn’t do a lot of things. So that made it even harder. So I’m really happy for her that she can play right away and just kind of get her life back going and enjoy basketball and have fun.”
Haluska knew several of the Iowa players after having competed together on the AAU circuit, and those friendships helped him make the transition as a Hawkeye, on and off the court.
Feuerbach is in a similar situation after having played on the same AAU team with Iowa All-America point guard Caitlin Clark.
“I’ve played with Caitlin in the past so I kind of know as a good point guard how she plays,” Feuerbach said Thursday after practice. “It’s very up tempo and I really like that for myself personally. I love to attack sometimes.”
The fact that the Iowa campus is close to her hometown in Illinois was another factor in Feuerbach’s decision to be a Hawkeye.
Iowa also has played in the NCAA Sweet 16 in two of the last three seasons, while Lisa Bluder is Iowa’s all-time winningest women’s basketball coach and is entering her 22nd season as head coach.
“There’s a lot of things that went into it,” Feuerbach said. “Like the location and the coaching is great. They really welcomed me. The players also welcomed me as well.
“I also like the winning, the competitiveness on this team. Obviously, it’s the summer and it’s extremely competitive everywhere no matter what we’re doing.”
Iowa State also has had success under veteran head coach Billy Fennelly, who is the dean of Big 12 women’s basketball coaches.
Fennelly has accumulated more than 700 wins in Ames, averaged 21 wins in his 26 seasons as head coach and led Iowa State to the NCAA Tournament in 12 of the past 15 seasons.
So it isn’t a case in which Feuerbach chose to transfer because Iowa State is struggling.
“I mean obviously, it’s Iowa and I know it’s like a rival,” Feuerbach said. “But that wasn’t really like the whole switch and everything. I respect both programs.”
The Iowa State women’s basketball team also has strong fan support, and those fans help to create a hostile environment for visiting teams at Hilton Coliseum.
It was the same when Haluska played his first game as a Hawkeye at Hilton Coliseum on Dec. 9, 2005. Iowa lost that game 72-60, but would go on to finish second in the Big Ten and 25-9 overall that season.
“I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little extra nervous for that game,” Haluska said. “But again, you did it for your own personal reasons and some of those people aren’t going to understand. But you’ve just got to go out and play and represent Iowa and do whatever you can to get a win.
“People are going to love you and they’re going to hate you. There’s nothing you can do to change some of their opinions. So really, just be yourself and play the game that she loves. But you’ll feel a lot better when that game is over.”
Bluder said Feuerbach has fit in nicely with her new teammates and coaches.
“It feels like she was here the whole time,” Bluder said. “Now part of that is because some of them played together in AAAU so they knew each other. For example, she and Caitlin have been teammate for quite some time.”
Clark, who led the Big Ten in scoring and assists as a freshman last season, is excited about being reunited with her former AAU teammate.
“I played with her for two years,” Clark said. “Just an amazing kid, an amazing person. I think she made a great decision to come here. She wants to win, and that’s what we’re going to do.”