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.


Lickliter talks about scholarships, ‘postponed’ visits

April 15, 2009

BOONE — Iowa men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter anticipates filling at least one of his three available scholarships but not at any cost.

“I’d rather have an open scholarship than to have somebody who’s either unhappy or doesn’t fit,” said Lickliter on Wednesday at the Boone-Story County I-Club event. “So we’ll be patient and continue to recruit hard — if it’s the right one. I’m not opposed to signing all of them, and I’m also not opposed to not making a move. I anticipate we’ll make another move.”

Wednesday, Iowa officially signed Schaumburg (Ill.) prep guard Cully Payne. Iowa still is waiting for the official letter of intent from Vincennes (junior college) forward Devon Archie. Iowa’s scholarship availability comes after four players with eligibility left the program shortly after the season.

Iowa originally had a visit scheduled Friday with Chipola (Fla.) Junior College guard Malcolm Armstead. But Armstead canceled the trip and instead will visit St. John’s in New York City.

Lickliter wouldn’t discuss Armstead or any player not officially signed with Iowa, per NCAA rules.

“All I can really say is they’ve (the visits) been postponed,” Lickliter said. “I can’t comment any more than that, but they’ve been postponed.

“It’s a funny thing. You have to deal with what is, and just deal with the facts and be thankful for what you do have. What I continue to say is the group we have, I’m so excited about and so that’s where my focus is right now.”

Lickliter couldn’t comment on Archie, but he raved about Payne, a 6-foot-1 point guard. Payne originally committed to DePaul while in eighth grade, but changed his mind last year. Payne then signed with Alabama but was released from his scholarship after Alabama Coach Mark Gottfried resigned.

Lickliter said he targeted Payne last summer when Iowa held a basketball camp. But the camp was cancelled when floods devastated Iowa City last June.

“It was somebody that (Iowa assistant coach) Chad Walthall had known about him,” Lickliter said. “We knew him, we were always impressed with the way he played the game and what he brought to it and when the opportunity came, it made a lot of sense. It makes sense to him, and I love that. When it makes sense to both of you, and you agree, then we knew it was a great fit.

“You never know what’s going to happen, and so we didn’t anticipate it (Payne becoming available). But I think it was probably a benefit of Chad’s efforts through the years.”

Payne averaged more than 22 points and seven assists last year before suffering a stress fracture in his back. Payne told The Gazette last week when he committed to Iowa that he compares his style of play with perennial NBA all-star Steve Nash.

“He plays at a great pace,” Lickliter said. “He’s very competitive. He’s a very capable scorer, but he’s not defined by that. He doesn’t have to score to feel like he’s successful. So I think he’s somebody who gives us a lot of poise in the back-court and our other guys are working extremely hard.

“I think we’ve got positions filled that are going to complement one another, and I’m excited about the chemistry of this team. And he adds to that.”

Archie, a 6-foot-8 sophomore from Indianapolis, averaged 6.8 points and six rebounds last season for Vincennes. He started 19 of 30 games. Lickliter wouldn’t comment about Archie.

“We’re expecting one other (signing) but the rules are until it’s in hand, you can’t make comments,” Lickliter said.

Iowa signed two players last fall: Dubuque Wahlert guard/forward Eric May and Sioux City Heelan center Brennan Cougill. Returning to the team next fall are incoming sophomores Matt Gatens, Aaron Fuller, Andrew Brommer and John Lickliter; junior Jarryd Cole and senior Devan Bawinkel. Current freshman Anthony Tucker, who was ineligible for the second semester, is on pace academically to rejoin the team.

Leaving the program were guards Jeff Peterson, Jake Kelly and Jermain Davis, and forward David Palmer. Cyrus Tate and J.R. Angle have graduated or will graduate in May.

Lickliter joined wrestling coach Tom Brands and other Iowa coaches at the first I-Club stop this spring. About 175 people showed up at the event. The Boone-Story I-Club includes Ames, home of Iowa State.

