Zach McCabe tabs Iowa, touts ‘physical’ play

July 17, 2009
Sioux City Heelan's Zach McCabe dunks the ball in his team's victory over Carroll in a Class 3A semifinal game at the Iowa boys high school basketball tournament,  Thursday, March 12, 2009, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Steve Pope)

Sioux City Heelan's Zach McCabe dunks the ball in his team's victory over Carroll in a Class 3A semifinal game at the Iowa boys high school basketball tournament, Thursday, March 12, 2009, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Steve Pope)

Sioux City Heelan senior Zach McCabe sifted through numerous basketball scholarship offers but only one tugged at his heart.

McCabe, a 6-foot-6 forward, picked Iowa over Arizona State, Virginia, Utah, Minnesota and Northwestern among others. McCabe said his choice came down to one simple, yet special factor.

“I’ve been a Hawkeye fan ever since I was a little kid,” McCabe said Friday. “Playing there has always been a dream of mine. For me I wanted to stay close to home and instate and help Iowa be winners.”

McCabe is the fourth and final high school commitment for the 2010 class. He joins guards Roy Marble Jr. of Detroit and Ben Brust of Mundelein, Ill., and forward Cody Larson of South Falls (S.D.) Roosevelt as future Iowa players.

McCabe averaged 16.1 points and nine rebounds a game for the Class 3A state champion Crusaders. He led the team in assists with 144 and sank 50.3 percent of his shots. He was a teammate of incoming Iowa freshman Brennan Cougill.

“They’re going to get somebody who’s both blue collar and white collar,” Heelan Coach Tom Betz said. “He’s not afraid to do the dirty work. He’s a competitor.

“He’s as competitive of a kid we’ve ever had and a very skilled kid. He shoots the ball extremely well and plays both ends of the court.”

McCabe also plays quarterback for Heelan’s football team and garnered a few football scholarship offers. He said his passion lies with basketball, which made his college sport an easy choice. But his on-court basketball mentality mirrors his football mindset.

“I’m a very tough player, pretty physical,” McCabe said. “For me, I can score and rebound. I pretty much do anything the coaches ask me to do.”

Iowa coaches offered McCabe a scholarship earlier this year, but McCabe wanted to take his time to validate his choice. He played in a summer AAU tournament in Milwaukee last week and talked with his family about the new offers he had received.

“I told them I love Iowa a lot, and that’s where I wanted to go,” he said. “They (family members) would have been happy with anywhere I would have went. But they’re Hawkeye fans.”


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:


Roy Marble Sr. ‘blown away’ by son’s decision

July 2, 2009
Roy Marble Jr. loosens up before a Southfield Lathrup (Mich.) High School basketball practice. (Detroit Free Press)

Roy Marble Jr. loosens up before a Southfield Lathrup (Mich.) High School basketball practice. (Detroit Free Press)

Roy Marble Sr. got the call Wednesday night, the one he didn’t expect but the one he always wanted.

His son, Roy Marble Jr., phoned to tell him his college choice. Roy Marble Jr., a senior at Southfield Lathrup (Mich.) High School, will follow his father at the University of Iowa.

“Man, words don’t even describe it,” Marble Sr. said Thursday. “We’re already close as it is. We probably talk more than we should sometimes. But to actually have him in front of me where I could actually pass on my knowledge in every area of growing up in college life and everything, God blessed me with a great kid.

“It’s like Christmas 10 times over.”

Roy Marble Sr. scored 2,116 points his career at Iowa from 1986-89. He’s the only player in Iowa history to score more than 1,800 points. He lives in Cedar Rapids and works as an analyst for the Big Ten Network and a consultant for Kirkwood Community College.

Roy Marble Jr. said he visits his father about three times a year. Marble Jr. said he and his father discussed his college choices but the younger Marble was able to make his own choice.

“He had his thoughts on it and stuff and helped with me the decision,” Roy Marble Jr. said. “I didn’t feel any pressure, though.”

