May 21, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa – The seven current members of the University of Iowa men’s basketball team are preparing for the most memorable “working vacation” of their lives beginning Friday, as they embark on a 10-day overseas trip to Italy and Greece.
But a vacation doesn’t come without some measure of work.
The Hawkeyes will play a total of four exhibition games, one in Rome (May 24) and three in Greece (May 27, May 29, May 31). To prepare for these games, the NCAA allows 10 full team practices prior to departure; something that Head Coach Todd Lickliter believes is an added bonus for his team.
“This trip really gave our guys something to look forward to, something to work for,” Lickliter said. “It’s been a very productive spring. The guys are stronger, healthier and have a great attitude moving forward.”
Sophomore Matt Gatens echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“Everybody’s attitude has been great,” Gatens said. “All of us want to be here. We want to put Iowa basketball back where it needs to be. This experience should definitely help us see where we are as a team.”
Every four years, the NCAA allows men’s and women’s teams to travel overseas and compete. In 2007, the Iowa women’s basketball team made a similar trip to Greece, but this is the first time in six years that the Iowa men have left the borders of the United States (Australia, 2003) for an exhibition tour.
Incoming recruits aren’t able to join the Hawkeyes in Italy and Greece. Joining Gatens on the trip will be senior Devan Bawinkel, junior Jarryd Cole, sophomores Andrew Brommer, Aaron Fuller and Anthony Tucker and redshirt freshman John Lickliter.
With a short roster, there’s plenty of playing time to go around. The trip marks Tucker’s return to the court in a game setting after missing much of the Big Ten season due to being declared academically ineligible.
For all purposes, though, Tucker has worked his way back and Lickliter has taken notice.
“I’m really proud of Anthony Tucker,” Lickliter said. “He’s worked extremely hard to get to this point and is obviously a big part of what we want to do here. He’s a smart young man and has really turned things around.”
Iowa will play the exhibition games without an experienced point guard. Lickliter says he expects Tucker and Bawinkel to handle the distribution of the basketball on the trip, as well as his son, John, who redshirted a year ago.
The young Hawkeyes know they will be facing veteran competition, going up against older, more physical and more experienced players. It’s a challenge Cole is looking forward to.
“The pace is going to be much different,” Cole said. “We’re fortunate to be in this situation. We’re going to get a taste of what basketball is like overseas and we’ll get to see different cultures. I’m really going to enjoy it.”
The trip will provide a bonding experience to a team that already has grown so much together.
“We know we’re going against professionals,” Bawinkel said. “We’ve got to improve ourselves to get to that level. I think we can compete with them.”