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.


PTL observations, June 22 edition

June 22, 2009

I covered tonight’s Prime Time League matchup pitting UNI center Jordan Eglseder’s team against incoming Iowa freshman Brennan Cougill and his squad.

It was pretty much a mismatch despite what the statistics say. Eglseder, a 7-foot-1 incoming senior, scored 24 points and grabbed nine rebounds. Cougill scored 24 pounds and had 11 rebounds. But Eglseder sat out much of the second half and dominated Cougill in the first half.

Cougill had only one rebound and no assists in the first half. Eglseder was much more powerful and Cougill didn’t have any answers for him.

“I wasn’t hitting my shots,” Cougill said. “I wasn’t aggressive enough. I wasn’t rebounding. All around, it wasn’t a good game.”

Cougill, who stands 6-foot-9, is obviously talented. He passes the ball well, is a good outside shooter and has a good inside game. But it was clearly man vs. boy when he faced Eglseder. It’ll benefit Cougill in the long term to face Eglseder. This winter he’ll face Eglseder in a real game along with even more talented post players like Iowa State’s Craig Brackins, Michigan’s DeShawn Sims and Pudue’s JaJuan Johnson. Taking lumps now only will help Cougill in the future.

The game belonged to incoming Iowa freshman Eric May, who scored a game-high 26 points on 11 of 13 shooting. He sank a pair of 3-pointers and had one thunderous dunk. He was competitive, physical and athletic.

Iowa incoming sophomore Matt Gatens watched the game with his father, Mike, only a day after Matt Gatens had an appendectomy. Matt Gatens won’t play in the PTL for at least a week. Iowa incoming sophomore John Lickliter suffered a sprained left ankle last week in a PTL game and was in a walking boot. It’s undetermined when he’ll return to PTL action.


Gatens has weekend surgery, out indefinitely

June 22, 2009
Iowa's Matt Gatens wipes his face during the second half of an NCAA college men's basketball game against Northwestern, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009, in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern won 55-49.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Iowa's Matt Gatens wipes his face during the second half of an NCAA college men's basketball game against Northwestern, Saturday, Feb. 28, 2009, in Evanston, Ill. Northwestern won 55-49.(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)

Incoming Iowa sophomore Matt Gatens had his appendix removed Sunday morning, hours after complaining about stomach pains, his father, Mike Gatens said.

“On Saturday night about midnight he started having stomach pains and he tried to sleep it off,” Mike Gatens said. “He came over about 6 o’clock (Sunday) morning, and I kind of figured that’s what happened.

“We went to the hospital, he was in surgery from 11 to 1 and had it taken out.”

Mike Gatens said Matt Gatens will be out at least a week from the Prime Time League. Matt Gatens was the league’s first overall pick by Jill Armstrong/Lepic-Kroeger Realtors.

“He won’t miss that much. He’ll play in a week or so,” Mike Gatens said.

Matt Gatens averaged more than 10 points a game last year for Iowa.


Impressions from PTL, second game with video

June 17, 2009

I watched Anthony Tucker’s Vinton Merchants beat Matt Gatens’ Jill Armstrong squad 102-95 tonight in the Prime Time League. Tucker shot lights out, scoring a game-high 29 points and hitting six three-pointers. Gatens scored 22 points, tying former Upper Iowa player Nick Kramer for the team high.

A few thoughts:

Tucker played mostly at point guard and had four assists. He’s a good passer, not as quick as incoming freshman Cully Payne but makes good decisions. He’s a natural shooting guard and it appears he and Payne will make a decent backcourt this season.

Gatens played the point for his team and did just about everything. He was the most complete player on the court, which hardly surprises anyone. He’s a natural leader and appears to have taken that responsibility on the court. He’ll have to wait a year before he can officially assume that role with Iowa.

Cougill has a finesse game for a big man. He can shoot from the outside and passes the ball better than most big men. Cougill has a tough transition to make, much more so than a guard. Cougill has to compete against big men like former Drake player Aliou Keita and, on Monday, against Northern Iowa’s Jordan Eglseder. He’s got a ways to go in the physical department but has slimmed up and should be a good role player this year.

