Hawkeye Basketball Team Green, But Growing

Gazette photo by Brian Ray

Gazette photo by Brian Ray

My column from Tuesday night’s UNI-Iowa game:

IOWA CITY — Last season, that wasn’t basketball at Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

That was a skimpy serving of leftovers courtesy of the previous coaching regime, short-handed mush.

This season, Todd Lickliter has something strongly resembling a ballclub. This wasn’t at all a rout, but Iowa’s 65-46 victory over Northern Iowa here last night was decisive all the same. It was predicated on defense and smarts. But it sure helps to have more talent than a winter ago.

“They’re different in the sense they’ve got more guys who can handle it and more guys who understand and can pass it,” said UNI Coach Ben Jacobson. “And they’ve got other guys who make 3-point shots.

“I think their unselfishness is really key to all that. It’s one thing to have a group of guys who can handle it and know how to play, but when all of them are unselfish, then you’ve got something you can really build on.

“It appears to me they’ve got it.”

The Hawkeyes’ three starting guards — Matt Gatens, Jake Kelly and Jeff Peterson — teamed for 51 points, 11 assists, and just two of their team’s measly five turnovers.

That’s good stuff from a freshman and two sophomores, and it’s not like the opposition was a slouch.

A telling moment came when freshman Gatens, who made 4 of 5 threes to up his season total to 20 of 33, was open behind the arc with his team holding a double-digit lead. Some in the announced crowd of 9,435 (yeah, right) groaned when Gatens spurned the shot. But more applauded when they realized he used his brain.

“He makes 4 of 5 threes,” Lickliter said, “he makes a big one (with 7:11 left), he’s got another wide open. It’s late in the game, early in the shot clock, and he passes it up.”

It was a good play, one of many the 8-2 Hawkeyes made after halftime when they outscored the Panthers 42-24.

Iowa played without its leading scorer, freshman Anthony Tucker, suspended for a drinking misadventure. If you hadn’t known a cog was missing, you would never have sensed it.

“I don’t think they concern themselves with areas that they can’t control,” Lickliter said. “They play the game with purpose, and it leads to this kind of thing.”

None of this is mysterious. The Hawkeyes are green, but not the deep shade they were a year ago in Year One of the Lickliter era. There are more bodies in uniforms, more talent in those bodies.

“I do think we’ve got a little more skill this year as far as shooters and ball handling,” Kelly said. “Last year we had some players, too, but this year it’s clicking more, I think we’ve got a better understanding of Lickliter’s system.”

Basketball never changes. You need a point guard who knows how to direct a club, or you go nowhere.

A season ago, Peterson was a freshman who looked lost playing for a coach who inherited him late in the 2007 recruiting process. He had more turnovers than assists playing in a system alien to him. The rumor mill had him fleeing town. But this Hawkeye guard didn’t run away.

“I don’t want to make excuses,” Peterson said. “If I could do it again, I wish we wouldn’t have had the season like last year. But at the same time, I’m thankful because it was a huge learning lesson for me and my whole team.”

Peterson spent his off-season working with weights and working on his game.

“What you do in that time is you invest,” Lickliter said. “Jeff invested.

“It takes a little while. And you’re asking someone to run a team. The other positions are difficult. But to run a team, you really need to know what the system is, what the coach wants, and become very familiar.”

“I’m real comfortable,” Peterson said. “I love playing with the guys around me.”

“Great guy, great point guard,” Kelly said. “He’s going to get things done for us.”

Though the number of witnesses remains small, things have gotten better here. There are miles to go, but the 13-19 team of last season seems to be long gone.

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12 responses to “Hawkeye Basketball Team Green, But Growing

  1. I really like JP and think he’s going to have a nice career but he needs a backup. Kid can’t play every minute and we’re different when he’s out, not as much flow.

    This team is improving all the time, hopefully we can say the same about the attendance soon.

  2. I’m distressed at the modest humor (“drinking misadventure”) assigned to Tucker’s incident. He could have died. It was 9 degrees. This has stopped being a case of kids being kids. It’s a public health problem. I’m astonished at the frenzied drinking in Iowa City — and no, I am no teetotaler. This kid was a few hours from dying of exposure, lying on his back in an alley. New lines need to be drawn, and Mason has to draw them. She won’t, so perhaps we should stop making light of such dangerous behavior. Sorry to sound like a scold — I am just a parent of two college athletes, and a former college athlete myself (who kept a case of beer in his dorm room), and what’s going on now in IC is unrecognizable and dangerous. If Tucker were my son he would be withdrawn from school, because I would be terrified that I was going to lose him.

