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:


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.


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.


Lickliter names captains, talks about recruiting

May 6, 2009
Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel guards an Indiana player on Jan. 3, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel guards an Indiana player on Jan. 3, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

MARSHALLTOWN — Iowa’s basketball captains for next year are junior post Jarryd Cole and senior guard Devan Bawinkel, Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said tonight.

Cole, a 6-foot-7 post, played in all 32 games last year and averaged 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds a game. Cole joined graduating senior Cyrus Tate as co-captains last year.  Cole started a bit slow coming off knee surgery but started nine games.

Bawinkel , a 6-5 perimeter guard, played his first season at Iowa last year after transferring from Highland (Ill.) Community College. Bawinkel played in every game and started nine. He averaged 4.8 points a game and shot a team-high 139 3-pointers. All but five of his shots were 3-point attempts.

“I think they’re showing terrific leadership,” Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter said Wednesday at the Marshall County I-Club banquet at Elmwood Country Club.

Lickliter said recruiting efforts for the upcoming season are ongoing, and he’s got a recruit coming in this weekend. Lickliter declined to say if this recruit was for 2009 or 2010. Sources close to the program say the player visiting is a transfer from another Division I program who won’t be eligible until the 2010-11 basketball season.

We’re still recruiting,” Lickliter said. “There are some out there. I’m really comfortable with the group we have. Would you like to have a little more depth? Yeah, but I’ve been here two years now, and we haven’t given out 13 scholarships. Yet I’m not that concerned about that.

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

Iowa currently has 10 players under scholarship for the upcoming season. Along with Cole and Bawinkel, Iowa returns sophomores Matt Gatens, Andrew Brommer, Aaron Fuller and Anthony Tucker, who likely will regain his eligibility following semester finals. Entering the program this year are incoming freshmen Cully Payne, Eric May and Brennan Cougill, along with junior-college transfer Devon Archie, a junior. Iowa also has red-shirt freshman John Lickliter, the coach’s son.

Four players from last year’s roster — guards Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, Jermain Davis and forward David Palmer — left the program.

“Having 11 is probably thin, but it’s very manageable,” Lickliter said. “It’s not important how many (players) you have, but who you have. And I really like who we have, and I like the spots that we have filled. At least now I feel that we have a good grasp of where we’re at and what our needs are and who’s going to be involved. I think you can really paint a much clearer picture for our recruiting efforts.

“We could (add another player). I wouldn’t say it’s pressing or that it’s guaranteed. But we could.”

If Iowa adds a transfer from another school, the player must sit out for a season but likely will be placed under scholarship. Iowa has three scholarships available for this fall and has one commitment for the 2010 season — Sioux Falls (S.D.) prep Cody Larson.

Iowa also has added a walk-on for the upcoming season. Nick Neari, a 6-3 guard from St. Charles (Ill.) North High School, is a close friend of Payne. He averaged 14 points a game in suburban Chicago.

Lickliter said he can’t comment on walk-on players.

“You can say that we’re going to have some (walk-ons), but they have to arrive, enroll and be on the roster. No different than a recruit.”


Brands talks Sanderson, Iowa State vacancy; Lickliter talks potential recruits

April 22, 2009

Iowa wrestling coach Tom Brands met with reporters for a few minutes before the annual Linn County I-Club banquet Wednesday night. He admitted he knew more about the vacant Iowa State opening than he would tell reporters, but he talked about the impact of former Iowa State Coach Cael Sanderson taking over at Penn State.

 “He’s doing what he feels he needs to do to win championships for his family,” Brands said. “Whether it makes sense to other people, it doesn’t matter. He’s making the call, and Penn State is certainly a program to be worthy of pursuing. No doubt.Here’s the video:

“Specifically Penn State, the last time it was open was 11 years ago. They (jobs) don’t come around very often. He looked at it, analyzed it and made the call. I’m speaking for him.”

Brands said he won’t change his approach of facing Penn State just because of Sanderson.

 “I think the challenge is always great,” Brands said. “(Sanderson) certainly boosts their program, but we have to get ready for them just the same. Now they’ve got a new coach at Penn State, and we’ll be prepared like we always are for everything.”

There have been no discussions, but count on the Iowa-Penn State dual in Iowa City next winter costing fans a few more bucks as the school’s designated premium wrestling meet.

