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.


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.

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.”

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.