Marble Sr. said he questioned his son about coming to Iowa during the recruiting process, primarily because of his own legacy. But his son stood up to him. Marble Sr. relented.

I laughed and said, ‘OK, you’re just like me. You’re going to take on the biggest challenge,’” Marble Sr. said.

Former Iowa basketball player Roy Marble drives to the basket in a 1986 game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Marble is Iowa's all-time leading scorer. His son, Roy Marble Jr., committed to Iowa on Thursday. (The Gazette)

Former Iowa basketball player Roy Marble drives to the basket in a 1986 game at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Marble is Iowa's all-time leading scorer. His son, Roy Marble Jr., committed to Iowa on Thursday. (The Gazette)

But it wasn’t preordained that Marble Jr. would follow his father to Iowa. He attended an elite camp at the University of Michigan earlier this month. He visited Providence, liked Michigan, and had offers from Detroit and Dayton. But Marble Jr. was blown away by Iowa’s coaching staff. He’s Iowa’s third 2010 basketball commitment.

“I committed early because kids are starting to commit early,” he said. “Because I had some idea I wanted to be a Hawk, I didn’t want them to take my scholarship and give it to somebody else.

“I felt real comfortable when I came down here for a visit. I liked the environment.”

Marble Jr., a 6-foot-5 guard/forward, averaged 22 points, nine rebounds and 4.5 assists as a junior. He scored 28 points in a regional loss to a team featuring two Michigan State recruits. He’s confident in his abilities and what he can do for Iowa.

“I shoot the ball real well,” he said. “I attack the basket real well. I’m both a scorer and a slasher.”

Two weeks ago, both Marbles attended a Prime Time League game in North Liberty and received applause from the gym full of fans.

“They gave me a warm welcome and let me know how they feel about the situation,” Marble Jr. said. “It was cool.”

For Marble Sr., it’s nearly perfect. After losing his downtown businesses in the 2008 floods, he now has something exciting in his life.

“This is like my cash back in sort of thing,” he said. “This is bringing me some happiness in my life, rather than sitting around being sad. It takes my mind off of that. Now I can concentrate on being the best dad I can and get ready for some good old-fashioned Hawkeye basketball.”


Lickliter names Chris Street Award winner

June 29, 2009

From the University of Iowa:

Incoming junior forward Jarryd Cole was named recipient of the Chris Street Award for the 2008-09 basketball season. 

The Chris Street Award is presented annually to a Hawkeye player, or players, who best exemplify the spirit, enthusiasm and intensity of Chris Street.

“Jarryd was presented this award in the presence of his teammates and coaches before we left for our summer trip,” said Coach Todd Lickliter.  “Jarryd is appreciative of the honor and understands the significance of receiving this very special award.”

Cole (6-7, 250) started nine times and played in all 32 games last year after returning from a season-ending knee injury his rookie campaign.  He led the Black and Gold in rebounding in eight games, while averaging 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds.  Cole shot a team-best .676 (46-68) from the field.

The native of Kansas City, Mo., saw his numbers improve during Big Ten action, averaging 5.3 points and 4.1 rebounds, starting eight of the 18 league contests.  Cole, who was a team co-captain, registered his first career double-double in Iowa’s double overtime triumph over Penn State, totaling 14 points and a personal-best 11 rebounds.

Cole was a leader on-and-off the court, serving as a team co-captain last season.  He will again be a co-captain this upcoming year.


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.”


Todd Lickliter’s house is for sale in Iowa City, but he’s not moving out of the area

May 29, 2009
1100 N. Dubuque St.

1100 N. Dubuque St.

Iowa men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter’s home is for sale. The home, which is located at 1100 N. Dubuque St., is listed for $1.2 million. Here’s the listing through Lepic-Kroeger Realtors:

However, it appears Lickliter isn’t going to leave the Iowa City area, said Tom Lepic, co-owner of the real estate company.

