Analysis of Iowa’s new basketball players, PTL videos

July 14, 2009

                                                                              

I’m getting a pretty good feel for Iowa’s new players and how they will contribute in the upcoming season. At the end of the Prime Time League this month, I will write a full analysis of how Iowa basketball shapes up entering the 2009-2010 season. But here’s a look at the newcomers and how I think they can contribute for Iowa.

Iowa coaches will expect only one of the four new players to start, while the other three will contribute in different roles. Freshman Cully Payne will start at the point. Freshman Brennan Cougill will see significant time in the post. Freshman Eric May will play in spurts but his time will be determined by real practice and the non-conference schedule in November. Junior Devon Archie will split time at power forward.

Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) brings the ball down the court during the team's game against Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys on the opening night of the Prime Time League, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) brings the ball down the court during the team's game against Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys on the opening night of the Prime Time League, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Payne (6-foot) will start and run the show for Coach Todd Lickliter. He’s got plenty of talent, but he’s young and will make mistakes. He’s the first true point guard under Lickliter and demonstrates more interest in running an offense and getting the proper players into position than his predecessors. Payne can shoot fairly well and can drive at times, too. He has struggled in the PTL with more athletic defenders, like Kirkwood’s Kaylon Williams, and can be beaten off the ball by quicker ball-handlers. I’d say he’s a little more skilled at the point than Jeff Peterson but has a lot to prove to match Peterson’s toughness. It’s likely he’s in for a long season squaring off against Penn State’s Talor Battle, Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas and Michigan’s Manny Harris. He’ll do OK but he’ll take his lumps.

Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys' Eric May (7) puts up a shot over Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Eric Coleman (53) during their game July 6, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys' Eric May (7) puts up a shot over Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Eric Coleman (53) during their game July 6, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

May (6-5) is a tremendous athlete. He’s perhaps the most versatile player on the team. He can play inside and outside. He guards at least four positions and brings as much intensity as any player on the court. He’ll contribute by playing hard, but he doesn’t have a defined position right now. I look for May playing about 15 minutes a game rotating from shooting guard to power forward at times.

Cougill (6-10) will see about 40 percent of the action in the post as a back-up to Jarryd Cole. Cougill is a skilled passer and a good shooter. He has decent moves in the post and works hard. He struggles against more physical big men. His conditioning also is improving, but not a strength. The good thing about Cougill is he’s aware of his deficiencies and working on them daily. Right now he’s more of a finesse post player but in two years could be a real solid inside player.

Iowa forward Devon Archie takes the ball up strong against Iowa post Brennan Cougill during PrimeTime League action at the North Liberty Community Center on Monday, June 29, 2009. (Benjamin Roberts/Freelance)

Iowa forward Devon Archie takes the ball up strong against Iowa post Brennan Cougill during PrimeTime League action at the North Liberty Community Center on Monday, June 29, 2009. (Benjamin Roberts/Freelance)

Archie (6-9) is the most athletic player on the team. He’s sleek, can jump and has good moves to the basket. He’s a decent passer and makes good attempts to set screens, a bonus in Lickliter’s system. But Archie doesn’t play real physical and doesn’t appear to fight for position under the basket. He’s a different player than sophomore forward Aaron Fuller, which will make for a good combination at the position. Archie compares favorably with former Iowa player Kurt Looby.

Bottom line: These players will contribute this year but won’t save the world. They likely will supplement their teammates and fill the required roles. Payne, Cougill and May will help build a foundation for Iowa’s future, but like many freshmen, they will experience the lows before the highs.

Here are a couple of highlights from Monday’s Prime Time League:


PTL thoughts, July 6 (with video)

July 8, 2009
Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Aaron Fuller (24) pulls up for a shot over Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurry's Eric May (7) during their game on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Aaron Fuller (24) pulls up for a shot over Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurry's Eric May (7) during their game on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

I wrote about Eric May on Monday night, and he had a good performance. He scored 23 points, grabbed eight rebounds and dished seven assists. He also showed his versatility by defending point guard Cully Payne, shooting guard Devan Bawinkel and power forward Aaron Fuller.

