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Archive for May, 2008

The upper half

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008
Iowa's six-player basketball recruiting class is ranked in the upper half of the Big Ten by at least one website. CSTV.com has the Hawkeyes' incoming 2008 class -- the first full class put together by Todd Lickliter and his staff -- ranked as the 34th-best class in the nation and the fifth-best class in the Big Ten. The website ranks UCLA, Kansas, Ohio State, Memphis and Florida as programs nationally which topped the country in basketball recruiting following the end of the spring signing period last week. In addition to the Buckeyes' third-rated class, Minnesota (17), Indiana (21) and Michigan State (28) joined the Hawkeyes in the top 40. Iowa State's class ranked 35th. Lickliter finds a lot to like about this group as well, from the way it fits into Iowa's team-oriented approach to the balance it will bring in terms of numbers to the Hawkeye program. With four freshmen -- guards Matt Gatens, Anthony Tucker and forwards Andrew Brommer and Aaron Fuller -- to go with a pair of versatile junior college transfer wing players, Jermain Davis and Devan Bawinkel, Lickliter appreciates the fact that Iowa will not have any one class with more than four players. He believes that type of balance will only help with the development of players and provide consistency within the program. "I'd prefer to never have more than four players from any one class on the team at a given time,'' Lickliter said.

Better or worse?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2008
Among the questions that Todd Lickliter wasn't touching Monday during his 35-minute teleconference with Hawkeye beat reporters was whether the Iowa program would be better or worse without Tony Freeman on the team next season. It's an interesting question. On one hand, Freeman's transfer takes an experienced guard out of the program and removes one of the team's most poised 3-point shooters from the roster. On the other, it eliminates Freeman's freelancing ways. Tony had a tendancy to play his own game at times whether or not that is what Iowa coaches wanted. There were moments when inside opportunities were there to be exploited that Freeman, at the helm of the Iowa offense, opted to dribble, then drive or simply lauch an unnecessarily-hurried 3-point shot. Freeman had the potential to be a distraction next season, and because of his competitive nature, it is unlikely that he would have quietly sat on the bench if he wasn't getting the minutes he felt he deserved. So, parting ways may be the best thing for both parties in this instance. As for Freeman, he's juggling a variety of options right now. More than two dozen schools have requested information on him from Iowa's athletics department. That's not surprising. Freeman has skills that can be a good fit in the right situation. He's talked with folks from Illinois, Iowa State, DePaul, Illinois-Chicago and even with former Hawkeye coach Steve Alford at New Mexico. Freeman will land on his feet -- but the gut feeling here is that he won't be alone. The chance to work and teach a team that will largely consist of players who have played for no other coach that Lickliter -- 9 of Iowa's 12 players next season will be in that situation -- should benefit the Hawkeyes as well. Your thoughts?

A Free man

Friday, May 2nd, 2008
Released from his scholarship at Iowa, Tony Freeman isn't certain where the next chapter in his basketball story will be written. A competitor who dispised losing as much as any player who put on a Hawkeye uniform last season, Freeman is a little uncomfortable not knowing what the future might bring and in some respects, he feels he was pushed out the door at Iowa. At the same time, he acknowledges that his game isn't exactly a perfect fit for the style of basketball that the Hawkeyes want to play these days. Round peg. Square hole. It's nothing new. Freeman isn't the first player to be stuck in a system he wasn't recruited to play in. He won't be the last. Give credit to Freeman for at least being willing to try. It would have been easy for him to bolt when Steve Alford sprinted out of Carver-Hawkeye Arena a year ago, hopped in his Escalade and jetted off to Albuquerque. Look at the exodus that has taken place at Indiana since Kelvin Sampson's university-issued cellphone was taken away. That's the way it's played these days in the college game. While some players were noncommital about their future on the day when Todd Lickliter was introduced as Iowa's new coach,  Freeman didn't waiver. He was staying put. No ifs. No ands. No buts. He was where he wanted to be. Freeman worked hard to make it work. He worked on his offensive game, but struggled defensively and was never truly comfortable at the point where he was forced to play. Without question his foot injury forced him to play from behind all season as he attempted to learn Lickliter's system and it just didn't fit. When the Hawkeyes' 13-19 year came to a merciful end in the opening round of the Big Ten tourney, no starter played fewer minutes than Freeman. Perhaps there was a message being sent. Perhaps the round peg and square hole were never meant to fit. Sometimes, that's the way it works. Now free to select a new place to continue his career, Freeman will find himself with a fresh start. He'll have the two full years he truly wanted to work on his game before taking his chances at the next level, time he needs to grow defensively and to work on his mid-range shooting skills. A quality person who made the most of an awkward situation, Freeman deserves the chance to find the right fit.  Your thoughts?

A women’s challenge

Thursday, May 1st, 2008
The Iowa women's basketball team will visit Duke in the second ACC/Big Ten Challenge, the conferences announced on Thursday. The game will be played on Dec. 4 in Durham, N.C., and will give the Iowa women the experience of playing in one of college basketball's most historic venues, Cameron Indoor Stadium. "They have an exciting women's basketball environment and we look forward to the test of playing in that venue,'' Hawkeye coach Lisa Bluder said in a statement. Cameron Indoor is a unique environment, a throwback in many ways to a classic era of collegiate basketball with its wood-grained and brass-rimmed balcony overhangs to the close environs that opposing teams find themselves dealing with when they meet the Blue Devils. The arena is also the site of final college game played by Iowa's Chris Street, who was killed in an auto accident two days after the Hawkeye men lost a 65-56 game there on Jan. 16, 1993.