Lickliter Prepares for Penn State

The Iowa Men's basketball team has three games remaining in its regular season. The Hawks sit at 5-10 in conference play, but they have three winnable games left; Illinois on Saturday, at Northwestern next week and at Penn State on Wednesday. Todd Lickliter spoke with the media on Monday about the upcoming game against the Nittany Lions, recruiting, Cyrus Tate's emergence and more...

Todd Lickliter Opening Statement

It was a fairly tough week, but it could have been tougher if the guys hadn't gotten the win against Northwestern. I read in one of the columns about the droughts. We have had some offensive droughts, there is no question. We have endured those in the past with a few teams, as I said. The one against Michigan state was too early and too long and they are really good. I have been saying we want to get better and grow and we have seen some of that. Cyrus is really complimenting us on the inside. If we can get the balance we need, and compliment him now with the perimeter play and put it together, we could eliminate some of those droughts offensively.

Defensively, I do think that we didn't play with the kind of purpose and focus and technique that was required at Michigan State. I felt like they really got some open looks where we were just behind a lot. Morgan is so good, Neitzel…I tried to recruit Neitzel at Butler. I wanted him then, now I really wish we would have gotten him. We tried to recruit Cornley really hard, too (Penn State). It could have helped me this year if we could have gotten those guys at Butler.

Q: Cyrus was named the Big Ten Player of the Week, can that help his confidence?

Todd Lickliter: I don't think he needs the confidence. I think it's a great statement, because the only thing Cyrus has been concerned with is helping the team and doing his job. He has wanted the team to win. His focus has been on the proper things and that is what happens. When you focus on helping others and doing your job, then sometimes individual success comes along. I am happy for Cyrus. I know this; he would be the first to say he would take the win over that anytime. That is what he is trying to do. Cyrus is very content with playing whatever role need be to help us be successful. He works, he is sealing well, he is working hard inside. There is a lot of one on one right now because Seth is playing facing a lot. When we shoot it, Cyrus is not giving in to just staying in one position. He has pursued the basketball and its paying off. It is deserving.

Q: Has he become the most valuable player for you? If not, who is?

Lickliter: I think everyone should be the most valuable in doing the job that they have been given. Someone that I am really pleased with is Dan Bohall. He has been terrific in practice, he was good again this morning. I have said this a number of times; we equate contribution with statistics or points or whatever. I don't think that is fair. I like that Cyrus is being productive, you need guys to score and score efficiently and rebound. I couldn't say he is the most valuable player, but I really respect and appreciate the way that he is complimenting and doing his part and being very content in that. If everyone can do that, if they can just focus on doing their job, you can have a team of MVP's and a really good team.

Q: What has to happen now to get the backcourt rolling again?

Lickliter: If we have a night where the guards don't shoot it well, we have problems. What we have had so far is that one of them has shot it well. Part of that is shot selection. But I do think that now it takes a little pressure off of them. It also can open things up because if you play the guards tight, and we deliver the ball to Cyrus and it's one on one, they will have to make a decision on that. Cyrus has to now be in tune enough to know if there is help to kick it back out. I think patience is a huge part of people being effective.

Q: How do you feel about your team's shot selection at this point?

Lickliter: Sometimes I feel good, sometimes I don't feel so good. I think we get anxious. I wish we had more poise and more patience at times. I have said this, anytime you take a low percentage shot, you have passed up an opportunity. I know that is pretty simple. Well, that was just one possession, or I could make that. I want to shoot shots we know we can make and if we miss, that is OK. I don't want to pass up shots that we know we are going to make, and at the same time, if we need to move the ball at the end, I wish we could have enough poise to do that. We struggle with that at times, there is no question. We shoot quick, anxious shots. Then it compounds and you get down a few and you want to make the eight point shot or whatever. They are not available to you. It is one possession at a time. It's shooting shots you know you are going to make.

Q: Cyrus rarely takes bad shots.

Lickliter: I think he is poised and content. I also believe that his motivation is absolutely correct. He wants his team to win. That is how he sees it, and I just think that that is the best way to play the game and the best way to be effective.

Q: Jarryd Cole, he was playing well before he got hurt. Can you see next year, with Tate and Cole starting together?

Lickliter: I think they can play together, without question. Would we take taller guys? Yeah. We need a couple. Brommer is 6-8. I wouldn't have a problem with that. Also, Cyrus is playing a lot of minutes. It would be nice to not play quite so many minutes.