“They are looking to purchase a different home, and they’ve already found that home,” Lepic said. “They’re just looking to sell theirs now.

“They’re not going anywhere. They’re just moving from one home to another.”

Lickliter and his family are in Greece, along with the Iowa men’s basketball team, following their three-game exhibition tour.


Cole, Fuller pace Iowa men in final exhibition

May 29, 2009

Iowa’s final opponent canceled so the Hawkeyes played only three games in Europe, finished 2-1. Here’s the game story from today’s game in Greece, courtesy of Iowa associate sports information director Steve Roe:

ATHENS, GREECE — The University of Iowa pulled away in the fourth quarter to take an 85-72 win over the Dukas Club team in its third exhibition game.  The Hawkeyes end the tour with a 2-1 record.  A fourth game scheduled for Sunday had to be cancelled due to the club team opponent ending their season and not being available.

 Against Dukas, Iowa used a 26-14 scoring advantage in the fourth period to pull away.  Aaron Fuller connected on back-to-back three-point baskets to key Iowa’s scoring spurt to close the game.  His first trey gave Iowa a 62-61 advantage.  Cole followed Fuller’s spurt with a jumper and Devan Bawinkel added a three-pointer to give the Hawkeyes some breathing room.

 Dukas featured a seven-foot center that dominated play early, as the host team built a six point advantage at the end of the first period.  Iowa held a 25-16 advantage in the second period and held a 42-39 halftime after advantage after Devan Bawinkel hit a three-point shot just before the end of the period.

 The third period was even before Iowa pulled away over the final 10 minutes.  Iowa was able to secure the win, despite a 31-13 disadvantage in free throw attempts.  Iowa shot 53.2% from the field and 31.3% from three-point range.  Iowa made 9-13 free throw attempts, compared to 17-31 for Dukas.

 Led by Cole and Fuller, Iowa dominated the rebounding by a 40-25 margin.  Fuller had 14 rebounds and Cole collected 11.  Cole led Iowa’s scoring with 27 points, hitting 12-of-16 field goal attempts.  Fuller added 19 points, hitting 7-9 field goals.  Anthony Tucker scored 16 and Matt Gatens led the team with seven assists.

 “I was pleased with the way we battled today,” said Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter.  “This was the best team we played, and I think we played our best basketball.  We had good balance inside and outside, with Jarryd and Aaron really being aggressive with their inside play.  We shot the ball better today, and that’s tough when you have been on the road and haven’t practiced.”

 With the cancellation of Sunday’s game, the Hawkeyes end the tour with a 2-1 record.  “I think we improved and grew in a number of ways,” added Lickliter about the three games.  The entire trip has been outstanding, but we have also really seen some growth from these seven guys and their play since the end of the season.”

 The contest vs. the Dukas Club team was played in front of a crowd of young students who cheered the home team during the game, yet gathered around the Hawkeye players for autographs and handshakes when the game was completed.


Lickliter likes how new captains lead Hawkeyes

May 26, 2009
Iowa's Devan Bawinkel (15) pulls up for a three-point shot over Ohio State's Walter Offutt (3) and Jon Diebler (33) during the second half of their college basketball game Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Bawinkel went 8 for 13 from behind the three-point line. Iowa lost 60-58.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa's Devan Bawinkel (15) pulls up for a three-point shot over Ohio State's Walter Offutt (3) and Jon Diebler (33) during the second half of their college basketball game Tuesday, March 3, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Bawinkel went 8 for 13 from behind the three-point line. Iowa lost 60-58. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Iowa men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter isn’t averse to providing surprises when it comes to naming captains.

Last year he tabbed then-sophomore Jarryd Cole as a co-captain along with senior Cyrus Tate. It didn’t matter to Lickliter that Cole was coming off season-ending surgery for a torn ACL in his left knee. It mattered even less than Tate and Cole shared the same position.

This year, Lickliter tabbed Cole and incoming senior Devan Bawinkel as his captains. Cole, a junior this fall, was a given considering his previous status. The move to install Bawinkel as a co-captain shocked the player as much as anyone.

