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Archive for May, 2010

Prime Time changes

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010
Television networks aren't the only entities announcing Prime Time changes this month. Randy Larson, the director of the Prime Time League and Game Time League, is announcing changes that will impact the summer hoops leagues that involve a number of Iowa athletes for the upcoming months. The men's Prime Time League is being trimmed from six to four teams for its 2010 run, a byproduct of both Iowa and Northern Iowa having fewer returning players to compete in the league. In a message posted on the league's website, Larson explains, "We always assess annually how many teams we should have with the main consideration being the NCAA rule that only two returning players from each school can be on each summer league team. Because UNI has only 10 players returning and two or three of them will be unable to play for reason or another and Iowa has less than eight, we can take advantage of that and drop down to four teams, which makes the competitiveness even stronger.'' Larson said the league's primary responsibility is to create the best-possible playing situation for participating Division I players. The Prime Time League, which begins on June 15, will also switch to a Sunday and Tuesday schedule with two games being played in adjacent gyms at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays and 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. The women's Game Time League is also undergoing changes, with games switching to Mondays and Wednesdays. That league will grow from four to six teams with the return of Northern Iowa players to the GTL this summer. Without UNI players, the women's league operated as a four-team league last summer. Tryouts for the leagues are scheduled for early June and league play runs from the middle of that month through late July.

Land of 10,000 big men

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
Minnesota's high schools have a history of producing talented big men on the basketball court. One is visiting Iowa this week. Kevin Noreen, a 6-foot-10, 220-pound forward who originally signed with Boston College but was allowed out of his letter of intent after the Eagles' parted ways with long-time coach Al Skinner, has added the talent-hungry Hawkeyes to his list of possibilities. He is visiting the Iowa campus this week, following stops at Northwestern, Marquette and Indiana. He also reportedly has Providence on his radar screen and has offers from Boston College, Oklahoma, St. Louis, UTEP and Colorado. It's a lengthy list in part because Noreen has compiled a lengthy resume. He played his prep ball for Minnesota Transitions Charter School in Minneapolis, which won the state Class A tourney. He is the state's Mr. Basketball this year, averaging 38.2 points and just under 16 boards per game while playing in the smallest enrollment class in the state. He scored 4,086 points and grabbed 1,899 rebounds as a prep athlete, both state records, but it has been his play on the AAU circuit that attracted the attention of college recruiters. Noreen is viewed as an athlete who could play anywhere from the three through five positions, but will most likely end up at either small forward or power forward depending on the system he chooses. Iowa's interest stems from his athleticism and versatility. Coach Fran McCaffery continues to tell audiences at I-Club functions that the Hawkeyes plan to sign one, and possibly two, additional players before the start of the 2010-11 school year. Iowa has three scholarships currently available for use next season.

The final piece

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
The final piece of the Iowa basketball coaching staff is now in place with today's announcement that Sherman Dillard will join Kirk Speraw and Andrew Francis on Fran McCaffery's bench for the 2010-11 season. Combined with last week's hiring of former Hawkeye Ryan Bowen as an administrative assistant and video coordinator, the group offers a little bit of everything. Speraw, a member of Iowa's last Big Ten championship team in 1979, and Bowen bring the ties to the Iowa program that McCaffery felt were an important component to turning around a program that is in the midst of its longest string of consecutive losing seasons since the Great Depression. Dillard's resume is intriguing, dotted with experience as an assistant under Lefty Driesell at Maryland, Lou Campanelli at California and Bobby Cremins at Georgia Tech. He's been on staffs of nine teams that reached the NCAA tournament including Georgia Tech's 1990 Final Four team. He followed 15 years as an assistant by heading programs at Indiana State and his alma mater, James Madison, for a decade. Dillard's team shared a Colonial Athletic Association title in 2000, going 20-9 on the year. He left James Madison following a seven-win season in 2004 and has spent the past six years working as a basketball marketing rep for Nike, serving as global camp director. That role included hanlding administrative and operational facets for camps and academies sponsored by the company. It will be interesting to watch how his ties there help Iowa as it recruits talent for upcoming seasons. In a statement issued this afternoon, Dillard said he does "not have the words to express how excited I am to be back in the saddle again, doing what I love the most.'' Iowa fans should be pleased with the collection of experience the Hawkeyes' new staff offers. It stands as almost a polar opposite of the youth that former coach Todd Lickliter surrounded himself with when he filled the same positions three years ago. Lickliter sought individuals familiar with the system he intended to use at Iowa. Collectively, they brought an ability to teach to the table but lacked experience and relationships needed to recruit top-flight Big Ten talent. The staff that now works out of the basketball offices at Carver-Hawkeye Arena has a combined 87 years of collegiate coaching experience. Three - McCaffery, Speraw and Dillard - combine to have 41 years of NCAA Division I head coaching experience. That game bench-coaching experience should prove valuable as Iowa works to compete in an experience-filled Big Ten.