Q: How are you coming on those last two scholarships? Do you anticipate signing people the first chance you get, in April?

Lickliter: Yes, that is the idea. We are working hard. There are other people competing for talented, good students, good players. We have to present it the best we can. If it is the right fit, then we will know it and they will know it.

Q: You cannot name names, but have you gotten some good feedback from someone that they are coming?

Lickliter: There have been no verbals at this time. We feel like we are making progress and good about our efforts. I think I have an incredible staff. Those guys are diligent, they are good on the floor, they are good with the team and they are good at the recruiting.

Q: Would you be open to transfers?

Lickliter: I am an opportunistic guy. I am open, I like to evaluate and I don't say I will only take this or that. Let's see what is there. What best helps our program.

Q: Are the evaluations ongoing, or have you zeroed in?

Lickliter: We are pretty focused. We have a pretty good understanding of what we need and who we are looking at.

Q: Did you see any of the Drake-Butler game?

Lickliter: I didn't see any of it. On the bus ride home, my son called and he was watching and he gave me a play by play. I am surprised when teams go in to Hinkle Fieldhouse and are successful. I am not surprised Drake played well, they are well coached and a good team. It had to be an exciting game. I don't know that I was any prouder of our guys than last year when we played SIU in that event and they beat us. It was as hard fought and aggressive a game as I saw all year and I am sure this was a great game too. Two well coached teams and I am sure people that got to see it appreciate the brand of basketball.

Q: Your son (John) plays for City High, and they will be playing in Cedar Rapids tomorrow. Do you get to go to that?

Lickliter: I will not. We play Penn State on Wednesday, and we are headed over there. I have my fingers crossed that if City High would happen to win, then I would get to see my son play in the state. If that is not the case, I won't get to see him play his last high school game. That would be tough. I don't want him concerned with that, their focus is just trying to advance and they understand competition.

Q: Matt Gatens is having an incredible year. Do you see him stepping right in and playing next year?

Lickliter: It's OK with me if he would like to. I think everyone should earn everything. I think that is Matt's approach, he wouldn't want anything given to him. I have said all along that I like what he brings.

Q: What makes him such a great player?

Lickliter: He had a quote not too long ago that said he didn't care about how many points he scored, he just wants to win. When you focus on the right things, and you have to have good skill and savvy for the game which Matt does and you have to be able to play…but then it becomes strong mind, big heart and Matt has those things.

Q: Did you say somewhere that your son would be walking on next year, or can you say that?

Lickliter: I think I am allowed to say that. I better check with my wife and see if she will allow it. That is the plan right now. He has been accepted, I think I am allowed to say all that. If not, I am sorry. I am not familiar with that rule. He wants to go to the University of Iowa, I know that.

Q: Talk about what Penn State has had to go through during the last month.

Lickliter: Claxton could have been the player of the year, arguably. Now you lose him and you have to make moves and you have to find out how to compliment one another and that sort of thing. I think they have done a terrific job. Sometimes you are not rewarded by the win. I watched yesterday, and they can put three or four shooters around Cornley and they can make it really tough on you and they do. They have great speed in the backcourt. They are young, but playing well. Ed has done a great job of keeping them together and moving forward and competing. This is a tough league. When you lose one of your best players, but maybe the best player in the league, that is a tough thing to overcome.

Q: Did you come close to getting Cornley?

Lickliter: I don't know, we worked hard at it. We thought he would be good for us and I liked getting to know him. I liked watching him play in high school and AAU. He has been successful with the same approach he has had. I really like him.

Q: Do you think about seeding for the Big Ten tournament at all?

Lickliter: No, we are not thinking about seeding at all. We are focused on the same things. Be better today, try to get rid of some of the offensive deficiencies, work to better compliment one another, prepare for what will be a tough test at Penn State and then go to the next thing.

Q: We won't get the chance to talk with you before you play Illinois. Did you ever think that they would be in the situation they are in, just three wins right now, and their struggles?

Lickliter: Honestly, I have not really thought about any of that at all. It would require me trying to evaluate their situation, and I have so much on my plate, I can't do that. I know that Bruce Weber is a very good coach. I have watched him through the years and they are competing this year. It was overtime with Indiana. They have played some good basketball. In this league you had better be ready to play. Illinois is on Saturday, I respect them but we better focus on Penn State.

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