Iowa Men's Basketball Season Preview

Oct. 9, 2009

2009-10 Men’s Basketball Prospectus
2009-10 Iowa History and Records Section

The Iowa Men’s Basketball team will kick off its season Monday afternoon at Carver-Hawkeye Arena when the players and coaches meet with reporters for Media Day.

As Coach Todd Lickliter enters his third season at Iowa, the foundation is in place for an exciting season of Iowa men’s basketball. Lickliter and his staff are confident they have a team with the right work ethic and approach to move the Black and Gold forward.

The Iowa roster is young, but talented, with Big Ten experience. The Hawkeyes welcome back five lettermen, which includes four starters from a year ago. It includes one senior, two juniors, four sophomores, one redshirt freshman and four freshmen. Five of the 12 team members are in their first year at Iowa.

Last season, the Hawkeyes defeated six teams in the RPI Top 100 despite not being at full strength. Ten of Iowa’s losses were by eight points or less, including six by four or less. The Hawkeyes won three overtime games and another four by six points or less.

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Lickliter, the 2007 National Coach of the Year, holds a career mark of 159-97 (.621) in eight seasons as a head coach. His past successes include four post-season appearances, as he led teams to the second round of the NIT (2002 and 2006) and a pair of trips to the NCAA Sweet 16 (2003 and 2007).

Iowa will again face another challenging schedule in 2009-10. Twenty-three of 31 regular season games are against teams that advanced to post-season play last season, including 15, and possibly 16, contests against teams that participated in the NCAA Tournament.

During the non-conference portion of the schedule, Iowa will meet teams from the Big 12, ACC, Missouri Valley, along with a possible Big East opponent. The Hawkeyes will participate in the O’Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic, challenging Texas and either Pittsburgh or Wichita State in Kansas City. Iowa will host preliminary round games of the CBE Classic in Iowa City against Duquesne and Illinois-Chicago. The Black and Gold will play two of their three in-state rivalry games on the road, visiting Iowa State and Northern Iowa, while playing Drake at home. The Hawkeyes will also host a Big Ten/ACC Challenge game against Virginia Tech in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Overall, the Hawkeyes will play 19 home games and two contests at a neutral site.

Within the Big Ten, the Hawkeyes play two games against four of the top six teams from a year ago. Iowa meets Penn State (home) and Wisconsin (away) just once. Iowa opens Big Ten play with four of five games at home, while it concludes the conference slate with three of four on the road. The Big Ten Tournament is held in Indianapolis.

“Overall, it’s another challenging schedule,” Lickliter said. “Any time you play 18 Big Ten games, an ACC Challenge game and three in-state schools, the schedule will always be demanding. Regardless of whether we are playing back-to-back road games or at home, we are striving for consistency.”

“We’re going to continue to grow, both individually and, as a team. I can see they’re making strides toward developing a consistent approach. Our players worked hard over the summer and the foundation they established will pay dividends this season.”
Head Coach Todd Lickliter

The Hawkeyes began preparing for the 2009-10 season in May when the team took a foreign trip to Italy and Greece. The team had 10 practice days before the trip and played three exhibition contests in Europe. Coach Lickliter believes the team benefited from the trip and really showed its appreciation for the opportunity.

“I was pleased with the players’ approach to the trip,” said Lickliter. “They were fully engaged in the opportunity to learn and grow on and off the court. In regard to our competitive approach, our emphasis was for each player to concentrate on the play at hand and to make the appropriate adjustments that would lead to team success.”

Iowa’s four returning starters include senior guard Devan Bawinkel (6-5, 210), sophomore guard Matt Gatens (6-5, 210), junior forward Jarryd Cole (6-7, 250) and sophomore forward Aaron Fuller (6-6, 210). Sophomore forward Andrew Brommer (6-9, 235) and sophomore guard Anthony Tucker (6-4, 200) are Iowa’s other two returning lettermen. The Hawkeyes return two of its top four scorers from a year ago: Gatens (10.8 ppg) and Tucker (10.4 ppg).

Gatens, who started all 32 contests, had a stellar freshman campaign and was named to the all-Big Ten freshman team. He was also honored as a fourth team freshman all-American by The Iowa City native set the Iowa single-season free throw percentage record, shooting at a 90% clip from the charity stripe. But with all the accolades Gatens achieved his rookie season, Lickliter believes the best is yet to come.

“Matt is very deserving of his honors,” said Lickliter. “But, he’s not satisfied with having a terrific freshman campaign. He’s dedicated himself to expanding his game. He’s worked hard on being able to drive the ball, finish around the basket and make plays for others. We look for Matt to be an improved player and have an even greater impact in his sophomore season.”

Tucker played in 14 games and was Iowa’s most consistent 3-point shooter, ranking first on the team in percentage (.427, 38-89). Lickliter believes Tucker benefited the most from the foreign trip, being able to get in 10 really good practices.

