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.

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.”

Iowa hoops walk-on has strong stats, character

May 5, 2009

Iowa basketball walk-on Nick Neari features many of the traits Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter wants in his players.

According to most accounts, he’s hard-working, selfless and talented. He played varsity basketball for three years at St. Charles North and was a former starting quarterback for his high school football team before shifting to wide receiver.

Neari, who stands 6-foot-3, averaged more than 14 points, four rebounds and four assists a game in one of Illinois’ best conferences. He scored 30 points in a Class 4A regional. For more on Neari, I’d suggest reading this piece by Erik Jacobsen, a former colleague of mine who now works in suburban Chicago. 

Neari was named player of the year by the Press-Republican (a suburban Chicago newspaper) this year. Here’s a clip on that publication’s Web site:

Neari competed against Iowa recruit Cully Payne in neighborhood basketball games as a youth. They lived in the same neighborhood and have been friends since sixth grade. Neari credits his friendship with Payne as a reason to walk on at Iowa. Neari had other chances to play at Division II and Division III schools.

Here’s a scouting clip of Neari playing football at St. Charles North:

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

April 22, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Archie finally a Hawk

April 22, 2009

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

Here’s the release from Iowa:

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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Snag keeps Archie from Hawks’ perch

April 19, 2009

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

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

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

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

Lickliter talks about 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.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.