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Archive for May, 2009

It’s a wrap

Saturday, May 30th, 2009
Iowa's exhibition tour of Italy and Greece ended one game earlier than expected thanks to a club team that has already decided to call it a season. That leaves Friday's 85-72 win over Dukas -- that's Dukas, a Greek club team, not Duke -- as the Hawkeyes final on-court experience of their 10-day foreign tour. Coach Todd Lickliter believes his team will return home with more than a 2-1 record and a lifetime of memories. He opted for a spring trip in hopes of creating something for his seven players to focus on and build toward during individual workouts that followed Iowa's 15-17 season. He even labeled the trip as Iowa's postseason play. In comments released through Iowa's sports information office following Friday's game, Lickliter sounded like a satisfied coach. "I think we improved and grew in a number of ways,'' he said. "The entire trip has been outstanding, but we have also really seen some growth from these seven guys and from their play since the end of the season.'' For the first time in Lickliter's three springs with the Iowa program, the emphasis has been on offense during individual workouts. The coaching staff believes that Hawkeye players now have enough of a base defensively that the emphasis can turn to the other end of the court. They will use returning players to help instill defensive philosophies in Iowa's newcomers while work to grow the offense continues into the fall. Iowa's big men enjoyed a solid three games overseas, averaging a double double. Jarryd Cole averaged 19.3 points and 11 rebounds per game, while Aaron Fuller averaged 14.7 points and was Iowa's top rebounder at 12.7 per game on the tour. Anthony Tucker and Matt Gatens also finished the three games with double-digit scoring averages, finishing at 13.7 and 13.3 respectively. Gatens led the team in assists on the tour, averaging 6.7. The summer term at Iowa begins in one week with Prime Time League play to be shortly after.

Getting physical

Thursday, May 28th, 2009
One of the questions Iowa's basketball team hoped to answer on its foreign tour concerned how the team's improved strength would stand up to physical opponents. The first two games Iowa has played -- on Sunday in Italy and on Wednesday in Greece -- have provided a few answers. Both opponents have featured physical attacks and Jarryd Cole and Aaron Fuller have responded against older, more experienced competition. That wast the case again in Wednesday's 76-75 loss to the Greek Senior Select team, a game where Iowa struggled with its shot, but managed to score the final 10 points in the game's last two minutes to pull within one point. Iowa trailed by 17 points after one 10-minute quarter of the game in Athens, rallied to within a 45-40 score at the half and then feel behind by a double-digit margin again. Cole finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds, while Fuller contributed 13 points and nine boards. Matt Gatens and Anthony Tucker led a group of five Hawkeyes in double figures with 18 and 16 points, respectively. "For the second straight game, I thought Jarryd Cole and Aaron Fuller played well and played physical,'' Iowa coach Todd Lickliter said in a statement issued the Hawkeye sports information office. "This was a big, strong veteran team tonight and I thought our guys responded well to the style of play.'' Cole called the game more physical than the first game Iowa played. "I thought we fought back and stayed with them on the boards after the slow start,'' Cole said. It hasn't been all about basketball for the Hawkeyes on their tour. Iowa visited the Vatican on Monday before leaving Rome and on Thursday, the Hawkeyes were scheduled to tour Greek Islands. Iowa plays a Greek club team on Friday.

Winning beginning

Sunday, May 24th, 2009
Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter found a lot to like about his team's performance Sunday in a 78-58 exhibition win over Basket Ferentino, an Italian club team that the Hawkeyes led throughout the first game of four-game tour of Italy and Greece. "This was a good performance for us, especially with all the travel and and everything that is involved with such a trip,'' Lickliter said in a statement issued through Iowa's sports information office. "Jarryd (Cole) and Aaron (Fuller) did a good job controlling the inside. Their play was aided by our guards.'' Cole and Fuller helped Iowa enjoy a 53-33 edge on the boards, with Fuller grabbing 15 to lead the way. Cole added 12 rebounds to go with a game-high 20 points. As expected with a limited seven-player roster, Lickliter spread the minutes around. Fuller and Cole were joined in Sunday's starting five by Anthony Tucker, Matt Gatens and John Lickliter. Tucker finished with nine points and six boards in his first action since being declared academically ineligible for Iowa's second-semester games while Gatens had 17 and led Iowa with seven assists. "We'll be rotating the seven guys around and I thought they all had good minutes,'' Lickliter said. "It was good to see Anthony back out there. This experience will be very beneficial for John, who hasn't played at the college level, and for Anthony and Andrew Brommer, to add to their experience from a year ago.'' Iowa opened a 27-12 lead after one quarter Sunday and pulled away in the third quarter after the Italian team had pulled to within a 40-31 score at the half. The Hawkeyes travel to Athens, Greece for their next game, facing the Greek Senior Select team on Wednesday.