I was most impressed with Fuller, who notched 27 points and grabbed 13 rebounds. He’s stronger and more physical in the paint than last year. He also can shoot from the outside, hitting two three-pointers. Payne was up-and-down, scoring 22 points with eight assists. Bawinkel hit 4-of-6 shots — all three-point attempts — for 12 points. His style of game doesn’t transition well to the up-and-down Prime Time League.

I spent only a few minutes at the other game, where Matt Gatens returned in solid fashion. He scored 32 points, grabbed six rebounds and directed his team to a 100-81 win. He told me afterward he felt fine just two weeks after an appendectomy.


Ben Brust to make decision ‘maybe tomorrow’

June 29, 2009

Ben Brust took an unofficial visit to the Iowa campus Monday and could decide by Tuesday if Iowa City will be his home for the next four years.

Brust, a 6-foot-2 incoming senior guard in Mundelein, Ill., has narrowed his choices to three schools: Iowa, Northwestern and Butler.

“This is my last visit,” Brust said Monday night while attending the Prime Time League in North Liberty. “I’m going to go home and really think hard.”

He said he plans to make his decision soon.

“Maybe before the start of July,” he said. “Maybe tomorrow, maybe first part of July.”

 

Brust was averaging 28 points a game for Mundelein High School before breaking his leg in January. He missed the rest of the season.

Brust and incoming Iowa freshman Cully Payne are friends from the Chicagoland area. That could aid Iowa’s chances of landing Brust.

“It’s definitely nice having Cully around because I’ve known him for a while,”  Brust said. “It’s someone I can trust, it’s someone I know is going to tell me the truth and will be around for three years at Iowa, if I choose to come here.

“I just want to check out the guys because I’m going to be with them the next four years,” he said.

Although Brust’s numbers give a scorer vibe, Brust said he’s an all-around player on the court.

“I’m a high-energy type guy,” he said. “I just like to be out there and bring as much energy as possible and play hard. (I try) to create for other guys, score, get out on the break and find guys … whatever, I just want to ball.”


PTL analysis from first night, Cully Payne video interview

June 16, 2009
Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) pulls up for a shot over Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys' Jordan Stoermer (23) during their game on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) pulls up for a shot over Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys' Jordan Stoermer (23) during their game on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

A few thoughts on last night’s game featuring multiple Iowa, Northern Iowa and other collegiate players:

I was impressed with incoming Iowa freshman Cully Payne. He’s young and hasn’t had to guard Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas or Michigan’s Manny Harris, but Payne brings the right temperament and swagger to the the point guard position. He’s listed at 6 foot (he might be a shade under), but he moves well with and without the ball. He’s left-handed, physical and has a decent shot. He can push the ball up the court or slow it down in a half-court set. He’s a different player from Jake Kelly or Jeff Peterson in that he’s a natural point guard.

Iowa’s Aaron Fuller carries more weight and looks much stronger. As a freshman last year he weighed 199 pounds. He’s now heavier than 220. That strength will help him defend power forwards in the post. That weight could be good for one more rebound and two more points a game. That could be a four-point turnaround in any game.

Iowa’s Devan Bawinkel still prefers the outside shot. Bawinkel, an incoming senior captain, caught the ball on the left wing about 17 feet from the basket.  He took three dribbles toward the hoop and could have pulled up for an eight-foot jumper or even drove to the hoop but instead passed the ball to the top of the key. He may need to hit a few jumpers when they’re available, even if they’re not beyond the arc.

UNI’s Anthony James and Antonio Jones are explosive, much more than any of Iowa’s guards or forwards. They combined for 32 points and could really move the ball up and down the court. Jones, a junior-college transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, averaged 11.5 points last year in the Jayhawk Conference, the best juco league in the country. I think Jones can be real good.

Incoming Iowa freshman Eric May is better than advertised. He can play inside and outside. He’s competitive and explosive. During one offensive set, May, who stands 6-4, took the ball and charged at ex-UNI center Eric Coleman, who is four inches taller and probably 60 pounds heavier. May lowered his shoulder like a fullback and ran into Coleman, drawing a surprising blocking call. Coleman had an irritated look and neither player slapped hands after the play. May scored 20 points and I can see him challenging Fuller and Devan Archie for serious minutes at power forward this year.