 

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter left the event early to attend an open gym on the final night he could see prospects. Iowa officially signed Vincennes junior-college forward Devon Archie on Wednesday and can offer up to three more scholarships for the fall, but only “if it’s the right guy,” Lickliter said.

“We’ve looked at both the post players, and we’ve also looked at combo guard-perimeters and somebody that can complement,” Lickliter said. “I really believe we have positions filled right now. But we need is some added depth. And I’m not talking about added depth as far as positions and how many minutes you play or if you start or whatever. I’m talking about matching skills.

“We’ve got skills that complement one another, and we could use another guy that could fit in well. We’ve seen a few, and we’re comfortable with more than one guy that I’ve seen. It’s still a process, and we just have to make sure that it’s the right move.”

Lickliter said the school has no visits scheduled with potential recruits. He’d like to add walk-on players this fall as well. Iowa now has added four new scholarship players to this fall’s team.


Archie finally a Hawk

April 22, 2009

Everything has cleared up for Vincennes (Ind.) forward Devon Archie, who officially will join the Iowa men’s basketball program next fall.

Here’s the release from Iowa:

IOWA CITY, IA – Junior college forward Devon Archie has signed a national letters of intent to join the University of Iowa basketball program next fall.  Hawkeye men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter made the announcement Wednesday.

 

Archie (6-9, 220) attended Vincennes University in Vincennes, IN the past two seasons.  As a sophomore he averaged 6.8 points, six rebounds and 1.3 blocked shots per game under Coach David Ragland.  He shot 54.5% from the field while starting 19 of 30 games.  As a freshman, he started seven games, averaging 3.3 points and 2.7 rebounds while shooting 54% from the field.  Archie helped Vincennes post a two-year record of 50-15.

 

“Both his high school coach and his junior college coach speak highly of Devon’s work ethic, his growth as a player and his potential,” said Lickliter.  “Devon is a high energy player.  He has the ability to defend inside and on the perimeter, and offensively he has the ability to finish inside.  We’re very excited about his potential and upside as he continues to gain experience.”

 

Archie is a native of Indianapolis, IN, where he attended Ben Davis HS.  As a senior he helped Ben Davis post a 10-14 overall record.  “Devon really came into his own as a senior as far as understanding the game,” said Ben Davis Coach Curtis Wright.  “Our area had some outstanding individual players and teams.  Devon continued his progression at Vincennes.  He’s a hard worker and very coachable.”

 

Archie is the fourth recruit to commit to the Hawkeye program for next season, joining three high school seniors who have previously signed letters of intent.  Those players include guard Eric May (6-5, 220) from Wahlert HS in Dubuque, IA, forward/center Brennan Cougill (6-9, 260) from Bishop Heelan HS in Sioux City, IA and guard Cully Payne (6-1, 180) from Schaumberg HS in Schaumberg, IL. 

 

Cougill, May and Payne each earned first team all-state honors.  Cougill was named “Mr. Basketball” in the state of Iowa after leading Bishop Heelan to the Class 3-A state title.  May led Wahlert to the Class 3-A state title as a junior.  Payne led his team to a 14-0 start as a senior before missing the remainder of the season due to injury.

 

“We feel the four players who will join our program for next year are very solid,” added Lickliter.  “With the additional players and our returning group, we are excited about the potential for this team.”


Snag keeps Archie from Hawks’ perch

April 19, 2009

Vincennes’ Devon Archie committed to the Iowa basketball program last month. Despite the spring national signing period beginning last Wednesday, Archie remains unsigned.

Archie, a 6-foot-9 forward, has yet to turn in his paperwork to Iowa, but there appears to be no change of heart, according to a couple of Iowa officials. Archie’s mother still has to sign his letter of intent, and the two have had a little difficulty getting together to ink the proper paperwork.

An Iowa official said Saturday that Archie’s paperwork likely will be sent back Monday. Archie averaged 6.8 points and six rebounds a game last season while starting 19 of 30 games. Iowa already has received a signed letter of intent from high school point guard Cully Payne.

Also, Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter spent Friday recruiting in Dallas, just hours after wining and dining boosters in Fort Dodge on Thursday night. Iowa still has three scholarships to offer, and Lickliter told me Wednesday he plans to offer at least one more for this fall. Iowa could bank the other two for the next school year.