Iowa men to ink 2 today; women to sign 1

April 14, 2009
Cull Payne

Cully Payne

Iowa’s men’s basketball team plans to sign two players to letters of intent today, the first official day basketball recruits can sign with colleges this spring.

Vincennes University (a junior college basketball program in Indiana) forward Devon Archie (6-foot-9) committed to Iowa in March. Archie started 19 of 30 games at Vincennes, averaging 6.8 points and six rebounds a game. He hit 54.5 percent of his field goals but sank just 43.8 percent of his foul shots.

Schaumburg (Ill.) High School point guard Cully Payne also expects to sign a letter of intent. Payne, who stands 601 committed to Iowa last week. He averaged 22 points last year, but was hindered by a stress fracture in his back. Payne missed the last half of the basketball season.

Archie and Payne will join 6-9 Brennan Cougill, a Sioux City Heelan center, and 6-4 Eric May (Dubuque Wahlert) this fall. Chipola (Fla.) Junior College freshman guard Malcolm Armstead (6-1) was scheduled to visit Iowa on Friday but apparently will not, according to multiple Web sites.

Iowa has at least two more scholarships to offer after four players with eligibility left the program following the season. Sophomore guard Jake Kelly will sign with Indiana State, while junior guard Jermain Davis will sign with Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Sophomore guard Jeff Peterson is still searching for a school, as is junior forward David Palmer, who will graduate in May. Palmer is looking at playing Division II basketball.

Iowa’s women expect to sign one player Wednesday. Ames’ Trisha Nesbitt averaged 16.2 points last year while leading Ames to the Class 4A state finals. Nesbitt, a four-year starter, had 128 assists, 81 rebounds and 65 steals last year.

Nesbitt joined a class of five next fall. Iowa signed Linn-Mar’s Jaime Printy, Platte County (Mo.) center Morgan Johnson, Gabby Machado of Pontiac, Mich., and Theairra Taylor of St. Paul (Minn.) Central. Taylor suffered a torn ACL in her left knee and her status is undetermined next year.

Basketball players can sign with colleges beginning today through May 20.

Iowa losing four players and a recruit?

March 25, 2009
Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter sends Jake Kelly (32) into the game during the first half at Drake's Knapp Center in Des Moines on Dec. 20, 2008. Iowa lost 60-43.

Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter sends Jake Kelly (32) into the game during the first half at Drake's Knapp Center in Des Moines on Dec. 20, 2008. Iowa lost 60-43. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