“Extremely surprised,” Bawinkel said. “He called me into his offense and I didn’t know what to expect, and he said, ‘We’re thinking about naming you co-captain. So I was in shock a little bit, but I was excited. I was just fortunate to be named that.”

Bawinkel, a 6-foot-5 guard, is the team’s only incoming senior but is entering only his second season with the program. He played one season at West Virginia before transferring to a Highland (Ill.) Junior College. He played in all 32 games last year (starting nine), but he was strictly one-dimensional on offense. He attempted 144 shots, but 139 were 3-point attempts. 

Bawinkel’s persona also drew wrinkles from many Iowa basketball observers about the choice. Bawinkel often keeps to himself and brings a low-key approach.

“The vocal part is not really my style,” he said. “I’m more of a quiet guy … just people should do just what is expected of them. I really don’t actually feel like I should tell them. At the same time I know they look for me to be more vocal.”

Lickliter wants Bawinkel to become more assertive on the floor as well as off the court. That includes shooting the ball almost at will.

“I don’t want him to hesitate,” Lickliter said. “I wanted him in position to shoot it, and we need for our other guys to be able to make some plays and get inside the defense. That’s what we worked on a lot, because he should spread the floor for us. And if they collapse, then he should be ready.

“I thought last year his shot preparation needed to be better because either he didn’t shoot it or he was a little bit late and contested. If he’s ready to shoot the ball, and we can deliver it with some precision, he’s a very capable shooter.”

Cole struggled to regain his explosiveness on the court following knee surgery. He started nine games last year and said he’s in good health.

Cole, a 6-7-center, also is a quiet leader who prefers to lead by example.

“I’ve said this time and time again, but I’m not really an authoritative-type figure,” Cole said. “I don’t mind talking by any means. If people need to hear something I’ll make sure that they do hear it. I’m not going to go out of my way to tell somebody that they’re doing something wrong. I’m always going to congratulate them.”

As the team prepares for its second of four exhibitions games in Europe, Lickliter raves about how his upcoming captains are leading the seven-member team.

“Jarryd is doing terrific,” Lickliter said. “I wish I were that healthy. He’s got great strength, and he’s a terrific leader. He and Devan are leading. I really appreciate the way they’ve embraced being captains.”


Catching up with future Hawkeye Brennan Cougill

May 22, 2009

DES MOINES — Iowa basketball recruit Brennan Cougill will compete in the shot put at today’s Class 3A state track meet. Then it’s all basketball, all the time.

The 6-foot-9 post from Sioux City Heelan is working on getting stronger and his outside shooting skills just weeks from moving to the Iowa City area. Cougill, Iowa’s Mr. Basketball this year, will compete in the Prime Time League in North Liberty this summer.

“It’s pretty exciting to be coming in,” Cougill said. “I’ve got to come in, and I’ve just got to work hard and put my work ethic out there and just give it 100 percent all the time.”

Cougill, who weighs around 260 pounds, said he’s uncertain if he’ll attend summer classes — ” it kind of depends on what the administration wants us to do.”

Cougill said he was concerned after four players transferred from the Iowa men’s basketball team in the offseason and stayed in contact with Iowa assistant coach Chad Walthall.

“Walthall is usually the guy that usually calls me and talks to me,” Cougill said. “Last time I talked to Lick was official visit, maybe.

“I didn’t call that much, but they were willing to talk if we wanted to talk. My mom pretty much got all that information. I was texting Matt (Gatens) and asked what was going on, and he said things were a little hectic but everything was starting to calm down.”

Cougill scored 28 points in the Class 3A state title game, a 77-42 win against Norwalk. He averaged 18.2 points and 13.3 rebounds his senior year and was the 11th player in state history to score 1,500 points and pull down 1,000 rebounds in a career.

The Iowa basketball team, sans newcomers like Cougill, are headed to Italy on Saturday for a four-game exhibition tour.


