Oct. 13, 2008
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IOWA CITY, Iowa — New season, new opportunities.
That’s how University of Iowa head men’s basketball coach Todd Lickliter opened his media day press conference in front of a packed room this afternoon inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena.
It is year No. 2 of the Lickliter Era at Iowa. The Hawkeyes finished 13-19 overall last season, 6-12 in the Big Ten Conference. Four of Iowa’s top six scorers return, but that total does not include the top two — Tony Freeman and Justin Johnson. There is an electrifying group of seven newcomers.
“We’re excited about the opportunities,” Lickliter said.
Words from a book and from a friend provided Lickliter with enough motivational slogans to kick off the season.
“I recently read a line in a book that said, `walk towards the talk,'” he said. “I had a good friend that was a teacher back when I first started in the teaching profession and coaching. He told me the most difficult part of any job is starting it. We felt like we got it started. Now we’re trying to walk towards the talk.”
A healthy sophomore Jarryd Cole returns along with fellow co-captain Cyrus Tate, a senior. Cole, a forward, played 13 games last season — started six times — before tearing an ACL. He averaged 6.6 points and 4.8 rebounds per game and made 66.7 percent of his field goals (36 of 54).
“I’d like to be his 100 percent,” said Lickliter, assuring the press corps that Cole was ready for a return to the court. “He ran somewhere around a 5:30 mile and I think he’s bench-pressing over 300 pounds. Then you’ve got obviously his big heart, his energy and his enthusiasm. It’s really comforting to have him back.”
Tate, also a forward, is the top returning scorer for the Hawkeyes. He averaged 8.3 points and 5.4 rebounds per game and like Cole, made 66.7 percent of his field goals (86 of 129).
Don’t look for a significant drop in those shooting percentages, especially with the three-point line moving back a foot this season.
“We think this is going to benefit us,” Lickliter said. “We’ve had a great emphasis on strength and it will open up the lane and allow us to play with better spacing. I’m excited about that. I think it’s a good thing for us.”
“With the new guys that are coming in, it gives us added depth, not just for games, but in practice. I think that’s more important than the games themselves. I think that the challenges that we’ll be able to have in practice will enable us to grow. I don’t think you grow at the speed you need to unless you’re stretched, unless you’re challenged. I see we’re going to do that.”
UI head coach
The Hawkeyes return six letterwinners — Cole, Tate, J.R. Angle (3.2 points per game, 1.7 rebounds per game), Jake Kelly (7.3 ppg, 1.9 rpg), David Palmer (0.9 ppg, 0.6 rpg) and Jeff Peterson (5.2 ppg, 3.1 assists per game). Peterson, a point guard, played 30 games last season, starting 11 times.
“I think he’ll have a better understanding of playing high-percentage basketball,” Lickliter said of Peterson. “We know what we can do. Now it’s more of not what you can do necessarily, but what do you need to do for the benefit of the team.”
One area generating a lot of interest and optimism among the Hawkeye Nation is the first recruiting class brought in by Lickliter and assistant coaches Joel Cornette, LaVall Jordan and Chad Walthall. The group includes seven student-athletes — two juniors and five freshmen. They are juniors Devan Bawinkel and Jermain Davis and freshmen Andrew Brommer, Aaron Fuller, Matt Gatens, John Lickliter and Anthony Tucker.
“With the new guys that are coming in, it gives us added depth, not just for games, but in practice,” Lickliter said. “I think that’s more important than the games themselves. I think that the challenges that we’ll be able to have in practice will enable us to grow. I don’t think you grow at the speed you need to unless you’re stretched, unless you’re challenged. I see we’re going to do that.”
Iowa opens the season Sunday, Nov. 9, with an exhibition game against Wayne State (Mich.), beginning at 1:05 p.m. inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena. The regular season begins at home Friday, Nov. 14, against Charleston Southern.
Iowa will play 18 Big Ten Conference games — two each against Ohio State, Indiana, Michigan, Purdue, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State and Northwestern and single games at home against Minnesota (Jan. 8) and at Illinois (Feb. 1).
“I think it’s a terrific conference,” Lickliter said. “If you’re going to talk about the best conference in America, the Big Ten has to be in the argument. That means you’re at the top. You’re right where you want to be. You want to compete at the highest level and the Big Ten offers that.”