Nov. 6, 2007
IOWA CITY — The curtain on the Todd Lickliter era of men’s basketball at the University of Iowa will be raised – officially – Friday night when the Iowa Hawkeyes entertain Idaho State at 8 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
However, if you looked at the UI’s new head coach Tuesday afternoon during his weekly visit with the media, you would have had a hard time telling if the season opener for the 2007-08 Iowa squad or the national championship game or a trout fishing trip to Colorado was just three days off in the distance.
“It’s like I told the guys. It’s no longer make believe. It’s for real.”
Lickliter appeared Tuesday as he always does: Calm…cool…collected. It’s an approach that has proven to work well for the 2007 NCAA Division I Coach of the Year.
“Could you tell I’m a little on edge and excited,” Lickliter said with a grin before turning “serious.”
“My emotions are basically the same that they’ve been every year. You anticipate these opportunities in front of you…the challenges. But you’re also a little apprehensive because you never feel that you’ve prepared enough. You’d always like to be more prepared.”
Then, he paused and added, with a wry smile, “But, if you waited until I felt like we were completely prepared, the season might just pass us by.”
Lickliter and the Hawkeyes will open the 2007-08 campaign with arguably their top offensive threat on the sidelines. Junior point guard Tony Freeman suffered a fracture to a bone in his left foot during Iowa’s 56-30 victory over Simpson last Thursday night and will be out of action for four to six weeks.
“It’s unfortunate for Tony and we all wish him a speedy recovery,” said Lickliter. “The great thing about guys like Tony, however, is when they get a setback, and, then, they are released (to play), they attack it. Tony will attack it.
“Until then, we move on. Together, we’ll try to fill that gap.”
The loss of Freeman will likely mean more playing time for Jeff Peterson. The freshman from Hyattsville, Md., is one of three guards penciled in to the Hawkeyes’ starting lineup. Peterson scored two points, grabbed six rebounds and was credited with two assists and a steal in 31 minutes of action against Simpson.
“But don’t hold me to that because that could change, too,” Lickliter cautioned.
Lickliter is impressed with Peterson and, particularly, his attentiveness and maturity.
“He’s really picked things up well and has made some nice gains because of his attentiveness. He also has a great mind for the game,” Iowa’s head coach said.
Iowa has won 29 straight season openers and 44 straight season openers that occurred in Iowa City. They’ve also won 308 games in Carver-Hawkeye Arena and 902 home games.
A victory on Friday would mean the Hawkeyes were good students for their new teacher: They would have learned and reacted to the Idaho State system as coached by second-year head coach Joe O’Brien, the long-time head coach at Southeastern Community College in Burlington.
More importantly, they would have gained an even greater understanding of how Lickliter and his staff want the Hawkeyes to play the game.
“One of the problems we face right now is that we aren’t as familiar with what we do yet,” Lickliter offered. “So, it will be kind of a double challenge for us. It’s like I told the guys. It’s no longer make believe. It’s for real.”
Click HERE for the Big Ten Network home page.