PTL analysis from first night, Cully Payne video interview

June 16, 2009
Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) pulls up for a shot over Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys' Jordan Stoermer (23) during their game on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center.  (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing's Cully Payne (3) pulls up for a shot over Mike Gatens Real Estate/McCurrys' Jordan Stoermer (23) during their game on the opening night of the Prime Time league Monday, June 15, 2009 at the North Liberty Community Center. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

A few thoughts on last night’s game featuring multiple Iowa, Northern Iowa and other collegiate players:

I was impressed with incoming Iowa freshman Cully Payne. He’s young and hasn’t had to guard Michigan State’s Kalin Lucas or Michigan’s Manny Harris, but Payne brings the right temperament and swagger to the the point guard position. He’s listed at 6 foot (he might be a shade under), but he moves well with and without the ball. He’s left-handed, physical and has a decent shot. He can push the ball up the court or slow it down in a half-court set. He’s a different player from Jake Kelly or Jeff Peterson in that he’s a natural point guard.

Iowa’s Aaron Fuller carries more weight and looks much stronger. As a freshman last year he weighed 199 pounds. He’s now heavier than 220. That strength will help him defend power forwards in the post. That weight could be good for one more rebound and two more points a game. That could be a four-point turnaround in any game.

Iowa’s Devan Bawinkel still prefers the outside shot. Bawinkel, an incoming senior captain, caught the ball on the left wing about 17 feet from the basket.  He took three dribbles toward the hoop and could have pulled up for an eight-foot jumper or even drove to the hoop but instead passed the ball to the top of the key. He may need to hit a few jumpers when they’re available, even if they’re not beyond the arc.

UNI’s Anthony James and Antonio Jones are explosive, much more than any of Iowa’s guards or forwards. They combined for 32 points and could really move the ball up and down the court. Jones, a junior-college transfer from Coffeyville (Kan.) Community College, averaged 11.5 points last year in the Jayhawk Conference, the best juco league in the country. I think Jones can be real good.

Incoming Iowa freshman Eric May is better than advertised. He can play inside and outside. He’s competitive and explosive. During one offensive set, May, who stands 6-4, took the ball and charged at ex-UNI center Eric Coleman, who is four inches taller and probably 60 pounds heavier. May lowered his shoulder like a fullback and ran into Coleman, drawing a surprising blocking call. Coleman had an irritated look and neither player slapped hands after the play. May scored 20 points and I can see him challenging Fuller and Devan Archie for serious minutes at power forward this year.

UNI’s Jordan Eglseder showed great touch from the outside, along with solid inside skills. Eglseder, who stands 7-1 and weighs about 300 pounds, scored 25 points and was active at both ends of the court. I’m really interested to see how he competes against incoming Iowa freshman Brennan Cougill on June 22.


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.

Barta concerned about players leaving

March 27, 2009

Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta showed unwavering support for men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter, moments after the coach acknowledged that four players are leaving his program.
   Lickliter, who is 28-36 in his two seasons at Iowa, has had nine players leave his program since taking over in April 2007. Barta, who hired Lickliter, said he was concerned with the losses but stands behind Lickliter.
   “Absolutely,” Barta said when asked if he still supports Lickliter as coach. “Obviously, the last couple of days as Todd mentioned, in having to make adjustments in our strategy here going forward … I’ve never questioned his approach, his strategy, the foundation he’s building. I continue to fully support him.”
   Sophomores Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson – who combined for 49 starts – and juniors David Palmer and Jermain Davis will transfer following the semester. Kelly and Peterson were the team’s first- and third-leading scorers, respectively. Davis, who started 11 games, will transfer to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Palmer graduates in May and plays to play one season of Division II basketball.
   “Everybody who cares about the Hawkeyes the last couple of days have had has angst and concern,” Barta said. “I have, our coach, and everybody who cares the program- our fans have – but clearly this an adjustment, and we’re going to adjust.
   “Sure, it concerns me, like it concerns Todd, like it concerns Hawkeyes fans, but after you talk through the situation, the concern is still there, but also we have a plan. Todd’s leading that plan, and I’m confident he’s on the right track.”