UNI’s Jordan Eglseder showed great touch from the outside, along with solid inside skills. Eglseder, who stands 7-1 and weighs about 300 pounds, scored 25 points and was active at both ends of the court. I’m really interested to see how he competes against incoming Iowa freshman Brennan Cougill on June 22.


Iowa’s pleasure with Cully Payne

June 15, 2009
Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) brings the ball down the court during the team's game against Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center in North Liberty.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) brings the ball down the court during the team's game against Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center in North Liberty. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

NORTH LIBERTY — Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter recruited point guard Cully Payne to run the show for the Hawkeyes. Last night, Payne showed that he might be ready for the job.

Payne, a 6-foot incoming freshman from Schaumberg, Ill., passed the ball with both consistency and flair during his team’s Prime Time League game. He controlled the game’s tempo, moved well without the ball and shot the ball decently from the outside. It was just one outing of many for Payne, but he showed he’s going to compete for more than just playing time this year.

“He’s a great shooter, great passer,” said incoming Iowa sophomore Aaron Fuller, who plays with Payne on Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing. “He’s only going to get better. He’s young. I’m excited to see how he progresses throughout the summer.”

Payne scored 12 points and dished two assists in his team’s 89-74 win against Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurry’s. Often the best passes he made helped get people in position to get to the basket, which didn’t count for assists.

Early in the second half he sank three-pointers from the left perimeter on consecutive possessions. Later in the game from the right side of the basket, the left-handed Payne faked to the post then drove to the hoop and scored on a layup with his right hand.

“I felt comfortable,” Payne said. “I wasn’t nervous or any of that stuff. It was fun for me.

“I’m really working on ball screens and getting a lane created for people, which a true point guard really does a lot of. … I think I’m pretty good off the ball screen and I can really distribute which I think will be good for us.”

Payne was a late addition to the Hawkeyes. He originally committed to DePaul and later signed with Alabama. After a coaching change, he was released from his scholarship and was interested in Iowa. Lickliter locked him up on the first signing date this spring.

Iowa also needs a point guard this year. Jeff Peterson and Jake Kelly started every game at the point last year but both transferred after the season, as did reserve guard Jermain Davis. Anthony Tucker is the only returnee with point guard experience, but he played in only half of Iowa’s games before becoming academically ineligible.

“They’re looking for me to kind of control the tempo and be a true point guard and do the control thing, which I tried to do (last night),” Payne said.

Payne suffered a hairline fracture in his back last season and missed his high school team’s final 14 games.  But the injury has healed, and Payne was cleared to play by his doctor.

“I feel good. I’m at 100 percent,” he said. “Actually I went to the orthopedic today for a checkup and everything is good to go.

“It was an overuse injury. I got undercut twice in a high school game, and I fell on my back. Finally, I was in so much pain, I went in and they said it was a hairline fracture.”

Payne has played pick-up basketball with his future teammates for about a week. He said he’s trying to soak in as much knowledge of the Iowa system as he can.

Incoming Iowa sophomore Matt Gatens said he likes the way Payne competes from his limited time with the incoming freshman.

“I think (Payne) knows he’s going to have to come in right away because we’re kind of short-handed at that position,” Gatens said. “I’ve got great confidence in him. He’s shown a lot in the first week or so, and he’s shooting the ball up better than I was told he could shoot it so that’s definitely huge for us.

“He takes care of the ball and it seems like he plays with a lot of confidence. It’s a good thing for a point guard and something we’re going to need.”


Initial thoughts from the PTL in North Liberty

June 15, 2009

My initial thoughts from the Prime Time League on Monday:

I covered the game pitting Cully Payne, Aaron Fuller, Devan Bawinkel on one side and Jordan Eglseder and Eric May on the other. Payne, the point guard, was terrific in his debut. He distributes the ball well, has good movement and can shoot from the outside. He’s unselfish and gets other players involved in the game. He’s a major asset for the Iowa program, although it’s too early to tell at what level he will impact the team.

Fuller is much bigger and stronger inside. May is a hard-nosed kid who’s unafraid of going after the ball. Eglseder has slimmed down and looks solid.

Payne’s team won 89-74. Payne scored 12 points and had two assists. Eglseder led all scorers with 25 points.

At some point this evening I’ll have video of Payne and my story for Tuesday’s paper up and online.


