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Friday, February 22, 2008

Where are they now? Les Jepsen

Les Jepsen played center for the Iowa Hawkeyes from 1985 to 1990. The 7-footer was recruited by coach George Raveling and redshirted his freshman year of 1985-86, Raveling’s last at Iowa. Of course, the next year Dr. Tom Davis took over as head coach and Jepsen would soon find himself as part of some of the most successful teams in Hawkeye history. Jepsen played little his freshman and sophomore years as Iowa made runs to the Elite 8 and Sweet 16 in back-to-back seasons. He became a starter in his junior year of 1988-89 joining what could be considered one of the most talented starting fives Iowa fans have ever seen. Seniors Roy Marble, B.J. Armstrong and Ed Horton all averaged more than 18 points per game that season and were joined by Jepsen in the middle and freshman forward Ray Thompson. That team finished 23-10 on the season and lost in the second round of the NCAA Tournament 96-102 to NC State in double-overtime. The next year, Jepsen led the Hawkeyes in both scoring (14.9 PPG) and rebounding (10.0 RPG) as a senior.

After his college career, the Golden State Warriors selected Les Jepsen with the 28th overall pick in the 1990 NBA Draft. Jepsen scored 53 career points in his two seasons in the NBA with the Warriors and Sacramento Kings. Currently, Jepsen lives in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area and works for Jepsen Investment Management, a company he founded in 1995.

Recently, Hawkeye Sports News was able to catch up with former Hawkeye Les Jepsen and ask him a few questions about his playing days and his opinions on the current Hawkeyes. Here is the full transcript from our exclusive interview with Les Jepsen:

Hawkeye Sports News: What is your favorite memory from your playing days with Iowa?

Les Jepsen: Ann Clark from Iowa City made a huge book with newspaper articles and other memorabilia and presented it to one basketball player at Iowa each year. I know guys like Bobby Hansen, Greg Stokes and Jeff Moe got one shortly after their senior year; my year she happened to pick me. Memories fade over a long period of time… I think I’ll pick up that big book someday and the great memories playing at Iowa will all come back. Thanks, Ann. She’s one of the great people of Iowa and Iowa Basketball.

My favorite memory is beating North Carolina in Chapel Hill and then again in Iowa City less than a year later. I have the utmost respect for their coach Dean Smith and all of the players that were there at the time and went through there in the past. I wanted to go there when I was in high school, so it was nice to be able to have played there and against UNC. Both games were the featured game that week on CBS so that was always exciting for everyone, the fans, the students, the band, the players, the secretaries, the coaches… everyone. To see the banners of Jordan, Worthy, Perkins, Cunningham in the modern rafters when shooting before the Chapel Hill game was neat. The atmosphere was amazing at both games.

HSN: What was the experience like after college, playing professionally in the NBA and overseas, and how tough was the decision when you decided to retire?

LJ: Playing at The University of Iowa prepared me very well for the NBA as well as any college could. I’m not talking about the institution, it was the people there, Tom Davis, Gary Close, Bruce Pearl, Rudy Washington, all of the guys on the team, the summer league games, the fans, the administrators at that time all prepared me for life after college.

I really didn’t ever retire; I don’t think any athlete at any level truly does. I decided to take a break and finish my Masters Degree in Business (MBA) at Iowa in 1995; then after I graduated again in 1997 I went overseas for a season then decided exactly why I decided to get my MBA again.

It was really fun playing with Golden State my rookie year when Chris Mullin was playing and Don Nelson and his son Donn were coaching. Kind of reminded me of playing at Iowa really.

HSN: Where are you currently residing and what is your current occupation?

LJ: I’ve been living in the Minneapolis / St Paul area for the past eight years and love it here. I started Jepsen Investment Management in 1995 when I was in grad school and thirteen years later I’m doing exactly what I decided to do then. I manage IRAs and 401ks and investment accounts for individuals and their families. My web site is http://www.jepsenconsulting.com/. I’ve also started a real estate team in The Twin Cities and our web site there is http://jepsenconsulting.com/realestate/.

HSN: How closely do you still follow the Hawkeyes and what are your feelings of the team's future?

LJ: I just got DirecTV recently so I could get the Big Ten Network to catch the Iowa games. I try to get to a Drake basketball game each year ‘cause Dr Tom and Keno were coaching, and I try to make it to a few of Gary Close’s games at Regina and at Wisconsin.

The teams future? Just my opinion? I think Coach Lickliter and staff was a super choice; there’s not many people left like that in the game today. He’s guard-oriented so it will be interesting to see his strategy in the Big Ten in the coming years. Do you think Dr Tom Davis liked the fact that when he came here in April of 1986 he had 5 McDonald’s All-Americans and 9 future NBA players and/or draft picks in his cupboard? Did Coach Lickliter see that when he came here in April of 2007? Hasn’t it always been about recruiting at Iowa?

Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in administration held accountable in the Iowa Athletic Department took 5 minutes of Coach Lickliter’s time once a week and asked questions like “What do you want and what do you need?” I’ve given $1000 or so a year to the basketball weight room as a University of Iowa President’s Club member annually for the past seven or eight years. Not much compared to all of the huge donations, but my philosophy is if 15,500 people work just a little harder to earn $1000 more each year and give it to a cause they have a conviction in it can really mean something. When the weight coach got let go recently (why I don’t know), do you think even a single person in the athletic department asked for Coach Lickliter’s feedback on what he wanted and what he needed? Have you asked him?

Do the players play, or do the facilities play? Ever see the facilities when Michael Jordan came to the Bulls in 1985? Not good. He stayed when his contract came up several times because of the people and their decisions. Don’t you think he left the Bulls because of the people as well? Do facilities make the program…or do the people? Shouldn’t all of us be held accountable in asking the right questions to the right people? Recruiting really is all about the players, right? Players are people, right? We are all in the people business, right? Isn’t recruiting sales? Isn’t sales asking the right questions? If the person asking the important questions to the important people aren’t being asked questions by the people questioning them, isn’t there a question problem somewhere?

After meeting Coach Lickliter do you think he wants what’s best for himself, or do you feel he wants what’s best for his team and the University of Iowa? So why not start asking him? When guys like Bump Elliott were administrators, do you think he was asking those questions and had the right people asking more of the right questions? It’s obvious to me Iowa State, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Indiana, Drake and other schools we will be competing against for talent in the future are listening to their coaches.

Do you feel the me-first attitude has got to go from top to bottom? Once those questions are answered by the right people and acted on what do you think the teams future is? We’ll starting winning at a high level again and 15,500 [people] will be back in Carver to watch, not just 15,500 seats [facility]. Just my opinion?