I caught up with former Iowa City High player Malcolm Moore, who was ruled ineligible right before a Little Hawks’ district tournament game. Moore, who plays for Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurry’s in the Prime Time League, graduated from high school and will attend Tyler (Texas) Junior College, the same school that produced Justin Johnson, Kurt Looby and Nate Garner. He hopes to develop skills as a big man and would like to come back to the state in two years.

I will post a video later from an interview with Cougill.


PTL round two tonight: Tucker vs. Gatens

June 17, 2009

Tonight’s Prime Time League game has a few interesting match-ups. I think tonight I’m going to focus on Team No. 1 (Jill Armstrong) against Team No. 6 (Vinton Merchants). It’s at 6 p.m. in the new gym at the North Liberty Recreation Center.

Team No. 1 features Iowa’s Matt Gatens, the Prime Time League’s top overall pick, and at least four players with past, current or future Northern Iowa ties. Gatens scored a league-high 27 points in the opener, while teammate Matt Schneiderman, formerly of UNI, hit 25.

Team No. 6 boasts current Hawkeye Anthony Tucker, former Iowa player Darryl Moore and future Hawkeye Brennan Cougill. I want to watch Tucker tonight to see if his strength and conditioning have paid off. He was a dynamite outside shooter early in Iowa’s season before his illness, suspension and ultimate banishment for poor grades. I’ll chart a few notes about Cougill, but I’m really interested to see how he competes against UNI’s Jordan Eglseder next Monday.

I’ll throw down a few observations tonight shortly after the game and then write a story for Thursday’s version of The Gazette.


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.”


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.”


Lickliter talks about upcoming trip

April 17, 2009

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter met with about 150 fans in Boone at the Boone-Story County I-Club meeting Wednesday. Along with recruiting and other topics, Lickliter also talked about the team’s upcoming trip to Italy and Greece in late May. Here’s the video:

Iowa will take seven players on the trip, including walk-on freshman John Lickliter. They include upcoming senior Devan Bawinkel, upcoming junior Jarryd Cole, upcoming sophomores Aaron Fuller, Matt Gatens, Andrew Brommer and Anthony Tucker.


Players stand behind Lickliter

March 27, 2009

Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter confirmed Friday that four players with eligibility have asked for — and received — their release from the basketball program.

Those players are sophomores Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson, and juniors David Palmer and Jermain Davis. Those players combined for 65 starts last year.

At least two of the remaining Iowa players stand behind Lickliter — at least publicly — and support him as the team tries to move past the turmoil.

“We’re behind coach, and I’ve enjoyed learning from him,” Iowa freshman Matt Gatens said. “He’s a great teacher of the game. It’s a been a joy playing for him. I’ve learned a lot of new things and tools, a lot of things I never even knew about the game and the system. It’s been a joy, and I think we all feel that way.”

Gatens was the only player to start every game for Iowa. Freshman Anthony Tucker, who joined Gatens and other players in attending Lickliter’s news conference. Tucker was ruled academically ineligible for the second semester and missed Iowa’s last 14 games.

Tucker supports Lickliter and said he’s excited about next year.

“I’ve heard some people said your best player left, your starting point guard left, but I wish them the best,”  Tucker said. “I don’t feel like we’re going to struggle as much as everyone thinks we are. We’re all excited to play next season.”

“We’ve got guys who want to be here, who want to work hard and are proud to be Hawkeyes. So I don’t know if we’re suffering at all.”


Iowa basketball’s best/worst moments: Nos. 8 and 7

March 16, 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 the upcoming week, I’ll rank the top and worst moments of the season — two every day. Here are the N0. 8 and 7 best and worst moments of the 2008-09 men’s basketball season.

No. 8 Best: Emergence of Freshman Matt Gatens

Iowa's Matt Gatens (5) fights for a loose ball with Northwestern's Kevin Coble during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Feb. 7, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Iowa's Matt Gatens (5) fights for a loose ball with Northwestern's Kevin Coble during the first half, Feb. 7, 2009, in Iowa City. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

We all knew Gatens would be a Hawkeye and a key contributor to the basketball team once  he stepped in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. However his accomplishments exceeded most of the expectations for this 6-foot-6 freshman from Iowa City High.