Payne makes debut tonight in PTL

June 15, 2009

With fewer teams this year, the Prime Time League looks more competitive and more interesting. Tonight, I’m planning to cover the Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurry’s (Team No. 4) vs. Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing (Team No. 5) matchup.

In real terms, I want to see incoming Iowa freshman Cully Payne run the point for No. 5. He’s playing with future teammates Aaron Fuller and Devan Bawinkel, along with Northern Iowa’s Anthony James, Marc Sonnon and Antonio Jones. The No. 4 team features UNI’s Jordan Eglseder and Brian Haak and Iowa’s Eric May and John Lickliter.

I’m planning to cover all of the PTL games this summer so if you’ve got questions, fire them away.


Lickliter: Team is ‘starting to turn the corner’

May 11, 2009
Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter speaks during a news conference, March 27, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Lickliter announced that players Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, David Palmer and Jermain Davis were transferring from the school. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter speaks during a news conference, March 27, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Lickliter announced that players Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, David Palmer and Jermain Davis were transferring from the school. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter has become an eternal optimist this off-season as he spreads his message about Hawkeye men’s basketball to the masses at statewide I-Club meetings.

Lickliter, whose Iowa teams have combined for a 28-36 record the last two years, told me last week the team is close to where he wants them to be.

“In my opinion,” Lickliter said, “We’re starting to turn the corner.”

Most people have a difficult time accepting that philosophy. Iowa lost four players — including two primary starters at guard — to transfer this off-season. Jake Kelly, a two-time Big Ten Player of the Week winner, is leaving the school for Indiana State. Jeff Peterson, who started the first 25 games at point guard, is transferring to Arkansas. Back-up guard Jermain Davis and forward David Palmer are leaving for Division II schools.

None of the players would talk openly about reasons for their transfer, but most behind the scenes seemed to disagree with Lickliter’s style of play. Whether Lickliter took note of their thoughts is undetermined, but he plans to change focus as the team enters year No. 3 in his system.

“The good thing is, for their sake, too, we can move on from the defensive aspects,” Lickliter said. “We’re incorporating a lot more offense now. I think they’ll be able to help the  new guys learn the defense.”

Among Big Ten teams, Iowa finished 10thin scoring this year at 60.2 points a game, just .1 better than Indiana. Iowa finished third in defense in allowing 59.6 points a game. But in Big Ten games, Iowa finished last in the league with 57.9 points a game, and allowed a sixth-best 62.5 points. That could be one reason why Lickliter is shifting his philosophy to offense.

“I didn’t know how long it would take, but I did know that we had to get (defense) instilled to be able to compete,”  Lickliter said. “It’s a great league, obviously. I thought we could compete in it if we were very sound defensively. I think it takes longer to probably get the foundation in with individuals in a year, then you’re going to see continued progress.

“The fun and enjoyable part is when they start to improvise a little bit for the betterment of the team. Initially you’re challenged so much that they’re trying to, defensively, almost just survive a little bit. So once they get comfortable with it and they can start to improvise in a positive way, I think that will be a real key. I don’t know if that will happen in another year or not.”

Iowa has four new scholarship players coming in this fall: incoming freshmen Eric May, Brennan Cougill, Cully Payne and junior-college transfer Devon Archie. All will compete this summer at the Prime Time League in North Liberty.


Mystery recruit is point guard?

May 8, 2009
Former University of San Diego point guard Trumaine Johnson takes a shot against St. Mary's last season. Johnson, who is visiting Iowa this weekend, wouldn't be eligible to compete until the 2010-11 season due to NCAA rules.

Former University of San Diego point guard Trumaine Johnson takes a shot against St. Mary's last season. Johnson, who is scheduled to visit Iowa this weekend, wouldn't be eligible to compete until the 2010-11 season due to NCAA rules.

Former University of San Diego guard Trumaine Johnson apparently is the mystery recruit visiting Iowa this weekend.

Johnson, who will be a junior, could be offered a scholarship this weekend. He would have to sit out for one year, but placed under scholarship.

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter wouldn’t comment directly on Johnson — or any potential recruit, per NCAA transfer rules — but acknowledged he will entertain a recruit on a visit this weekend.

“We will have a visit this weekend,” he said. “I don’t know for sure how that will play out.”