  3. Anthony is my son and don`t you ever make a suggestion about how to raise my son. Why would I withdrawl him from school? That is the most ridiculous thing that I have ever heard of. You weren`t there and you don`t have all the facts so you need to worry about your own family!

  4. I believe Drew’s intent was to point out the life or death implications of this situation. It’s bad all the way around, but my question is, What other facts could there be? Drunk, Passout outside, Freezing Temeratures!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    That’s life or death no matter what the excuses. That makes it serious! Parent Denial is 90% of the problem. Before it is said, Yes I have one in college and she thinks I’m an A _ _ hole. Tough, she does what she is suppose to do.

  5. drew – Your response is a tad over the top, dude. Do you know of anything that happened that night?

  6. I just received an excerpt of this column with a link to this page from hawkeyesports.com, the official site of the the UI Athletic Dept. I am on their mailing list as a season ticket holder so the fact they e-mailed me isn’t an issue. What is bothersome is they used a newspaper columnist’s positive words for marketing purposes.

    While I don’t think it was Mike Hlas’s intent, it could really call into question his objectivity if he consented to it’s use. If he did not consent to it’s use, then it reflects poorly on the Athletic Dept.

  7. Ending alcohol prohibition for young adults would go a long way to solving this sort of problem.
    Clearly, the unintended consequences are not worth the stated goals of the policy.

  8. MF:

    The Iowa Athletic Dept. used the column without asking me first. But it’s not an uncommon practice for universities and colleges to reprint articles from news media agencies.

    I hope long-time readers would know that I give the department and its teams credit where I think it’s due, and criticism and questioning when I think that’s due. You won’t see them reprinting the criticism.

    Your point is certainly understandable.

  9. Mike:

    As a Gazette subscriber and reader, I know you are fair to those teams and individuals you cover. The e-mail just took me by surprise as this was the first time I’d noticed it being done and it didn’t sit well with me. I know reporters and other media-types have to walk a fine line in their relationships with who they cover.

    I think the Gazette does a good job of balancing things. I don’t get the sense they get special access over other media outlets. If they do, they conceal it well enough from the casual observer, or at least me.

    Just like reporters shouldn’t abuse that relationship, teams and schools shouldn’t abuse it either. Rather, the Univ could have made generic comments about the praise the team is getting from media and fans, maybe even quote or two. But reprinting 4 paragraphs of the column and linking directly here crossed a line, IMHO.

    To add insult to injury, there were typos in the Univ-generated content, referencing “Iowa State is next at 7 p.m. in Carver-Hawkeye Arena. About 2,000 tickets remain available for that event. ” Great, but what day?

    The whole thing smacked of an organization desperate for some good press. I don’t know if it’s the on-the-court struggles of the last few years, the Tucker incident, or something else but it was a classless move on the University’s part.

  10. re: “this was the first time I’d noticed it being done”

    To clarify, the “it” is universities and colleges reprinting articles from news agencies.

    Although, I also think the guidelines for use should differntiate between game reports/recaps (objective) and columns (subjective).

  11. Spank, I know a 19 year-old is lucky to be alive, or at minimum be in possession of all his digits, and wouldn’t be if police didn’t patrol alleys looking for comatose adolescents sleeping in snowdrifts at 1:30 a.m. And I suspect his parents must be horrified — and giddy with relief that he is okay.

    I continue to be amazed at the outrage that visits anyone who challenges this binge culture at SUI.

    The other huge disaster to visit the athletic department this year also involved alcohol, consumed by the alleged sexual victim to the point of blackout.

    I don’t think this is charming or rakish behavior. I think it’s dangerous and antithetical to the university mission. It needs to get dialed back.

  12. I am with Mr. Tucker. How can you possibly give advice or hope to make the proper decision on whether or not a kid should stay in school. You don’t know the character of this student. It was probably not his best moment, but as kids we all have learned from mistakes. I think it is all up to Anthony at this point, do what it takes to excel, get back on the court and I am sure he will be just fine.

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