July 1, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Incoming University of Iowa freshman men’s basketball player Cully Payne has been in town for a little more than three weeks and already he has a favorable impression of Hawkeye fans.
“Definitely passionate,” Payne said. “People around here are real passionate about their sports, which is a great environment to be around.”
Payne, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound guard from Schaumburg, Ill., averaged 21.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4.7 rebounds during his senior season that was cut short by 13 games because of a back injury. UI head coach Todd Lickliter said he can plug Payne in either the one or two-guard position.
“Cully is a true point guard, although he can play the two position as well,” Lickliter said. “He is a very effective point guard and shoots the ball well. He’s a very competitive player who plays the game at a great pace. He’s an excellent addition to our program.”
The college recruiting process was a winding road for Payne, who committed and de-committed to DePaul and Alabama and considered Washington State before settling on the Hawkeyes.
“The biggest thing I was looking for was school atmosphere,” Payne said. “Then the coach and all the people who are around the school from the administrators to teachers. I’ve met tons of great people. Obviously we have a bunch of great guys that have been teaching me as we go. I’m really excited.”
Payne has kept busy during the summer with weight lifting and working out on his own up to three times a day. He is also joining future Hawkeye teammates Aaron Fuller and Devan Bawinkel on the Imprinted Sportswear/Goodfellow Printing team in North Liberty’s Prime Time League. After the first three PTL games, Payne is averaging 16.7 points and 5.0 rebounds per game while shooting 57.6 percent from the field and a jaw-dropping 63.2 percent from three-point range (12 of 19).
When asked to describe his style of play, Payne said, “I’m the kind of player that knows the game real well and can distribute, get in the lane, and finish when people aren’t honest.”
Iowa finished the 2008-09 season with a record of 15-17 overall, 5-13 in the Big Ten Conference. The Hawkeyes won 13 of 17 games inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena and Payne is looking forward to stepping foot on the home parquet.
“It’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m excited and I’m really looking forward to it. Coach Lickliter said we’re trying to take a step up and that’s kind of my goal, too. We have a great group of guys — a bunch of guys that play together real well and have no problems with each other. We all want to win and I think we’re going to have a real good season.”
Payne, who attended Schaumburg High School, intends to pursue a degree in a business field.
Despite flip-flopping on a college choice during high school, it didn’t take Payne long to feel comfortable and at home as a Hawkeye.
“I was going to come up here before the flood even happened,” Payne said. “Coach Lickliter and I were joking around that I could have committed then, because I love this place.”