Iowa has been searching for at least one point guard after the school’s top three announced they were leaving. Iowa signed Cully Payne, who will be a freshman next year but other than Anthony Tucker, a ready-made shooting guard, the Hawkeyes don’t have a bona fide point guard with experience on their roster.

Johnson, who stands 6-foot-2, brings a tough, but admittedly hard-headed approach to basketball. He’s had issues with coaches because he integrates Houston street ball with his point guard responsibilities. One wonders if Johnson, one of the West Coast Conference’s best point guards, could succeed under Lickliter’s disciplined offensive approach. He averaged 11.6 points a game but played in only 14 games, starting 11. He left the team in mid-February, and the school announced Johnson’s departure on Feb. 24. Here’s the announcement:

JOHNSON TO TRANSFER AT END OF SEMESTER: Sophomore guard Trumaine Johnson (Houston, TX) will not return to the team this season, and he will transfer at the end of the semester, it was announced today by head coach Bill Grier. This season he appeared in 14 games with 11 starts and averaged 11.6 points per game. Last year as a freshman he played in 35 games with 16 starts and averaged 5.7 points per game.


Changes coming to Prime Time League

May 7, 2009
Incoming Iowa freshman basketball player Aaron Fuller of Lucky Pawz/Premier Investments looks for a way past  Goodfellow Printing/Imprinted Sportswear's Greg Brunner  in a Prime Time league game at the North Liberty Community Center on June 25, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Incoming Iowa freshman basketball player Aaron Fuller of Lucky Pawz/Premier Investments looks for a way past Goodfellow Printing/Imprinted Sportswear's Greg Brunner in a Prime Time league game at the North Liberty Community Center on June 25, 2008. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

Prime Time League director Randy Larson said the league will have only six teams this year to ensure stronger play.

Northern Iowa will bring 12 players to the league, and all of Iowa’s players will compete. That includes six scholarship holdovers from last year’s team and the team’s four incoming scholarship players.

The influx of new players adds to the league’s intrigue entering summer play, Larson said.

“Not only are we curious as to whether Coach (Todd) Lickliter is getting it turned around, but we’re curious about whether these Iowa kids can come in and be Big Ten starters as freshmen,” Larson said. “We’re curious about the point guard from Illinois (Cully Payne). We’re curious about the junior-college power forward (Devon Archie). There’s a lot of things to be curious about. This is your only chance to find out before November is this summer up in North Liberty for six weeks. I think there will be more people there than ever.”

Larson said the games will be more competitive and each team will have at least one more Division I player. But the cuts will cost the league about 20 players.

The league begins June 15 and lasts through July 27. Games are played Mondays and Wednesdays, but the schedule has changed allowing for two games one week, then only one the following week. Larson said that change was suggested by UNI Coach Ben Jacobson, whose players often car pool for the games and spend about 3 hours in the car traveling to North Liberty.

Lickliter had discussed the Prime Time League and its inadequacies during a press conference in early March. Now, he’s changed his mind and confirmed his players will compete in the Prime Time League this summer, which is held at the North Liberty Recreation Center.

“The thing that concerned me more than anything was just … I wanted to develop a real sense of urgency and a competitiveness of it,” Lickliter said. “Sometimes I felt like with the league you played a game and now it’s over and there wasn’t any (penalty for losing). Whereas if you play pick-up games and if you lose, you have to sit out.”

Lickliter and Larson discussed the league’s format, and that satisfied Lickliter.

“What I’m looking for, and I think what Randy is going to do, is emphasize the competitiveness of it,” Lickliter said. “Hopefully, just by emphasizing it and just by being competitive, and getting the right guys, I think we’ll be OK. I think it’s the right way to go.”

Lickliter told the media in March about his time at Butler University in Indianapolis when former players would return to play pick-up games in the summer against current players. He preferred that type of basketball.

“I’ve mentioned this before, when you’re in a city, you have players coming back,” Lickliter said. “You have more access to players and so open gyms are easier. It’s not quite as easy (in Iowa City).

“I can the see the need for Prime Time and why it was started and … Randy’s a competitive guy he doesn’t have any problem emphasizing the competition.

Tryouts are held at noon June 6 at the UI Fieldhouse. 

“They’ll be up there if they get drafted,” Lickliter said with a laugh.


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