Quick work

Friday, May 22nd, 2009
Beyond having just seven players on the roster, one of the more challenging aspects of the game the Iowa basketball team will face on its current tour of Italy and Greece is use of international rules. Anthony Tucker, the Hawkeyes' primary point guard with the roster they are taking overseas, said one of the biggest challenges he will face is the use of a 24-second shot clock and a rule that requires the ball to be over the midcourt stripe within eight seconds. "That will test us,'' Tucker said. "It's something I know we can and will handle, but it will be different for us.'' Iowa plays the first of its four games on the trip on Sunday, facing a club team in Rome. Coach Todd Lickliter brought in a pair of experts on the two countries Iowa is visiting to talk with his team before it left Iowa City on Friday. The purpose was to talk to the team a bit about Italian and Greek culture, offer suggestions about sites that the Hawkeyes might want to visit in Rome and Athens and answer any questions that the players might have had. While most college basketball players are well traveled anymore, frequently jetting across the country with AAU teams throughout their high school careers, this is the first trip overseas for Tucker. "It will be a new experience for me, something I am looking forward to,'' he said. Lickliter said the group will take several tours during its 10-day trip, but he also will allow players enough time to explore the cities a bit on their own. "One of the reasons for trips like this is to allow our players to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience,'' Lickliter said. "While we're going over with the idea that we're going to play and win basketball games, we want it to be special for our players, too, something they can always look back on with good memories.''

Spring ball

Tuesday, May 19th, 2009
Todd Lickliter had a choice to make when he decided to take his Iowa basketball team on Italy and Greece during upcoming days and he chose a May trip over a trip later in the summer for a practical reason. Under NCAA rules, even though Iowa's incoming players will arrive on campus early next month, they would not be allowed to participate in a foreign tour with the Hawkeyes before the start of fall semester classes. "I didn't want to have them work all summer, developing chemistry with their new team, and then have to leave the new guys behind when the returning players went on a trip in August,'' Lickliter said Tuesday. "That didn't make sense.'' Lickliter also felt the timing would have been too close to the start of practices, making an already long season from a time standpoint even longer. "Guys need a break and after working all summer, we encourage them to spend a couple of weeks in August with their families before classes start in the fall,'' Lickliter said. Lickliter did his homework. He spoke with coaches at Western Michigan who previously took their team to Italy and Greece, he talked with Washington State coaches about the late-May trip they took and he spoke with Iowa women's coach Lisa Bluder about her team's recent trip to Greece. Lickliter believed having a team trip and exhibition games to work toward led his team to more focused and more energetic individual workouts during the spring months. He labeled his team's offseason approach to date the best he has seen in his time at Iowa. Iowa will play four exhibitions during its trip, facing a club team, Basket Ferentino in Rome on Sunday. The Hawkeyes will face the Greek Senior Select team in Athens on May 27 and finish with games against two club teams, Dukas on May 29 and Greek Club Team II on May 31. The NCAA allows teams to have 10 full team practices before departing on a trip to prepare for competition. Iowa began its workouts about one week ago. The trip is Iowa's first overseas since visiting Australia in 2003. The Hawkeyes were scheduled to travel in the summer of 2007, but the coaching change at that time prompted the delay until now. Funding for the trip is done through monies raised by exhibition games Iowa hosts prior to the start of each season and fundraising events. Regular gate receipts and other athletic department funds are not used to pay for the foreign trips that any Iowa teams take.

Working vacation

Monday, May 18th, 2009
The spring term ended at Iowa last week, marking the resumption of activity in the classroom that Iowa basketball coach Todd Lickliter feels most comfortable in. The Hawkeyes are practicing this week in preparation for a European trip. Iowa leaves Friday for a tour of Italy and Greece, but will meet the media prior to a workout on Tuesday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena to talk about their upcoming trip. The trip is the once-every-four-years overseas trip the NCAA allows college basketball programs to take. Iowa was initally scheduled to make this trip two years ago, but it was delayed following the coaching change that brought Lickliter to Iowa after Steve Alford left for New Mexico. Iowa's roster will be somewhat limited, with incoming prep recruits still finishing up their high school classes and four departing transfers no longer with the team. That should provide plenty of playing time, though, for the seven remaining Hawkeyes.