Kelly announces departure on Facebook; Iowa not yet confirming release

March 26, 2009
Iowa's Jake Kelly, right, high fives the crowd after a Iowa defeated Penn State 75-67, in double overtime in a NCAA college men's basketball game Saturday, March 7, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Kelly led Iowa with 22 points. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

Iowa's Jake Kelly, right, high fives the crowd after a Iowa defeated Penn State 75-67, in double overtime in a NCAA college men's basketball game Saturday, March 7, 2009, in Iowa City, Iowa. Kelly led Iowa with 22 points. (AP Photo /Matthew Putney)

IOWA CITY – Sophomore point guard Jake Kelly officially is leaving Iowa, his father, Bob, told The Gazette last night.

Bob Kelly said his son has asked for his release to play college basketball at a school near his family in Terre Haute, Ind. Bob Kelly said Jake prefers to play at Indiana State, a school the family used to buy season tickets to in the past.

“I don’t know if he’s gotten it (his release) yet,” Bob Kelly said. “I don’t know how that works. He’s expecting to get it.”

Kelly announced his intentions to transfer on his Iowa Facebook account at 7:11 p.m., writing, “it really means a lot to me that all the Hawkeye fans are being understanding. I won’t forget how passionate the fans are here and I will always be proud to have worn the Iowa uniform.”

His status update was met mostly with comforting notes from friends and fans.

Kelly, led Iowa in scoring last season with 11.6 points a game. He averaged 20 points a game for Iowa’s last seven regular-season games. Twice he was named Big Ten Player of the Week and was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection.


Iowa associate sports information director Steve Roe neither confirmed nor denied information about Kelly’s release.

“I’m not aware of that,” Roe said, “and Todd (Lickliter, Iowa’s coach) has not addressed it. I have not been told about it.”

Kelly is the second Iowa men’s basketball player leaving the program in as many days. Wednesday, guard Jermain Davis announced he was transferring to Division II Minnesota State-Mankato. Two other players – sophomore guard Jeff Peterson and junior forward David Palmer – are rumored to consider leaving the program.

Bob Kelly said his son wants to play at Indiana State but has not spoken with anyone connected to the team about a possible roster spot. Bob Kelly added that Jake plans to apply for a hardship through the NCAA to play right away. NCAA rules force transfers between Division I institutions to sit out one season except in special circumstances. There is a precedent of that with players leaving Iowa.

Former Iowa player Tyler Smith transferred from Iowa less than two weeks after Lickliter took over as coach in 2007. Smith left for Tennessee to be closer to his father, who was dying of cancer. The NCAA granted Smith immediate eligibility.

Bob Kelly said Jake has had a difficult time emotionally since his mother died in a plane crash last summer. Bob Kelly said Jake loved Iowa and Iowa City, liked Lickliter and his teammates. But Jake struggled juggling school and basketball as well as his emotions.

“The true reason is he wants to be closer to his family after the tragedy,” Bob Kelly said. “It’s been a very tough year for him. He persevered. He’s a tough kid, but he’s not that tough. He needs his family right now.”

Jake Kelly told reporters March 9 he planned to continue his career at Iowa beyond the upcoming season. Bob Kelly said Jake wasn’t lying at the time and hadn’t made his final decision until last week.

“Well, to be honest, he didn’t make decision until he was home for spring break. It’s been on his mind all year, let that be known. In the past, he’s gone back and forth because the success he had at the end of the year made him think that he needs to stay.”

Bob Kelly said Jake struggled with the losses and took them all personally. But Bob Kelly reiterated that neither the losses nor Coach Lickliter had any part in Jake leaving Iowa.

It’s undetermined if Indiana State will sign Kelly once he leaves Iowa.

“He does want to continue to play college basketball and he does have the idea that he might go to Indiana State. But he doesn’t know if they have a spot for him. When he gets his release, he’s going to contact their coach with the intent to see if a spot is available.

