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Archive for April, 2009

Signing thoughts

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
Devon Archie's signed letter of intent has reached Iowa, allowing coach Todd Lickliter to comment on the second of the two players he has signed this spring. Lickliter describes the 6-foot-9 forward from Vincennes University as "a high energy player.'' "He has the ability to defend inside and on the perimeter, and offensively he has the ability to finish inside. We're very excited about his potential and upside as he continues to gain experience,'' Lickliter said in a statement. Archie averaged 6.8 points, 6 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game last season as a sophomore at the Indiana junior college where he shot 54.5 percent from the field. He helped coach David Ragland's team combine for a 50-15 record over the past two seasons. The signing announcement comes one week after point guard Cully Payne of Schaumburg, Ill., signed with Iowa. On Payne, Lickliter said, "Cully is a true point guard although he can play the two position as well. He is a very effective point guard and shoots the ball well. He's a very competitive player who plays the game at a great pace.'' The 6-1 Payne missed the final 13 games of his senior season at Schaumburg because of a back injury, but averaged 21.6 points, 5.4 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 steals in the 16 games he played. He was unanimously named to the Mid-Suburban Conference all-conference team and was its West Division player of the year for the second straight year. The pair join two players who signed in November to be part of Iowa's 2009 recruiting class. Guard Eric May, a two-time all-state pick from Dubuque Wahlert, and center Brennan Cougill, named Iowa's Mr. Basketball after leading Sioux City Heelan to the Iowa 3A state title, will also be part of the Hawkeyes' recruiting class. "We feel the four players who will join our program for next year are very solid,'' Lickliter said. "With the additional players and our returning group, we are excited about the potential for this team.'' Iowa returns six players from last season's 15-17 team and currently has three remaining open scholarships for the 2009-10 season. Hawkeye coaches continue to recruit.

Palmer picks

Tuesday, April 21st, 2009
David Palmer is the latest of the four transferring Iowa basketball players to figure out his future plans. The 6-foot-9 center is headed to Southern Indiana, moving to the Division II level where he will have the chance play immediately and finish out a career that has taken a number of twists and turns since the day he signed with Seton Hall out of Oak Hill Academy. Palmer isn't exactly the poster child for the "college experience'' that the NCAA touts. After a rough year adjusting to life at Seton Hall, he followed assistant coach Billy Garrett to Iowa looking for an opportunity on the inside. What he didn't see coming was Steve Alford's departure following the 2006-07 season and Garrett's equally-quick exit from the Iowa program. That left Palmer dealing with his third coach in three years. Iowa coach Todd Lickliter appreciated the shooting range that Palmer brought to the table, but his preference to roam the perimeter combined with defensive deficiencies and a lack of tenacity ultimately relegated Palmer to a reserve's role. He did start five games after Cyrus Tate suffered a severe ankle sprain in a Jan. 8 game against Minnesota and in two, at Purdue and at home against Wisconsin, Palmer displayed the type of offensive skills that made him a highly-recruited prep out of Antioch, Tenn. In those two games, Palmer totaled 40 points on combined 15-of-26 shooting. But as teams adjusted to his skills, he scored just 21 points the rest of the season while matching his scoring total against the Badgers. Teammates seated across from Palmer in the locker room at Indianapolis' Conseco Fieldhouse were quietly laughing when Palmer told reporters following Iowa's ouster from the Big Ten tourney that he planned to return for his senior season and that he understood his role was to "show up on time for games and cheer on his teammates.'' The sarcasm was apparent and the departure not so shocking considering that younger players more suited to Lickliter's system would likely lead to even more time on the bench for Palmer in the 2009-10 season. So, Palmer will hope for a new beginning with a Division II program that ranks among the nation's best. Coach Rick Herdes has guided the Screamin' Eagles to at least 25 wins six times in his seven seasons at Southern Indiana. Palmer won't be the only Big Ten refugee who has went to the Evansville, Ind., school looking for a fresh start. Palmer will now be a teammate of former Illinois guard Jamar Smith, who earned Division II all-American honors last season as a junior as he picked up the pieces of his career.

