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.