“If not, he may decide to sit out a year and try to get mind together. He definitely wants to make a career out of basketball.”

Does Iowa player situation change Carver renovation plans?

March 26, 2009


Renovations to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and a new basketball practice facility will start in this area of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mark Jennings, Iowa's associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said plans are still to break ground for the renovation this fall. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

Renovations to Carver-Hawkeye Arena and a new basketball practice facility will start in this area of Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mark Jennings, Iowa's associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said plans are still to break ground for the renovation this fall. (Brian Ray/The Gazette)

IOWA CITY — Turmoil involving the Iowa men’s basketball program has failed to dampen enthusiasm for a new basketball practice facility and Carver-Hawkeye Arena renovation.

Mark Jennings, Iowa’s associate athletics director for donor and patron services, said the department has received between $8 million and $9 million in pledges for the $47 million project.

“As news comes out of the one of the sports offices, it really doesn’t affect this project because no matter if a player stays or if a player leaves, we’ve got to have the project,” Jennings said. “We’ve got to have the facility. That doesn’t slow us up any. We just keep going forward and stay positive about the project.

“Most of the people we’re seeing have been Hawkeye fans for a long time, and they’re going to be Hawkeye fans for a lot longer – no matter what players are here or gone. Thank God they feel that way.”

Four Iowa men’s basketball players have left the team within the last couple of days. Junior guard Jermain Davis said Wednesday he had obtained his scholarship release to play for Minnesota State-Mankato, a Division II school. Sophomore Jake Kelly likely is headed to an Indiana college, while sophomore Jeff Peterson and junior David Palmer also are leaving.  

Both Jennings and Iowa Athletics Director Gary Barta said the school still plans to break ground on the new facility this fall. That counters recent rumors that Iowa will wait another year before starting on the new facility.

“No, absolutely not,” Jennings said when asked if the project is delayed. “Now, things can change. If by June the economy … who knows what the future is going to bring. But, no, right now we’re right on schedule. The plan is this fall we’re going to breaking ground.

“I wonder who starts rumors when nobody in here does?”

The basketball facility and arena renovation includes a multi-court gym for the school’s basketball and volleyball teams and a renovation to the wrestling complex. Each of those sports will receive new locker rooms, new offices for coaches and an 8,000-square foot strength and conditioning center.

The arena renovation plan includes 650 premium seats for men’s basketball. A courtside seat for men’s basketball is valued at $125,000 in giving over five years. A second-row seat will cost $60,000 over five years. There will be 50 seats in each row.

The arena also includes 550 premium club seats costing $12,500 per seat over five years. Two hospitality rooms also are included in the renovation.
The athletics departments has a goal of raising $20 million privately, and Jennings said that’s likely to happen.

The funding method is a bit different than the one presented to Iowa’s Board of Regents last summer. Barta said a bonding company provided the figures for that meeting, while the athletics department refined tailored the giving plan to donors after receiving approval.

Barta said the department received a pair of substantial gifts for the project on Thursday.

“The reception has been tremendous,” Jennings said. “I think the easy part of it is telling the story; we all know we need the facility. It’s fun to tell them about a little more about why we need the facility.”

The school also has naming opportunities for major donors. The Howard family of Iowa Falls donated $3.5 million toward the renovation and secured naming rights for their pavilion. The school has set naming rights for the basketball court at $5 million.

“I do want to emphasize the name Carver-Hawkeye Arena will not change,” Jennings said. “That will always be there.”

Jennings said in the last two days he’s had six meetings with different people about the project “and all six were nothing but positive.” Jennings and other department officials will have low-key discussions with potential donors during the I-Club’s spring banquet circuit. Lickliter is slated to speak at 11 banquets this spring as a member of the gold team.

“It’s a very important part of (increasing donations),” Jennings said of Lickliter meeting with patrons on I-Club trips.

“We know we’ve got to get this done. And we’re going to get it done.”