Sept. 16, 2008
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Editor’s note: 24 Hawkeyes to Watch is a feature released Thursday, Aug. 7, highlighting one athlete from each of the 24 intercollegiate sports offered by the University of Iowa. More than 700 talented student-athletes are currently busy preparing for the 2008-09 athletics year at the UI. Hawkeyesports.com will introduce you to 24 Hawkeyes who, for one reason or another, are poised to play a prominent role in the intercollegiate athletics program at the UI in the coming year.
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Following the advice of two basketball coaches has allowed University of Iowa senior Cyrus Tate to reach great heights in the sport.
The first coach was Roy Condotti at Homewood-Flossmoor High School in Chicago. He grabbed Tate, then a wide-eyed football tight end-to-be, by the jersey and hauled him onto a basketball court.
“I tried playing football in high school,” said Tate, who lasted just two practices on the gridiron. “My high school basketball coach came on the field, pulled me off and told me I was messing up thousands of dollars worth of scholarships. My coach really knew what he was talking about, so I figured I would listen to him.”
Condotti had an eye for basketball talent and he wasn’t about to let Tate fumble away a future loaded with promise. Condotti coached former NBA stars Hersey Hawkins and Mark Aguirre in high school and knew Tate could blaze a similar trail. As a freshman at Homewood-Flossmoor, Tate stood 6-feet-2 and weighed 150 pounds. He grew four inches between his freshman and sophomore seasons and Condotti looked more and more like a genius. Today, Tate is a 6-8, 240-pound physical specimen of a power forward who terrorizes Big Ten opponents.
That brings up the second coaching role model, Todd Lickliter, at the University of Iowa.
“First of all, Cyrus appreciated and accepted coaching,” Lickliter said. “He was open to the expectations of our program. He had to make adjustments and trust us and he did that. Then his efforts and the staff’s direction combined for better play and more effective play. I guess that’s what you call a team.”
During the final nine games of the 2007-08 season, Tate averaged 13.6 points and 7.1 rebounds, while shooting 67.8 percent from the field.
“The main thing was confidence,” Tate said. “I always knew I was capable of being a productive player. At first I didn’t know what coach expected out of me or what he wanted from me. I just kept working in practice, the opportunity came and I took advantage of it.”
Tate was named Big Ten Player of the Week on Feb. 25 after scoring a career-high 26 points at Michigan State (10 of 13 field goals, 6 of 7 free throws) with nine rebounds, and then contributing an 18-point, 11-rebound performance against Northwestern. He received the team’s Chris Street Award, given annually to a UI player who best exemplifies the spirit, enthusiasm and intensity of former Hawkeye Chris Street who died in an auto accident in 1993.
“There are guys who are vocal and they’re probably leading, but that doesn’t mean they’re leading in the right direction. Cyrus isn’t necessarily vocal, but he leads through his actions — which is more important. He’s going to show the right way to do it.”
UI head basketball coach
After high school, Tate attended Northeast (Neb.) Community College for one season before joining the Hawkeyes for the 2006-07 campaign as a sophomore. Tate averaged 4.2 points and 4.4 rebounds in 31 games (22 starts) during his first season in Iowa City. A year ago he started 19 of 31 games and averaged 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds. Tate’s field goal percentage improved 20.5 percent from his first season as a Hawkeye. In 18 Big Ten games, he averaged 10.6 points and 8.0 rebounds, while leading the conference in field goal percentage (.702) and finishing third in rebounding.
“I always wanted to play in the Big Ten,” Tate said. “The Big Ten was a conference that stood out to me the most when I was playing high school basketball. I had a lot of people in my ear saying things and my coaches brought me a long way. If I didn’t play basketball, I don’t know where I would be right now. It’s something I’m really thankful for.”
Tate is also excited about playing a second year for Lickliter. Since he has been playing collegiately, Tate has suited up for a different coach every season — except now.
“The whole time I’ve played college basketball, I’ve had a coach and then the following year another coach,” Tate said. “This year should be good for me because I have a year of Coach Lick under my belt. I can get better and keep learning the system.”
His third season with the Hawkeyes will include a new role — as team captain — along with sophomore Jarryd Cole.
“Coach talked to me at the end of the season and said he wanted me to be captain of the team and I accepted that role,” Tate said. “I have to adjust to it because in high school I had a leadership role, but I never had that feeling that I was a leader. Being a leader doesn’t mean yelling at teammates. Basically it is leading by example and I’m going to try to do that and hopefully the players will respond. This season will be a good test for me to teach the new guys coming in what to do and what not to do.”
Lickliter said that Tate was a natural choice as captain because of his work ethic and because he is from the `Well done is better than well said’ school of thought.
“There are guys who are vocal and they’re probably leading, but that doesn’t mean they’re leading in the right direction,” Lickliter said. “Cyrus isn’t necessarily vocal, but he leads through his actions — which is more important. He’s going to show the right way to do it.”
“Our first goal should be team chemistry and doing things together. That definitely shows on the court. Having bad chemistry doesn’t help teams. If we establish good chemistry first, we should have a great season. Playing games should be the fun part. A lot of our guys have a winning mentality and they know what it takes to win. We have to play at a high level.”
UI senior Cyrus Tate
Last season the Hawkeyes finished 13-19 overall, 6-12 in the Big Ten. Iowa was 10-8 at Carver-Hawkeye Arena and had impressive wins at home against No. 6 Michigan State (43-36) and defending NCAA national runner-up Ohio State (53-48). Tate will be joined this season by five returning players and seven newcomers — juniors Devan Bawinkel and Jermain Davis and incoming freshmen Andrew Brommer, Aaron Fuller, Matt Gatens, John Lickliter and Anthony Tucker.
“Expectations are high,” Tate said. “We expect a lot from ourselves. This year we really want to make a difference. I think we can go far and surprise a lot of teams in the Big Ten.”
According to Tate, one of the keys to a successful season on the court will be the ability of the players to mesh inside and outside of the gym.
“Our first goal should be team chemistry and doing things together,” he said. “That definitely shows on the court. Having bad chemistry doesn’t help teams. If we establish good chemistry first, we should have a great season. Playing games should be the fun part. A lot of our guys have a winning mentality and they know what it takes to win. We have to play at a high level.”
Tate said he is working hard in the off-season to develop a more consistent mid-range jump shot and because of his physical style, he knows that he will make several trips to the free throw line. Offense and points have a way of taking care of themselves, Tate said. He takes immense pride in collecting rebounds and shutting down whoever he guards.
“Rebounding is probably my main strength,” Tate said. “I take pride in my defense. I try to make sure my man doesn’t score. If a guy scores on me I really take it personal. It’s something I don’t want to live with.”
If a basketball career is not in Tate’s future, he would like to begin an organization that supports and encourages children.
“I want to give back as much as I can because I was that kid,” said Tate, an African American studies and psychology major. “Working with kids would be a great reward for me. Hopefully I’ll be able to do that because I want to try to make a difference.”
By listening to others, putting the team first and working hard, Tate has already made a difference for the Hawkeyes on the basketball court.