   IOWA CITY – At least four members of Iowa’s men’s basketball program – all of whom started at least five games last year – are either transferring to another school or rumored to consider leaving Iowa.
   Guard Jermain Davis confirmed Wednesday he will transfer to Minnesota State-Mankato, a Division II school following the spring semester. Guard Jake Kelly, who twice was named the Big Ten’s player of the week, appears likely to leave for a school closer to his home in Indiana.
   People close to Jeff Peterson said the sophomore point guard is considering leaving for Missouri State, a school in his hometown of Springfield, Mo. Junior David Palmer, who graduates in May, also might leave the team.
   In addition, Marshalltown junior Chanse Creekmur, a 2010 recruit who committed to Iowa last August, decommitted from Iowa on Tuesday.
Kelly carries the highest profile. In Iowa’s final seven regular-season games, he averaged 20 points a game. Twice he was named the Big Ten Player of the Week in final three weeks of the regular season. He finished the season as the Hawkeyes’ leading scorer at 11.6 points a game.
   Kelly’s father, Bob, said Wednesday he didn’t want to comment about his son leaving the team – yet.
   “Well, I really haven’t been informed about any official announcement so I’d hate to comment,” Bob Kelly said. “I’d be glad once anything comes out about him leaving or what he’s doing. I just wouldn’t feel right stepping in front of Jake on that.”
   Attempts by The Gazette to reach Jake Kelly were unsuccessful. Kelly told he could neither confirm nor deny that he was transferring to another school.
   “I really can’t say right now,” Kelly told the Web site. “I’d really rather not talk about it right now.”
   Feb. 23, Kelly was named Big Ten Player of the Week after scoring 23 points, dishing nine assists and grabbing eight rebounds, all while playing 45 minutes in an overtime win against Michigan. He followed that with a pair of 20-point performances in losses at Michigan State and Northwestern. In the regular-season finale against Penn State, Kelly played 47 of 50 minutes in a double-overtime upset win against Penn State. He scored 22 points, dished 11 assists and grabbed four rebounds – all with a 101-degree temperature and a sinus infection.
   Kelly’s likely transfer contradicts what he told reporters March 9.
“Of course I considered that when my mom died, yeah,” Kelly said. “That’s probably where they get that from but this is where … I’m here, where I’m going to be.”
   Kelly’s mother, Julia, died in a plane crash last summer, and Kelly thought about leaving at that time. If Kelly transfers to a Division I school Indiana, he must sit out one year of competition.
   Davis, who now will play for his fourth college in four years, started 11 games and averaged 4.6 points this year for Iowa. He notified Coach Todd Lickliter on Monday about his decision.
   “I think it just wasn’t a fit really,” Davis said. “I didn’t really know my role. I didn’t understand it. Ultimately, what kind of made me make the decision was that I wasn’t happy.”
   Davis said he got along with Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter and didn’t have a problem with the coach personally. Lickliter met with players throughout Wednesday afternoon but was unavailable for comment.
Davis did say he didn’t like the team’s style of play and how he was used on the court. Davis will be able to play right away.
   “I felt like I did have a way short leash compared to other people,” he said. “I kind of felt like … I just didn’t have the chance to really showcase my game – except for one game.”
   Peterson started the season’s first 25 games before pulling his right hamstring and missing the final seven. He suffered a broken left wrist against Ohio State in the Big Ten opener. The wrist injury required surgery.
   Peterson averaged 10.6 points a game and led the team in assists. One person close to Peterson said “most likely” Peterson would go to Missouri State. If Peterson goes to Missouri State, he would have sit out one season.
   The defections are mounting for Lickliter, who will lose his three top leading scorers in three consecutive seasons should Kelly leave the school. Last year’s leading scorer, Tony Freeman, left for Southern Illinois. Within weeks of Lickliter’s arrival in 2007, Tyler Smith transferred to Tennessee. Freeman, an all-Big Ten third-team selection, averaged 13.8 points a game. Smith averaged 14.9 points and was named third-team All-Big Ten and to the Big Ten All-Freshman Team.
   Other players not returning in Lickliter’s tenure include Dan Bohall, who started seven games last year, didn’t return this year. Brett Wessels and Josh Crawford didn’t return following the 2007 season.

Palmer, Tate as starters together?

January 27, 2009

 It’s possible Iowa could start posts David Palmer and Cyrus Tate together once Tate recovers from a severely sprained left ankle.

Now, they don’t invoke any images of former Hawks Greg Stokes and Michael Payne, but the 6-foot-9 Palmer and the 6-8 Tate together can show something different to opponents on both ends of the court. Iowa’s offense to date has been guard-oriented but having two big men on the court has even Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter thinking about the possibilities. 

“Yet to be seen but you can speculate,” Lickliter said. “I do think there’s becoming a better understanding now if they play together. I think maybe David, offensively, can play the four and Cyrus, defensively, can guard the four. That’s what we’re looking at. We’re yet to see it but at least gives us a possibility. I’m not saying we’ll do it all the time.”

Strangely, the players haven’t worked at those positions together on the court. Before Tate’s injury, Palmer usually played on the scout team, showing Iowa’s opponent’s top inside threat. He also worked at the post behind Tate in practice.


“I think our games are very similar,” Palmer said. “Cyrus is a big, strong inside guy. I think I can play inside. I think we really complement each other because I can step out and shoot it. 

“I can get it into space to post up and obviously help him on the glass because everybody needs help on the glass so I think we’ll be a really good duo.”

Tate, who is doubtful Thursday with his ankle and may not play Sunday at Illinois, is more practical about the combination.


“We haven’t practiced together,” Tate said. “We played together in Prime Time (League), but that’s a totally different thing. I look forward to it, getting on the court with Dave and probably be able to make a difference.”