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.


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.


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.


Barta concerned about players leaving

March 27, 2009

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta showed unwavering support for men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter, moments after the coach acknowledged that four players are leaving his program.
   Lickliter, who is 28-36 in his two seasons at Iowa, has had nine players leave his program since taking over in April 2007. Barta, who hired Lickliter, said he was concerned with the losses but stands behind Lickliter.
   “Absolutely,” Barta said when asked if he still supports Lickliter as coach. “Obviously, the last couple of days as Todd mentioned, in having to make adjustments in our strategy here going forward … I’ve never questioned his approach, his strategy, the foundation he’s building. I continue to fully support him.”
   Sophomores Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson – who combined for 49 starts – and juniors David Palmer and Jermain Davis will transfer following the semester. Kelly and Peterson were the team’s first- and third-leading scorers, respectively. Davis, who started 11 games, will transfer to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Palmer graduates in May and plays to play one season of Division II basketball.
   “Everybody who cares about the Hawkeyes the last couple of days have had has angst and concern,” Barta said. “I have, our coach, and everybody who cares the program- our fans have – but clearly this an adjustment, and we’re going to adjust.
   “Sure, it concerns me, like it concerns Todd, like it concerns Hawkeyes fans, but after you talk through the situation, the concern is still there, but also we have a plan. Todd’s leading that plan, and I’m confident he’s on the right track.”


Kelly announces departure on Facebook; Iowa not yet confirming release

March 26, 2009
Iowa's Jake Kelly, right, high fives the crowd after a Iowa defeated Penn State 75-67, in double overtime in a NCAA college men's basketball game Saturday, March 7, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Kelly led Iowa with 22 points. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

Iowa's Jake Kelly, right, high fives the crowd after a Iowa defeated Penn State 75-67, in double overtime in a NCAA college men's basketball game Saturday, March 7, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Kelly led Iowa with 22 points. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

IOWA CITY – Sophomore point guard Jake Kelly officially is leaving Iowa, his father, Bob, told The Gazette last night.

Bob Kelly said his son has asked for his release to play college basketball at a school near his family in Terre Haute, Ind. Bob Kelly said Jake prefers to play at Indiana State, a school the family used to buy season tickets to in the past.

“I don’t know if he’s gotten it (his release) yet,” Bob Kelly said. “I don’t know how that works. He’s expecting to get it.”

Kelly announced his intentions to transfer on his Iowa Facebook account at 7:11 p.m., writing, “it really means a lot to me that all the Hawkeye fans are being understanding. I won’t forget how passionate the fans are here and I will always be proud to have worn the Iowa uniform.”

His status update was met mostly with comforting notes from friends and fans.

Kelly, led Iowa in scoring last season with 11.6 points a game. He averaged 20 points a game for Iowa’s last seven regular-season games. Twice he was named Big Ten Player of the Week and was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection.

 

Iowa associate sports information director Steve Roe neither confirmed nor denied information about Kelly’s release.

“I’m not aware of that,” Roe said, “and Todd (Lickliter, Iowa’s coach) has not addressed it. I have not been told about it.”

Kelly is the second Iowa men’s basketball player leaving the program in as many days. Wednesday, guard Jermain Davis announced he was transferring to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Two other players – sophomore guard Jeff Peterson and junior forward David Palmer – are rumored to consider leaving the program.

Bob Kelly said his son wants to play at Indiana State but has not spoken with anyone connected to the team about a possible roster spot. Bob Kelly added that Jake plans to apply for a hardship through the NCAA to play right away. NCAA rules force transfers between Division I institutions to sit out one season except in special circumstances. There is a precedent of that with players leaving Iowa.

Former Iowa player Tyler Smith transferred from Iowa less than two weeks after Lickliter took over as coach in 2007. Smith left for Tennessee to be closer to his father, who was dying of cancer. The NCAA granted Smith immediate eligibility.

Bob Kelly said Jake has had a difficult time emotionally since his mother died in a plane crash last summer. Bob Kelly said Jake loved Iowa and Iowa City, liked Lickliter and his teammates. But Jake struggled juggling school and basketball as well as his emotions.

“The true reason is he wants to be closer to his family after the tragedy,” Bob Kelly said. “It’s been a very tough year for him. He persevered. He’s a tough kid, but he’s not that tough. He needs his family right now.”

Jake Kelly told reporters March 9 he planned to continue his career at Iowa beyond the upcoming season. Bob Kelly said Jake wasn’t lying at the time and hadn’t made his final decision until last week.