Up to the challenge?

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010
Iowa will visit Wake Forest in the 2010 ACC/Big Ten Challenge, it was announced today. The Hawkeyes will play the Demon Deacons on Tuesday, Nov. 30, the first meeting between the teams since Wake Forest won a 56-47 game between the teams in Iowa City in 2007. The game will allow new Iowa coach Fran McCaffery to return to the campus where his collegiate playing career began in 1977-78 and pairs two first-year coaches. Jeff Bzdelik was hired to replace Dino Gaudio as the Demon Deacons' head coach last month. Wake Forest has won all three games between the teams, ending Iowa's NCAA tourney run in 1993 by an 84-78 score in a game played in Nashville, Tenn. The teams have met just one other time, with Wake Forest winning a 92-71 game in Pullman, Wash., as part of the 1974 Far West Classic. Pairings for this year's event, with game times and television plans to be announced at a later date: Monday, Nov. 29 -- Virginia at Minnesota Tuesday, Nov. 30 -- North Carolina at Illinois, Ohio State at Florida, Michigan at Clemson, Georgia Tech at Northwestern, Iowa at Wake Forest Wednesday, Dec. 1 -- Michigan State at Duke, Purdue at Virginia Tech, North Carolina State at Wisconsin, Indiana at Boston College, Maryland at Penn State

Moving forward

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
Chad Walthall, the associate head coach on Todd Lickliter's Iowa staff, is one of four announced finalists for the head coaching vacancy at Minnesota State-Moorhead. The NCAA Division II competes in the Nothern Sun Conference and it's in territory that Walthall knows well. The Minnesota native was a starting quarterback on the football team at D-III Concordia-Moorhead, attending college in the same city. Walthall, who was Iowa's acting head coach when Lickliter was hospitalized last season, has seven years of previous head coaching experience at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa. Walthall also worked four years as the athletics director at the Iowa Conference school. He is scheduled to interview for the job next week. Other finalists are Brian Dolan, the head coach at Upper Iowa, Ty Orton of Dickinson State (N.D.) and Jeff Kammersky of Valley City State. Walthall isn't the only former Hawkeye staff member moving forward. Aaron Fuller, who hasn't said a word to Iowa reporters since the Big Ten Tournament, did talk to the LA Times on Tuesday after USC announced Fuller's transfer. "I felt like htis season never went the way I wanted it to. I felt like I needed a change,'' he said, explaining his reasons for leaving the Hawkeye program. He said his decision came down to the Trojans and Arizona State, telling the Los Angeles publication that USC "definitely is a big-time program, definitely closer to home so my family can come see me. I figured it's a great opportunity for me to expand my game.''

