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.


Iowa men’s schedule nears release, ticket prices likely to go down

May 13, 2009

Iowa men’s basketball is likely to give their athletics department a financial reprieve this fall on travel.

Iowa makes three trips in non-conference play: Iowa State, Northern Iowa and the CBE Classic (against two of Texas, Pittsburgh or Wichita State) in Kansas City. All three are bus trips rather than flights for the Hawkeyes. Last year, Iowa traveled to Charleston, S.C., Las Vegas and Boston for non-conference games.

Iowa’s non-conference schedule, which also includes home games against Drake and Virginia Tech. One contract is out right now, which is why the school hasn’t released the schedule yet.

It also appears Iowa will miss out on the flight to Penn State this year. The Big Ten schedule is not finalized, but that trip wasn’t included on the league’s rough draft schedule. That will be released later this summer or early fall.

It also appears Iowa will lower overall men’s basketball ticket prices this year. Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said Tuesday that no decision has been made.

“Taking into account the economy, taking into account we’re rebuilding our program and getting back to where we want to be, we’re taking a look at lowering some of the ticket prices,” he said.

Iowa averaged 100 more fans this year (10,861) than last year, but it’s way off from the early part of the decade when Iowa averaged a sell-out. After a an all-time worst start, Iowa dropped ticket prices for its final five home games to $10 each. That gave the department a major lift in bodies, although not necessarily the bottom line.

“This past year, it (attendance) actually took a small dip up,” Barta said. “So that’s a good sign.”


Lickliter: Team is ‘starting to turn the corner’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mystery recruit is point guard?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Changes coming to Prime Time League

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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