Crowded company

Monday, April 20th, 2009
Iowa finds itself in a crowd of schools chasing Rock Island HS guard Chasson Randle. Scholarship offers over the past week from Ohio State and Northwestern give Randle offers from seven Big Ten schools, a group that includes the Hawkeyes as well as Illinois, Indiana, Purdue and Wisconsin. The sophomore who earned all-state honors last season for the Rocks also has offers from Iowa State and Bradley. The 6-foot-2 guard averaged 18.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists last season while shooting 52 percent from 3-point range for coach Thom Sigel's Rocks.

Signing in

Wednesday, April 15th, 2009
Two of the four Iowa basketball players who announced plans to transfer last month signed Wednesday with their new schools. Indiana State announced the signing of guard Jake Kelly among four spring signings while Mankato State coach Matt Margenthaler has signed Jermain Davis among a group of four newcomers at the Division II program. Kelly's return to his hometown Terre Haute, Ind., was singled out by Sycamores coach Kevin McKenna. "Jake is a proven player at the Division I level. He had some solid games against some very good teams in the Big Ten last season and that experience is invaluable,'' McKenna said in a statement announcing the signing. "He is a good all-around player and has a way of making his teammates better. I think he is really excited about coming back to play closer to home and we are pleased to have him.'' The honorable mention all-Big Ten pick averaged a team-leading 11.6 points at Iowa. Davis averaged 4.6 points, but struggled throughout the conference season for the Hawkeyes when he shot 28 percent from the field and 21 percent from 3-point range. That didn't prevent Margenthaler from saying about Davis, "He competes and shoots the ball at a high level. Jermain is a legitimate Big Ten guard that has great communication skills on the floor and is a tough physical guard that we love.'' Iowa's two other transfers continue to look for a place to continue their careers. Guard Jeff Peterson has talked with Missouri State, which announced two prep signings on Wednesday in a statement from coach Cuonzo Martin that indicated that additional players could be added to the Bears' recruiting class in upcoming days. With one year to play and eligible to earn a degree from Iowa in May, David Palmer has reportedly narrowed his choices to Division II Southern Indiana and Northern Kentucky.

The newest Hawkeye

Thursday, April 9th, 2009
Cully Payne made it official Thursday night. The 6-foot-1 point guard from Schaumburg, Ill., will sign with the Iowa basketball program next week, adding a player with an interesting storyline to the Hawkeye program. Payne made headlines when he commited to DePaul at the end of his eighth-grade school year. By then, he had already taken part in an instructional video filmed by his father, currently the basketball coach at Elgin Community College and a former prep coach at Addison Trail and Elgin St. Edward in Chicago's suburbs. The video focused on fundamentals, something that have always been a part of Payne's game. He put them on display at Burlington Central, where he played as a freshman and sophomore on a team coached by his cousin. Looking for a challenge at a different level, he transferred to Schaumburg for his final two years of prep basketball and grew into one of the state's most respected point guards during his two seasons there. Coaches speak of Payne's tough-minded approach and his desire to put the team first, traits that fit well into coach Todd Lickliter's ideals and the vision he has for the Hawkeye program. A left-handed shooter, Payne can score. He averaged 22 points this season as a senior. He also dished out 5.5 assists per game before a back injury forced him off the court with his team off to a 14-2 start. At that time in late January, Payne was entering conversations for consideration for Mr. Basketball honors in Illinois. Understandably, as he sat with his injury others led teams to titles and state tourney berths and rose to the tip of the tongue when postseason awards were mentioned. Despite missing half the year, Payne still finished in the top 25 in balloting for Mr. Basketball recognition. That shouldn't be discounted in a state as talent-rich as Illinois. If Payne can take the fundamentals and discipline he learned at every step along the way and mesh that with Lickliter's team-first approach, it will be interesting to see how quickly and how much Payne can contribute early in his career at Iowa. Given the recent departures of four players, the Hawkeyes obviously have playing time available. If history is an indication, expect Payne to make the most of the minutes that come his way.