Coming and going

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010
On a day when Iowa officially announced the signing of forward Melsahn Basabe to a letter of intent to join the Hawkeyes next season, USC officially announced the transfer of former Hawkeye Aaron Fuller to the Trojans' basketball program. Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, who also signed Basabe to a letter of intent at Siena, said in a statement that he was "ecstatic'' to call the 6-foot-7, 215-pound forward from Glen Cove, N.Y. a Hawkeye. "Melsahn is a versatile forward who is a terrific athlete,'' McCaffery said. "He can play the point or the back of the press. He runs the floor extremely well and finishes plays.'' Besabe was an all-league selection who averaged 13.1 points and 9 rebounds last season for the NEPSAC Class C runner-up, St. Mark's. He scored 30 points in his team's first 2010 playoff game and played for the New York Gauchos AAU program last summer. McCaffery wasn't the only coach welcoming a new player today. Southern California offically welcomed Fuller to the Trojans' program with a release of their own. "We are very excited to have Aaron at UCS,'' coach Kevin O'Neill said in a statement. "He is going to be a tremendous asset to us on and off the court. We love his tenacity, hard work and desire to get better.'' Fuller averaged 9.7 points and 6.2 rebounds in 30 games for Iowa last season and led the Hawkeyes in scoring and rebounding during Big Ten play. The Arizona native announced that he was leaving Iowa last month, saying that he wanted to play for a program closer to home. Fuller won't be only player leaving the Iowa program when spring semester classes conclude later this month. Walk-ons John Lickliter and Nick Neari have announced intentions to compete at lower levels where playing time would likely be more plentiful. Lickliter will continue his career with Marian, an NAIA program in Indianapolis, while Neari, a freshman who totaled 11 minutes in seven appearances last season for Iowa, reportedly plans to continue his career at Wisconsin-Parkside, an NCAA Division II program.

One step at a time

Saturday, May 1st, 2010
The caller posed an interesting question. He wanted to know what in the world is taking Fran McCaffery so long to assemble his Iowa basketball coaching staff. McCaffery has filled two of the three assistants positions on his staff and has also interviewed candidates as potential graduate assistants. Andrew Francis followed McCaffery to Iowa City from Siena within two weeks of his hiring in late March. About two weeks later, former Central Florida coach and former Hawkeye Kirk Speraw was named to fill another vacancy. The new Hawkeye coach seems to be taking his time as he puts his staff together and I don't see that as a bad thing. In some ways, it illustrates that he has his priorities in order. The final pieces of the staff puzzle will likely fall into place in upcoming days. McCaffery has spent time interviewing potential candidates but with no game on the schedule until November, it's more important that he takes time and finds hires who can help stabilize and turnaround an Iowa program that has endured three straight losing seasons for the first time since the Great Depression. McCaffery has spent a lot of time recruiting. He's re-recruited Iowa's current players, those who signed with the Hawkeyes in November and those he hopes to sign this spring and even next fall and beyond. That's a wise move. Iowa's roster, current and future, should be his primary focus and McCaffery has logged thousands of miles in the five weeks he has been on the job. Beyond those currently signed by the program who have reaffirmed their commitments, Melsahn Basabe delivered the first of several needed spring commitments earlier today. He will be needed to help the Hawkeyes' inside game, which took a pretty big hit when Aaron Fuller bolted for the West Coast and Cody Larson decided to take his game to Florida. McCaffery still has three scholarships to work with and while it is likely he will save one, and maybe two, to add to a 2011 class that has just one opening -- Jarryd Cole will be Iowa's lone senior next season -- expect the coach to continue to look for a guard with some ball-handling skills. Iowa reportedly has had some contact with Anthony Salter, a Tallahassee, Fla., native who has spent the past two years playing the point at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. A two-time all-region pick there, the 5-11 Salter signed with Auburn last fall but was released from his letter intent following the ouster of Jeff Lebo as the Tigers' coach. He attracted interest from Alabama, Western Kentucky and Illinois State before his initial signing with Auburn. Salter averaged 12.4 points, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals for Iowa Western last season after averaging 15.4 points as a freshman. He is a two-time all-region pick that ranked as the third-best juco point guard recruit in the nation prior to the start of the 2009-10 season. As a high school senior at Rickards High School in Tallahassee, Salter was a Florida Class 4A all-state pick who averaged 19 points and 6 assists per game. One of the players Iowa was involved with in recent weeks, 6-9 Kevin Panzer of Capistrano Valley High School in Mission Viejo, Calif., has reportedly decided to continue his career at Nevada.