Lickliter talks about scholarships, ‘postponed’ visits

April 15, 2009

BOONE — Iowa men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter anticipates filling at least one of his three available scholarships but not at any cost.

“I’d rather have an open scholarship than to have somebody who’s either unhappy or doesn’t fit,” said Lickliter on Wednesday at the Boone-Story County I-Club event. “So we’ll be patient and continue to recruit hard — if it’s the right one. I’m not opposed to signing all of them, and I’m also not opposed to not making a move. I anticipate we’ll make another move.”

Wednesday, Iowa officially signed Schaumburg (Ill.) prep guard Cully Payne. Iowa still is waiting for the official letter of intent from Vincennes (junior college) forward Devon Archie. Iowa’s scholarship availability comes after four players with eligibility left the program shortly after the season.

Iowa originally had a visit scheduled Friday with Chipola (Fla.) Junior College guard Malcolm Armstead. But Armstead canceled the trip and instead will visit St. John’s in New York City.

Lickliter wouldn’t discuss Armstead or any player not officially signed with Iowa, per NCAA rules.

“All I can really say is they’ve (the visits) been postponed,” Lickliter said. “I can’t comment any more than that, but they’ve been postponed.

“It’s a funny thing. You have to deal with what is, and just deal with the facts and be thankful for what you do have. What I continue to say is the group we have, I’m so excited about and so that’s where my focus is right now.”

Lickliter couldn’t comment on Archie, but he raved about Payne, a 6-foot-1 point guard. Payne originally committed to DePaul while in eighth grade, but changed his mind last year. Payne then signed with Alabama but was released from his scholarship after Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried resigned.

Lickliter said he targeted Payne last summer when Iowa held a basketball camp. But the camp was cancelled when floods devastated Iowa City last June.

“It was somebody that (Iowa assistant coach) Chad Walthall had known about him,” Lickliter said. “We knew him, we were always impressed with the way he played the game and what he brought to it and when the opportunity came, it made a lot of sense. It makes sense to him, and I love that. When it makes sense to both of you, and you agree, then we knew it was a great fit.

“You never know what’s going to happen, and so we didn’t anticipate it (Payne becoming available). But I think it was probably a benefit of Chad’s efforts through the years.”

Payne averaged more than 22 points and seven assists last year before suffering a stress fracture in his back. Payne told The Gazette last week when he committed to Iowa that he compares his style of play with perennial NBA all-star Steve Nash.

“He plays at a great pace,” Lickliter said. “He’s very competitive. He’s a very capable scorer, but he’s not defined by that. He doesn’t have to score to feel like he’s successful. So I think he’s somebody who gives us a lot of poise in the back-court and our other guys are working extremely hard.

“I think we’ve got positions filled that are going to complement one another, and I’m excited about the chemistry of this team. And he adds to that.”

Archie, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Indianapolis, averaged 6.8 points and six rebounds last season for Vincennes. He started 19 of 30 games. Lickliter wouldn’t comment about Archie.

“We’re expecting one other (signing) but the rules are until it’s in hand, you can’t make comments,” Lickliter said.

Iowa signed two players last fall: Dubuque Wahlert guard/forward Eric May and Sioux City Heelan center Brennan Cougill. Returning to the team next fall are incoming sophomores Matt Gatens, Aaron Fuller, Andrew Brommer and John Lickliter; junior Jarryd Cole and senior Devan Bawinkel. Current freshman Anthony Tucker, who was ineligible for the second semester, is on pace academically to rejoin the team.

Leaving the program were guards Jeff Peterson, Jake Kelly and Jermain Davis, and forward David Palmer. Cyrus Tate and J.R. Angle have graduated or will graduate in May.

Lickliter joined wrestling coach Tom Brands and other Iowa coaches at the first I-Club stop this spring. About 175 people showed up at the event. The Boone-Story I-Club includes Ames, home of Iowa State.


Iowa men to ink 2 today; women to sign 1

April 14, 2009
Cull Payne

Cully Payne

Iowa’s men’s basketball team plans to sign two players to letters of intent today, the first official day basketball recruits can sign with colleges this spring.

Vincennes University (a junior college basketball program in Indiana) forward Devon Archie (6-foot-9) committed to Iowa in March. Archie started 19 of 30 games at Vincennes, averaging 6.8 points and six rebounds a game. He hit 54.5 percent of his field goals but sank just 43.8 percent of his foul shots.