“Well, to be honest, he didn’t make decision until he was home for spring break. It’s been on his mind all year, let that be known. In the past, he’s gone back and forth because the success he had at the end of the year made him think that he needs to stay.”

Bob Kelly said Jake struggled with the losses and took them all personally. But Bob Kelly reiterated that neither the losses nor Coach Lickliter had any part in Jake leaving Iowa.

It’s undetermined if Indiana State will sign Kelly once he leaves Iowa.

“He does want to continue to play college basketball and he does have the idea that he might go to Indiana State. But he doesn’t know if they have a spot for him. When he gets his release, he’s going to contact their coach with the intent to see if a spot is available.

“If not, he may decide to sit out a year and try to get mind together. He definitely wants to make a career out of basketball.”


Does Iowa player situation change Carver renovation plans?

March 26, 2009

  

Renovations to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and a new basketball practice facility will start in this area of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mark Jennings, Iowa's associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said plans are still to break ground for the renovation this fall. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Renovations to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and a new basketball practice facility will start in this area of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mark Jennings, Iowa's associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said plans are still to break ground for the renovation this fall. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Turmoil involving the Iowa men’s basketball program has failed to dampen enthusiasm for a new basketball practice facility and Carver-Hawkeye Arena renovation.

Mark Jennings, Iowa’s associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said the department has received between $8 million and $9 million in pledges for the $47 million project.

“As news comes out of the one of the sports offices, it really doesn’t affect this project because no matter if a player stays or if a player leaves, we’ve got to have the project,” Jennings said. “We’ve got to have the facility. That doesn’t slow us up any. We just keep going forward and stay positive about the project.

“Most of the people we’re seeing have been Hawkeye fans for a long time, and they’re going to be Hawkeye fans for a lot longer – no matter what players are here or gone. Thank God they feel that way.”

Four Iowa men’s basketball players have left the team within the last couple of days. Junior guard Jermain Davis said Wednesday he had obtained his scholarship release to play for Minnesota State-Mankato, a Division II school. Sophomore Jake Kelly likely is headed to an Indiana college, while sophomore Jeff Peterson and junior David Palmer also are leaving.  

Both Jennings and Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said the school still plans to break ground on the new facility this fall. That counters recent rumors that Iowa will wait another year before starting on the new facility.

“No, absolutely not,” Jennings said when asked if the project is delayed. “Now, things can change. If by June the economy … who knows what the future is going to bring. But, no, right now we’re right on schedule. The plan is this fall we’re going to breaking ground.

“I wonder who starts rumors when nobody in here does?”

The basketball facility and arena renovation includes a multi-court gym for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams and a renovation to the wrestling complex. Each of those sports will receive new locker rooms, new offices for coaches and an 8,000-square foot strength and conditioning center.

The arena renovation plan includes 650 premium seats for men’s basketball. A courtside seat for men’s basketball is valued at $125,000 in giving over five years. A second-row seat will cost $60,000 over five years. There will be 50 seats in each row.

The arena also includes 550 premium club seats costing $12,500 per seat over five years. Two hospitality rooms also are included in the renovation.
The athletics departments has a goal of raising $20 million privately, and Jennings said that’s likely to happen.

The funding method is a bit different than the one presented to Iowa’s Board of Regents last summer. Barta said a bonding company provided the figures for that meeting, while the athletics department refined tailored the giving plan to donors after receiving approval.

Barta said the department received a pair of substantial gifts for the project on Thursday.

“The reception has been tremendous,” Jennings said. “I think the easy part of it is telling the story; we all know we need the facility. It’s fun to tell them about a little more about why we need the facility.”

The school also has naming opportunities for major donors. The Howard family of Iowa Falls donated $3.5 million toward the renovation and secured naming rights for their pavilion. The school has set naming rights for the basketball court at $5 million.

“I do want to emphasize the name Carver-Hawkeye Arena will not change,” Jennings said. “That will always be there.”

Jennings said in the last two days he’s had six meetings with different people about the project “and all six were nothing but positive.” Jennings and other department officials will have low-key discussions with potential donors during the I-Club’s spring banquet circuit. Lickliter is slated to speak at 11 banquets this spring as a member of the gold team.

“It’s a very important part of (increasing donations),” Jennings said of Lickliter meeting with patrons on I-Club trips.

“We know we’ve got to get this done. And we’re going to get it done.”


Iowa losing four players and a recruit?

March 25, 2009
Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter sends Jake Kelly (32) into the game during the first half at Drake's Knapp Center in Des Moines on Dec. 20, 2008. Iowa lost 60-43.

Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter sends Jake Kelly (32) into the game during the first half at Drake's Knapp Center in Des Moines on Dec. 20, 2008. Iowa lost 60-43. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

   IOWA CITY – At least four members of Iowa’s men’s basketball program – all of whom started at least five games last year – are either transferring to another school or rumored to consider leaving Iowa.
   Guard Jermain Davis confirmed Wednesday he will transfer to Minnesota State-Mankato, a Division II school following the spring semester. Guard Jake Kelly, who twice was named the Big Ten’s player of the week, appears likely to leave for a school closer to his home in Indiana.
   People close to Jeff Peterson said the sophomore point guard is considering leaving for Missouri State, a school in his hometown of Springfield, Mo. Junior David Palmer, who graduates in May, also might leave the team.
   In addition, Marshalltown junior Chanse Creekmur, a 2010 recruit who committed to Iowa last August, decommitted from Iowa on Tuesday.
Kelly carries the highest profile. In Iowa’s final seven regular-season games, he averaged 20 points a game. Twice he was named the Big Ten Player of the Week in final three weeks of the regular season. He finished the season as the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer at 11.6 points a game.
   Kelly’s father, Bob, said Wednesday he didn’t want to comment about his son leaving the team – yet.
   “Well, I really haven’t been informed about any official announcement so I’d hate to comment,” Bob Kelly said. “I’d be glad once anything comes out about him leaving or what he’s doing. I just wouldn’t feel right stepping in front of Jake on that.”
   Attempts by The Gazette to reach Jake Kelly were unsuccessful. Kelly told HawkeyeNation.com he could neither confirm nor deny that he was transferring to another school.
   “I really can’t say right now,” Kelly told the Web site. “I’d really rather not talk about it right now.”
   Feb. 23, Kelly was named Big Ten Player of the Week after scoring 23 points, dishing nine assists and grabbing eight rebounds, all while playing 45 minutes in an overtime win against Michigan. He followed that with a pair of 20-point performances in losses at Michigan State and Northwestern. In the regular-season finale against Penn State, Kelly played 47 of 50 minutes in a double-overtime upset win against Penn State. He scored 22 points, dished 11 assists and grabbed four rebounds – all with a 101-degree temperature and a sinus infection.
   Kelly’s likely transfer contradicts what he told reporters March 9.
“Of course I considered that when my mom died, yeah,” Kelly said. “That’s probably where they get that from but this is where … I’m here, where I’m going to be.”
   Kelly’s mother, Julia, died in a plane crash last summer, and Kelly thought about leaving at that time. If Kelly transfers to a Division I school Indiana, he must sit out one year of competition.
   Davis, who now will play for his fourth college in four years, started 11 games and averaged 4.6 points this year for Iowa. He notified Coach Todd Lickliter on Monday about his decision.
   “I think it just wasn’t a fit really,” Davis said. “I didn’t really know my role. I didn’t understand it. Ultimately, what kind of made me make the decision was that I wasn’t happy.”
   Davis said he got along with Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter and didn’t have a problem with the coach personally. Lickliter met with players throughout Wednesday afternoon but was unavailable for comment.
Davis did say he didn’t like the team’s style of play and how he was used on the court. Davis will be able to play right away.
   “I felt like I did have a way short leash compared to other people,” he said. “I kind of felt like … I just didn’t have the chance to really showcase my game – except for one game.”
   Peterson started the season’s first 25 games before pulling his right hamstring and missing the final seven. He suffered a broken left wrist against Ohio State in the Big Ten opener. The wrist injury required surgery.
   Peterson averaged 10.6 points a game and led the team in assists. One person close to Peterson said “most likely” Peterson would go to Missouri State. If Peterson goes to Missouri State, he would have sit out one season.
   The defections are mounting for Lickliter, who will lose his three top leading scorers in three consecutive seasons should Kelly leave the school. Last year’s leading scorer, Tony Freeman, left for Southern Illinois. Within weeks of Lickliter’s arrival in 2007, Tyler Smith transferred to Tennessee. Freeman, an all-Big Ten third-team selection, averaged 13.8 points a game. Smith averaged 14.9 points and was named third-team All-Big Ten and to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
   Other players not returning in Lickliter’s tenure include Dan Bohall, who started seven games last year, didn’t return this year. Brett Wessels and Josh Crawford didn’t return following the 2007 season.


Iowa basketball’s Best/Worst moments: No.2

March 20, 2009

Iowa’s men’s basketball team finished 15-17 and 5-13 in the Big Ten. In a long season, there are always highlights and not-so memorable moments, particularly in a season that featured a little of both.