Signed, sealed, delivered

Saturday, May 16th, 2009
The recruitment of two junior college players Iowa was interested in ended late this week when point guard Malcolm Armstead signed with Oregon and Torye Pelham inked with Southern Mississippi. The Hawkeyes invested a lot of time and effort into recruiting the teammates at Florida's Chipola Junior College, but eventually ended up getting a visit out of neither. Armstead's recruitment was the type that is why many coaches cringe at the thought of searching for top junior college talent, one of many twists and turns and eventually ended with a result that made little sense. Oregon wasn't even on Armstead's radar when Iowa began to look at the point guard with three years of eligibility remaining but like many top juco players, the Ducks caught a glimpse of him at the national juco tournament and the dynamics of his search quickly changed. Armstead had scheduled a mid-April visit to Iowa, then backed out hours before his arrival only to make a visit to St. Johns the same weekend. He visited Oregon later in the month and flirted with the idea of rescheduling his Iowa visit, which was met with a chilly reception from coaches who were less than thrilled with his earlier cancellation. So, he settled for Oregon, where Chipola teammate Jeremy Jacob also signed. Ducks coach Ernie Kent, in a statement released Thursday night, announced the signing by saying "the thing that impressed me the most about Malcolm was his contagious passion for the game of basketball and his understanding of the point guard position.'' Pelham, a 6-6 forward, did make a visit to Iowa State but never made it to Iowa City before signing with former Cyclone coach Larry Eustachy's program at Southern Mississippi. His signing was announced by the school on Friday.

May days

Saturday, May 9th, 2009
Iowa's basketball season ended a couple of months ago, but the Hawkeyes continue to find their way into the headlines even without games on the schedule. From the addition of walk-on guard to the last of Iowa's four transferring players reaching a decision about his future, it continues to be an active spring for the Hawkeyes. I'll have to admit I was somewhat surprised at the reaction of some fans to addition of walk-on Nick Neari to the Iowa program. He's paying his own way and adds depth to a team sorely in need of depth. Neari enjoyed a solid prep career in the western suburbs of Chicago, playing at St. Charles North on a very competitive team. He was an all-conference guard who didn't attract a ton of recruiting attention, in part because he chose not to play that game. He didn't spend his summers at the AAU meat markets, preferring to enjoy some balance in his life. That doesn't make him a bad player or even a bad prospect. In some respects, I find it refreshing that a high school athlete can actually mix basketball and football with simply being a kid. What a concept. Jeff Peterson believes he has found a program that plays a tempo more to his liking at Arkansas and for his sake I hope his decision proves to be a good one. Peterson has been a round peg trying to fit into a square hole since he arrived at Iowa. He has solid skills, but has never been a great fit for the system Todd Lickliter brought with him from Butler. To Jeff's credit, he tried to make it work. The inability to do so, combined with the frustration created by consecutive losing seasons, led to Peterson's exit. He feels a new start on a team that prefers more of an uptempo game will benefit him. The Razorbacks are rebuilding and while they averaged 16 points more per game than Iowa did last season, they finished two games under .500 on the year -- just like Iowa -- and went just 2-14 in the Western Division of the SEC. Peterson will be one of seven newcomers in the Arkansas program next season and much like Neari, time will determine if he made a wise decision.

Take your pick

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009
Slipping that 90-percent free throw shooter on the bench into the game when player is injured while being fouled may no longer be an option for college basketball coaches. One of the proposed rule changes for the 2009-10 season -- subject to the approval of the NCAA's Playing Rules Oversight Panel -- would significantly change what happens when that situation plays out in college basketball games. According to a proposal passed by the NCAA rules committee, if a player is unable to shoot free throws as a result of an injury while being fouled, the opposing coach will now be able to select a player to shoot the foul shots from among the four remaining players on the court. The committee said the change would eliminate an unfair advantage created when an injured player is replaced by an excellent free throw shooter who is on the bench at the time the infraction and injury occur. The committee also approved a change that will allow officials to make use of television monitors to determine if a flagrant foul has occured. Currently, officials must disqualify a player from the game following a flagrant foul. Now, with the use of monitors, they will still be able to issue the flagrant foul, but will also have the option of issuing either an intentional foul or a technical foul for contact in that situation. Previously, the rule gave officials only an all-or-nothing option.