“Although Anthony had a setback, he didn’t let it define him,” said Lickliter. “He continued to work diligently, stepped up his effort on the court, in the weight room and in the classroom. He decided to invest and come out of it a stronger, better player.”

As a freshman, Fuller started 19 games, including the last six, averaging 4.0 points per contest. Brommer saw action in 20 games, as a freshman, shooting at a 53 percent clip from the field.

Bawinkel played in all 32 games, starting nine, averaging 4.8 points and sinking the second-most triples on the team (51) his junior year. After suffering a season-ending knee injury his freshman season, Cole started all 32 games, with nine starts, and shot a blistering team-best 67.6% from the floor. Cole and Bawinkel have been named co-captains for the upcoming season.

“The teams in the Big Ten take pride in defending. Winning championships is the ultimate goal and I believe defense gives you an opportunity to compete for championships. There’s a real thrill in watching players support one another and defend as a team. There are two ends of the court and it’s truly gratifying when both are played with equal intensity and focus.”
Head Coach Todd Lickliter

“I’m really excited about what Jarryd and Devan bring to the team,” Lickliter said. “They have the respect of their teammates and appreciate the opportunity to be a Hawkeye. They `wear the uniform’ with pride, not just on game day, but in all circumstances. They understand the key to improvement is investing every day.”

Lickliter believes “Hawkeye Basketball” is defined as an approach to the game that includes effort, knowledge of the system, commitment to details, and persevering until complementing one another becomes instinctive. He believes this team is making progress.

“We’re going to continue to grow, both individually and, as a team,” said Lickliter. “I can see they’re making strides toward developing a consistent approach. Our players worked hard over the summer and the foundation they established will pay dividends this season.”

In addition to the six lettermen returning, the Hawkeyes welcome six newcomers to the fold. The group of newcomers include: four freshmen, a redshirt freshman and a junior college transfer. Coach Lickliter is excited about the newcomers’ competitive spirit.

“I’m excited about what I see as a team-first attitude and a great work ethic,” said Lickliter. “I like this group a lot. I really like their attitude and approach. They are going to complement the returning players well. They’re a good fit as we continue to build a team that strives to compete for championships.”

Devon Archie (6-9, 215) joins the Hawkeyes after playing two years at Vincennes CC in Indianapolis, IN. The junior was a two-time team captain, averaging 6.8 points and six rebounds as a sophomore. Coach Lickliter likes his presence on the inside and his ability to run the floor and put pressure on the defense in transition.

Dubuque native Eric May (6-5, 225), sank a 35-foot shot at the buzzer to lift his Wahlert HS team to a state title his junior year. A two-time all-state honoree, he averaged 24.3 points and 9.1 rebounds, his senior season. May became Wahlert’s career and single-game scoring leader. Coach Lickliter likes May’s versatility. He can play multiple positions and he can face the basket and post-up, if needed.

Brennan Cougill (6-9, 260) joins the Hawkeye program from Sioux City. Cougill, who is Iowa’s tallest freshman, led his Bishop Heelan HS team to the state title as a senior and was tabbed Iowa’s “Mr. Basketball”. Cougill averaged a double-double his senior campaign (18.2 points and 13.2 rebounds) and became just the 11th player in Iowa prep history to amass over 1,500 points and 1,000 rebounds. Coach Lickliter says Cougill has great court vision, terrific passing skills and has the ability to make players around him better.

Cully Payne (6-1, 190) averaged 21.6 points, 5.4 assists and 2.2 steals as a senior at Schaumburg, IL HS, before missing the final 13 games due to injury. He was named first team all-state and was a four-time team MVP. Coach Lickliter says Payne is a natural point guard, who is a very capable scorer, but is a pass-first point guard.

John Lickliter (5-11, 175) has been with the Iowa program for a year as a walk-on, redshirting last season. He started every game at point guard for Iowa City HS as a senior, joining Gatens in leading the team to a 25-1 record and a state title. Lickliter contributed 11 points and three steals in the title game victory.

Nick Neari (6-2, 185) will join the Hawkeyes this season as a preferred walk-on. As a senior, Neari averaged 14.3 points and 4.9 assists, helping St. Charles, IL HS win 22 games and advance to the state sectional tournament for the first time.

Lickliter would like to see his team transition more effectively this year. Furthermore, he believes being able to score in transition begins on defense.

“The teams in the Big Ten take pride in defending,” Lickliter said. “Winning championships is the ultimate goal and I believe defense gives you an opportunity to compete for championships. There’s a real thrill in watching players support one another and defend as a team. There are two ends of the court and it’s truly gratifying when both are played with equal intensity and focus.”

“The best teams are the ones that can balance their scoring opportunities and recognize when to take the early shot and when to be more patient. A team has to be poised enough to pass up a quick, low-percentage shot to pursue an even better one later in the possession. I believe this team will strike that balance and hopefully create opportunities to score more freely in transition, before defenses get set.”