Over this week, I’ve rank the top and worst moments of the season — two every day. Today’s edition includes the N0. 2 best and worst moments of the 2008-09 men’s basketball season.

Coming Saturday: The best/worst moments of the season

No. 2 Best: Iowa beats Penn State in 2 OTs

Iowa's Jake Kelly, left, blocks a shot by Penn State's Talor Battle, right, during the second overtime March 7. Iowa won 75-67, in double overtime. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

Iowa's Jake Kelly, left, blocks a shot by Penn State's Talor Battle, right, during the second overtime March 7. Iowa won 75-67, in double overtime. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

Iowa had nothing to gain; Penn State, later spurned by the NCAA Tournament Committee, had everything on the line. That didn’t stop Iowa from earning the Big Ten’s biggest upset this season.

Nothing on the line? Tell that to Iowa sophomore Jake Kelly who woke up Saturday with a 101-degree body temperature and spilled his guts in a trash can 50 feet from the basketball court early in the second half.

Nothing on the line? Ask senior Cyrus Tate, who lugged a swollen right ankle up and down the court for 42 minutes.

Nothing on the line? Hard to tell at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, where Iowa, the Big Ten’s 10th-best team, outfought, out-hustled and gutted out a 75-67 double-overtime win against Penn State in the teams’ Big Ten regular-season finale. If there was nothing on the line, Kelly wouldn’t have played. Tate wouldn’t have bawled his eyes out in the locker room. Matt Gatens and Devan Bawinkel wouldn’t have played 50 minutes.

“I think it was just the desire,” said Tate, who scored 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in his final game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. “I think all of the guys gutted it out, just said ‘OK, we’re going to take this; this is our home.’ I think guys just really had that mindset, that focus.'”

Kelly notched his fourth 20-point effort this season, finishing with 22 points, 11 assists and four rebounds — three of which were offensive. He’s scored at least 19 points in the last six games.

No. 2 Tucker’s woes stop Iowa

Iowa's Anthony Tucker sits on the team's bench against Wisconsin Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa announced on Wednesday that Tucker will miss the second semester of the 2008-09 season due to being ruled academically ineligible. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa's Anthony Tucker sits on the team's bench against Wisconsin Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Iowa announced on Wednesday that Tucker will miss the second semester of the 2008-09 season due to being ruled academically ineligible. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

No Iowa player shined brighter in the season’s first month than freshman Anthony Tucker. But in shocking fashion, all that promise was gone.

Tucker was ruled academically ineligible Jan. 21 and sat out the rest of the season. Tucker experienced a whirlwind first season with the Hawkeyes. He tied for the team’s highest scoring output of the season with 24 points against West Virginia. He hit seven 3-pointers at The Citadel. He averaged 17 points a game through his first six games. He was pure money from outside the arc.

Then it all fell apart. On Dec. 7, Tucker was found unconscious and intoxicated in a downtown Iowa City alley and was taken to University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. He was later charged with public intoxication and was suspended for 11 days.

The alcohol incident ran concurrent with mononucleosis, which fatigued Tucker on the court and in the classroom. His absence likely cost Iowa a game or two, and the Hawkeyes’ perimeter offense missed his outside shooting.

“It’s more frustrating for me knowing that I’ve felt like I’ve let my teammates and coaches down,” Tucker said. “The guys are doing their best. We don’t have a plethora of great shooters, but we do have a lot of guys that are great at a lot of other things and do their best to make plays. It’s just been frustrating knowing that I’ve let some people down.”

On the bright side, Tucker still practiced with the team and said his grades have improved. His health has improved, he’s gained strength and shoots 3-pointers in practice like they’re free throws. For Iowa’s program to succeed next year, Tucker is an integral piece in Coach Todd Lickliter’s puzzle.


Kelly addresses transfer rumors

March 9, 2009

Multiple posts on Internet message boards have Iowa sophomore guard (now star) Jake Kelly transferring to Indiana State after the season. Those posts suggest Kelly wants to return to his native state to be closer to his family, especially in the wake of his mother’s death last summer in a plane crash.

Kelly shot down those rumors Monday.

“Nope,” Kelly said when asked if those rumors are true. “It happened to me a lot in high school, too. I lived in a small town and all of them are big basketball fans and they all get on the Internet and like to act like they know me and stuff.”

Kelly admits he thought about moving back to Indiana to be closer to his father, Bob.

“Of course I considered that when my mom died, yeah,” Kelly said. “That’s probably where they get that from but this is where … I’m here, where I’m going to be.”


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