Gatens led the Big Ten in free-throw percentage (90.4 percent) and ranked among the league leaders in 3-point percentage. He led all Big Ten freshmen in minutes played and was second in scoring at 11.1 points (just behind Ohio State’s William Buford). He was named to the Big Ten’s all-freshman team and finished just behind Buford for the Big Ten’s freshman of the year award (I, for one, voted for Gatens).

Gatens also led Iowa in minutes played with 34.1 and 1,056 total minutes, nearly 100 minutes more than Jake Kelly. He finished second on the team in scoring and hit a team-high 52 3-pointers. He also provided backbone and aggressive play, a recipe for future leadership.

Michigan guard David Merritt, bottom, contests for the ball with Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel, top, in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Sunday, Jan. 11, 2009, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan won 64-49. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

Michigan guard David Merritt, bottom, contests for the ball with Iowa guard Devan Bawinkel, top, in the second half , Jan. 11, 2009, in Ann Arbor, Mich. Michigan won 64-49. (AP Photo/Tony Ding)

No. 8 Worst: Michigan manhandles Iowa, Jan. 11

Iowa was beaten in every way by Michigan  with the 64-49 score hardly

showing the Wolverines’ complete domination. Iowa failed to keep Michigan off the offensive glass, identify shooters and got caught repeatedly on defensive switches where a guard was dwarfed in the post. 

 Players duplicated positions in setting screens and couldn’t find the open shooter. Often players looked tentative, passing up open shots. Several times the shot clock dwindled inside of five seconds only to have an Iowa player throw up a weak shot at the end of the possession.

“I just don’t think we’re comfortable out there,” Iowa sophomore guard Jake Kelly said after the game. “We want to use the shot clock and move it around and work it, but then again, I think we need to take open shots.

“In this league you’re not going to get two open opportunities. You get your first one and if you pass that up, you’re probably going to have to go with panic mode.”  

No. 7 Best: Iowa halts Wisconsin in OT

Iowa's Aaron Fuller (24) blocks a shot by Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor (11) during the second half of their Big Ten Conference basketball game Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. The Wisconsin bench was called for a technical foul after the play.(Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa's Aaron Fuller (24) blocks a shot by Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor (11) during the second half, Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan was called for a technical foul after the play. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa showed its guts against Wisconsin, the first of three overtime victories for the Hawkeyes this season. After watching a five-point lead disintegrate in the final 26 seconds of regulation, Iowa’s players rebounded with tenacity in overtime to beat Wisconsin at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and end a three-game losing streak.

Iowa freshman Aaron Fuller completed the game’s most important play and maybe the best individual play of the season with 2:51 left in regulation. Wisconsin’s Jordan Taylor stole a pass and appeared to go for an easy layup. Fuller blocked the ball at the last second and both players were sent flying past the basket. No foul was called, and Wisconsin Coach Bo Ryan ran to mid-court protesting. Ryan was hit with a technical foul, and Peterson drilled four consecutive free throws as a result to give Iowa a 51-49 lead.

“I just tried to hustle back as hard as I can because every possession meant a lot, and those two points could have meant the difference in us winning and us losing,” he said. “I just got back as fast as I could and jumped up and hoped they didn’t call a foul. For a second I thought they were going to call a foul, but they didn’t, and we got the ball back. I felt that was kind of a big play.”

No. 7 Worst: 17-point loss at Wisconsin, Peterson out with hamstring injury

Iowa's Jeff Peterson, left, and Wisconsin's Joe Krabbenhoft go after a loose ball during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Iowa's Jeff Peterson, left, and Wisconsin's Joe Krabbenhoft go after a loose ball during the first half Feb. 11, 2009, in Madison, Wis. (AP Photo/Andy Manis)

Cyrus Tate didn’t play. Matt Gatens was slapped with a technical. Point point guard Jeff Peterson pulled his right hamstring.

Oh, and the Badgers murdered Iowa 69-52 in every possible way.

Peterson had started all 25 games up to this point, but pulled his right hamstring with about 9 minutes, 30 seconds left in the game.

Iowa had 14 turnovers and couldn’t match the Badgers’ size or quickness.

“Any time you lose a basketball game it is frustrating,” Gatens said. “To have a good game against Northwestern on Saturday and come in here and not play our best isn’t what we had planned and doesn’t really feel good.”

COMING WEDNESDAY:  The Nos. 6 and 5 best and worst moments for the Iowa men’s basketball team.


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