Tucker seeks redemption on basketball court

May 19, 2009
Iowa's Anthony Tucker sits on the team's bench during their Big Ten Conference basketball game against Wisconsin Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Tucker missed the second semester of the 2008-09 season due to academically ineligiblity. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Iowa's Anthony Tucker sits on the team's bench during their Big Ten Conference basketball game against Wisconsin Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2009 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena in Iowa City. Tucker missed the second semester of the 2008-09 season due to academic ineligibility. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY – To achieve redemption, one must go through a difficult experience and come back stronger. Anthony Tucker understands that concept.

In a 30-day period he fell ill with mononucleosis, was arrested for public intoxication and lost his eligibility. He takes responsibility for his errors and looks forward to redemption.

“I knew what I did to get myself into this situation and stuff,” he said. “I didn’t need motivation or a success story because it’s going to be my own success story.”

Tucker’s success story begins this weekend. He passed all of his classes and likely will regain his eligibility Wednesday. He’ll travel with Iowa’s seven-player squad to Italy and Greece on a four-game exhibition tour that begins Sunday. It’ll be his first game action as a Hawkeye since mid-January, and it feels way too long for him.

Tucker led Iowa in scoring through the first month of the season. He scored 24 points against West Virginia, tied for the team’s highest-scoring output this season. But he became sick shortly after and played sluggishly in Iowa’s next two games.

Then, on Dec. 7 he was found unconscious in a downtown Iowa City alley after a night of excessive drinking. He was suspended for 12 days and pleaded guilty to public intoxication.

Those incidents were concurrent with academic problems. He passed all of his classes, but a low grade-point-average silenced his eligibility.

“There was one class that I wasn’t sure about,” he said. “I was kind of worried about it, and then I ended up doing fine in that class, but another class came up at the end. I wasn’t worried about not playing; it was more of getting a grade up. I didn’t think it was actually going to happen. I always thought, ‘Wait until the last second and you’ll be fine.’ But I had a feeling halfway (through the semester). It was a change of events, but the same result.

“I put myself in a lot of tough situations which you never want to do. But it happens. And I tried my best to get through, it but unfortunately it was a little bit too much all at once and my play kind of showed that.”

Tucker said he and Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter spoke often about his eligibility status in the interim period between semesters, calling it “an understanding.” Tucker entered games late against Minnesota and Michigan, hoping to either provide a spark offensively or save other players’ strengths.

“Obviously he’s not going to take time away from the guys he’s sure he’s going to have throughout the season,” Tucker said.

Tucker became ineligible in January and sat out the second semester. He practiced every day with Iowa, donning a different colored jersey than the starters. He hit the weight room four days a week and gained 15 pounds of muscle. He’s quicker with his feet and still has his venomous outside shot.

Lickliter praised Tucker for turning a tough situation into a positive. Lickliter said Tucker has “done a terrific job” in the classroom.

“You get bitter or better, and he chose to get better,” Lickliter said. “He did individual instruction. He went into the weight room four times a week. He worked hard in the classroom. I’m really proud of Anthony Tucker.

“Let’s not forget how well he was playing before semester break.”

Tucker averaged 20 points a game through Iowa’s first five games. He started eight of 14 games and ended up with a 10.4 scoring average, still among Iowa’s best. He’ll move from off-guard to point this season, especially after three point guards left the team following the season.

Tucker said he now knows not to take anything for granted. He’s matured through the process. There are success stories like Iowa football players Amari Spievey and Shonn Greene who overcame academic ineligibility to achieve on-field success. But asking them about their redemption isn’t Tucker’s style.  

“I knew I was going to get through it; it was a matter of buckling down and doing it,” he said. “I didn’t really go to anybody for advice of asking them what it was like because it didn’t matter to me. I was going to do it regardless.”

Through the grades, the arrest and the sickness, Tucker achieved his own form of redemption just by stepping on the basketball court. But that’s not how he defines success. That’s another story for another day.


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