Point guard signs

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009
One of the top point guards in Iowa is signing a letter of intent today, but he won't be signing with an Iowa program in need of point guards. Hal Bateman of Davenport Central has a news conference scheduled for today to sign on the bottom line. The all-state point guard will continue his career at the junior college level and is expected to sign with Des Moines Area Community College this afternoon. The flashy Bateman won the slam dunk contest at the recent QC Senior Shootout and was a key component on the Central team that finished as the runner-up to Iowa City High in the 2008 Iowa 4A playoffs.

Passing through

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009
Junior college point guard Malcolm Armstead is making his campus visit to Iowa next week, checking out the opportunities that exist for him in the Big Ten during a visit set for Friday, April 17. Armstead has three years of eligibility remaining after helping lead Chipola JC in Florida to a third-place finish in the NJCAA national tourney a couple of weeks ago in Kansas. Iowa coach Todd Lickliter is scheduled to visit Schaumburg (Ill.) High School prospect Cully Payne on Thursday. Payne visited the Iowa campus last week and expects to finalize his plans to join the Hawkeyes during the home visit which comes on the first day of a contact period for recruits. "I feel good about Iowa,'' Payne said. "I had a good visit. I think this is it.'' Payne originally made a verbal commitment to DePaul as an eighth grader, but re-opened his recruitment last summer. He eventually signed with Alabama, but asked for and was granted a release from his letter of intent when coach Mike Gottfried was ousted.

The final two

Sunday, April 5th, 2009
There's a little poetic justice in the pairings for Monday night's NCAA championship game. The top teams in two conferences that ranked 1-2 throughout the season will be playing for the chance to cut down the nets in Detroit. Preseason darling North Carolina has done everything but walk on water throughout the season while Michigan State has displayed the blue-collar grit that it took to win the Big Ten by four games as it has plowed its way through the NCAA tourney field. It's no accident that the Spartans have knocked off two No. 1 seeds on their way to the title fight at Ford Field and maybe now, the nation is starting to understand why Tom Izzo was lobbying for a No. 1 seed for his team prior to the start of the Big Ten tourney last month. The Spartans were certainly deserving, going 12-2 against top 50 teams during the regular season but the vision of the 30-point loss to the Tar Heels in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge remained vivid to way too many talking heads who were unwilling to look deeper into this Michigan State team. It's a team that has all of the pieces to the puzzle -- although Goran Suton did not play in that first game with the ACC power. Izzo took a little on the podium Saturday in Detroit to talk about his team and its play in a Big Ten conference season when Michigan State had to muscle its way to the top of the standings. "You know, I defend our league and I defend our team so much,'' Izzo said. "We want to run. That's what we really do. It's just hard in our league. There's so many good coaches in this league that don't let you do what you want to do. "When you play against the Purdues, the Illinois', the Minnesotas and the Michigans, it's difficult to do what you want to do, but it does toughen you up. It has made us the team we are now.'' Michigan State will be the underdog for the title game. It's familiar territory for the Spartans and their fist-pumping fighter of a coach. Is it likely that Michigan State is 30 points better than it was the last time it faced the Tar Heels? Probably not, but be assured the Spartans won't go down without putting up a fight. That's the Big Ten way.

Sounds of silence

Thursday, April 2nd, 2009
Point guard Cully Payne of Schaumburg, Ill., visited Iowa on Wednesday, but other recruits won't be making their way to Iowa City in upcoming days despite the number of open scholarships the Hawkeyes have available. A dead period in the NCAA's recruiting calendar began Thursday and runs one week, allowing coaches and their assistants to enjoy a recruiting-free weekend at the Final Four and the functions and meetings that surround this year's event in Detroit. A contact period resumes at the end of the dead period on April 9 and runs through April 12, prior to a dead period that runs April 13-16 as the spring signing period begins. Another contact period runs April 17-22. The NCAA's spring signing date is April 15, although players can still sign letters of intent through late May.