Schaumburg (Ill.) High School point guard Cully Payne also expects to sign a letter of intent. Payne, who stands 601 committed to Iowa last week. He averaged 22 points last year, but was hindered by a stress fracture in his back. Payne missed the last half of the basketball season.

Archie and Payne will join 6-9 Brennan Cougill, a Sioux City Heelan center, and 6-4 Eric May (Dubuque Wahlert) this fall. Chipola (Fla.) Junior College freshman guard Malcolm Armstead (6-1) was scheduled to visit Iowa on Friday but apparently will not, according to multiple Web sites.

Iowa has at least two more scholarships to offer after four players with eligibility left the program following the season. Sophomore guard Jake Kelly will sign with Indiana State, while junior guard Jermain Davis will sign with Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Sophomore guard Jeff Peterson is still searching for a school, as is junior forward David Palmer, who will graduate in May. Palmer is looking at playing Division II basketball.

Iowa’s women expect to sign one player Wednesday. Ames’ Trisha Nesbitt averaged 16.2 points last year while leading Ames to the Class 4A state finals. Nesbitt, a four-year starter, had 128 assists, 81 rebounds and 65 steals last year.

Nesbitt joined a class of five next fall. Iowa signed Linn-Mar’s Jaime Printy, Platte County (Mo.) center Morgan Johnson, Gabby Machado of Pontiac, Mich., and Theairra Taylor of St. Paul (Minn.) Central. Taylor suffered a torn ACL in her left knee and her status is undetermined next year.

Basketball players can sign with colleges beginning today through May 20.


Iowa lands point guard

April 9, 2009

Schaumburg (Ill.) High School point guard Cully Payne officially committed to the Iowa men’s basketball program tonight.

“I’m excited and I’m ready to help turn the program around,” Payne said. “Coach (Todd) Lickliter has got the program headed in the right direction.”

Payne, a 6-foot point guard, originally committed to DePaul as an eighth-grader, but re-opened the recruiting process before his senior year. He then signed a letter of intent to play for Alabama, but when Coach Mark Gottfried resigned this year, Payne obtained a scholarship release. He immediately was interested in Iowa, and the feeling was mutual.

“They were definitely on my radar,” Payne said. “We were joking tonight with Coach Lickliter that I was supposed to go to the elite camp there, but then the flood came. I guess it just really meant I was supposed to be a Hawkeye. They’ve been my No. 1 since (being released from Alabama).”

Payne toured Iowa City during a campus visit last week, but Iowa officials could not contact him from 12:01 p.m. last Thursday through 12:01 p.m. today. The NCAA imposed a week-long recruiting dead period wrapped around the Final Four.

Payne said he thought Iowa was the right fit, but wanted to his family to meet Lickliter to make sure. Lickliter visited Payne in his home today, and Payne gave Lickliter his verbal commitment.

Since his release from Alabama, Payne was recruited by Iowa’s fan base as well. He said he’s received several e-mails and calls from Iowa’s fan encouraging him to attend the school. His girlfriend’s older sister is an Iowa graduate, and that also pushed him toward the school.

“I’m real excited,” he said. “I haven’t heard one negative thing said about Iowa.”

Payne scored 22 points and averaged five assists last year before injuring his back midway through the season. He said his style of play is similar to that of perennial NBA all-star Steve Nash. He said he can score but “it really depends on the situation.”

“I’m definitely a true point guard, someone who can really run the show and get guys involved in the offense,” he said.

Payne is the fourth recruit in Iowa’s 2009 class. Last fall, Sioux City Heelan center Brennan Cougill and Dubuque Wahlert guard/forward Eric May signed letters of intent to Iowa. Last month, Vincennes Junior College forward Devon Archie committed to the Hawkeyes.

Iowa can offer three more scholarships after four players — guards Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, Jermain Davis and forward David Palmer — left the Iowa men’s basketball program last month. It’s likely Iowa will offer only two, however. Chipola (Fla.) Junior College guard Malcolm Armstead and teammate Torye Pelham plan to visit Iowa on April 17.

Payne and Archie will sign official letters of intent April 15, the first allowable spring date under NCAA rules. Coaches cannot comment about players until they sign letters of intent.


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