Schaumburg (Ill.) High School point guard Cully Payne officially committed to the Iowa men’s basketball program tonight.
“I’m excited and I’m ready to help turn the program around,” Payne said. “Coach (Todd) Lickliter has got the program headed in the right direction.”
Payne, a 6-foot point guard, originally committed to DePaul as an eighth-grader, but re-opened the recruiting process before his senior year. He then signed a letter of intent to play for Alabama, but when Coach Mark Gottfried resigned this year, Payne obtained a scholarship release. He immediately was interested in Iowa, and the feeling was mutual.
“They were definitely on my radar,” Payne said. “We were joking tonight with Coach Lickliter that I was supposed to go to the elite camp there, but then the flood came. I guess it just really meant I was supposed to be a Hawkeye. They’ve been my No. 1 since (being released from Alabama).”
Payne toured Iowa City during a campus visit last week, but Iowa officials could not contact him from 12:01 p.m. last Thursday through 12:01 p.m. today. The NCAA imposed a week-long recruiting dead period wrapped around the Final Four.
Payne said he thought Iowa was the right fit, but wanted to his family to meet Lickliter to make sure. Lickliter visited Payne in his home today, and Payne gave Lickliter his verbal commitment.
Since his release from Alabama, Payne was recruited by Iowa’s fan base as well. He said he’s received several e-mails and calls from Iowa’s fan encouraging him to attend the school. His girlfriend’s older sister is an Iowa graduate, and that also pushed him toward the school.
“I’m real excited,” he said. “I haven’t heard one negative thing said about Iowa.”
Payne scored 22 points and averaged five assists last year before injuring his back midway through the season. He said his style of play is similar to that of perennial NBA all-star Steve Nash. He said he can score but “it really depends on the situation.”
“I’m definitely a true point guard, someone who can really run the show and get guys involved in the offense,” he said.
Payne is the fourth recruit in Iowa’s 2009 class. Last fall, Sioux City Heelan center Brennan Cougill and Dubuque Wahlert guard/forward Eric May signed letters of intent to Iowa. Last month, Vincennes Junior College forward Devon Archie committed to the Hawkeyes.
Iowa can offer three more scholarships after four players — guards Jake Kelly, Jeff Peterson, Jermain Davis and forward David Palmer — left the Iowa men’s basketball program last month. It’s likely Iowa will offer only two, however. Chipola (Fla.) Junior College guard Malcolm Armstead and teammate Torye Pelham plan to visit Iowa on April 17.
Payne and Archie will sign official letters of intent April 15, the first allowable spring date under NCAA rules. Coaches cannot comment about players until they sign letters of intent.