I appreciate you all being here. We have a game on Sunday. The purpose of this press conference is to give out the starting lineup. And when we know what it is we will let you know. I say that facetiously, because we talk about it a lot. It's a funny thing. I told the team the other day and have repeated it, I hope that no one will gauge their worth based on if they start, how many points they score or how many minutes they play because there are so many contributions. It reminded of Coach Wooden using an example of a race car driver. We all know the driver's face and name, but we don't know people in the pit crew and all the people that contribute that make it possible for them to compete. We know it will take a collaborative effort and that is what we are working on over the past few weeks. The players brought in their own skills and talents, and we have been trying to coordinate the efforts. I am pleased with the direction. It has been an enjoyable group and we are looking forward to competing.
Maybe you know, maybe you don't, that the NCAA allows us to have two exhibitions, or we can have two closed scrimmages with another Division 1, or one closed and one exhibition, and we choose to do it that way. We like to have the closed scrimmage before the exhibition so that we have had a couple weeks of practice against one another, and we handle defensive and offensive situations with one scheme in mind. We try to defend a certain way. We are seeing a constant diet of that throughout practice. We need to see a team that plays different ways. The closed scrimmage is good because you can invite someone that you are familiar with, someone you respect and know the way they coach. Now we see different players and different ways of handling things. We are not allowed to comment on it, but we did have a closed scrimmage on Saturday, and I thought it was a good test for us and beneficial. The one thing I would say that came out of it was the opposing coach said our players really understood where one another were offensively. I was pleased to hear that, we are eager to share the basketball. I am excited offensively where we can make it difficult for the other team to defend us. I do believe we are making strides defensively.
We are at the consciously competent stage; we understand what we need to do. We have to think about it, and that makes you late. We are striving to become unconsciously competent, and we are moving in that direction. This Sunday we play Wayne State. I am very familiar with the coaching staff and I played them twice at Butler. I like their approach to the game. I think it will be very challenging. That is what we are looking for. We are looking for a good challenge for this group, because we felt like we are going to need to see the level of play that Wayne State will bring in and that challenge. Hopefully we will have a better understanding where we are after Sunday. That is my assessment as of now. I will be glad to answer questions.
Q: Do you see the same players taking charge at point guard?
Todd Liclkliter: I see us having four point guards in Jeff Peterson, he has a great familiarity with what we are doing. I like his approach at that point. Anthony Tucker has shown that he really has the mindset and approach to be a point guard. They are a little different. They can play on the floor at the same time without question, but they are both capable. Jermain Davis has done a really good job of playing with poise back there and brings a little uniqueness in size and his ability to finish at the basket, but he also finds teammates very well. John Lickliter walked on and gives us point guard play as well in practice. That is not to say someone else can't play; I saw Matt Gatens play point in high school. I don't know if that will be the best situation for him, but I am comfortable with those guys handling back there. We will have more than one individual being able to hand the ball. That doesn't mean running a team necessarily.
Q: Is there a position or two where you feel comfortable now that you will have a good game from that spot each night?
Liclkliter: Consistency…I believe our play at ever position has been consistent, and that is exciting. I feel comfortable at each position, whoever we put out there, an approach that will put the team first, they understand their strengths, the strengths of their teammates. I am confident in this group. What we need to find out is what combinations work the best together and get those rotations. I do think they will be capable. Depending upon the situation and opponent will determine how many minutes are played by those players. Cyrus has a great deal of experience coming back, Jake does too. And Jeff, also. He played more early last year, but that is not unusual for someone that is a freshman. All three of those guys have extended experience.
Q: How has Jarryd Cole's knee responded?
Liclkliter: He is ready to come out of the gates. I think his approach would be that way. The doctors feel like he is strong enough and we will start working in that direction. I only say that to show you his mindset. He thinks he is 100 percent healthy. I had a player at Butler that had an ACL and he hit knees in the game, and I asked him if it was the good knee or bad knee, and he said they were both good. Once you get out there and see how it responds, I don't think Jarryd is apprehensive at all. I think he is doing quite well.
Q: What did you learn in Chicago with the other coaches?
Liclkliter: I didn't spend a lot of time with the other coaches. We had a few brief meetings. There are always guys you are closer to. I knew this before I went up there; competitive coaches and well prepared teams. I don't know that I learned any more up there about any team. I spent a day and talked a little bit about the league and where we are.
Q: Where is the league at in your opinion?
Liclkliter: In what regard, I am sorry?
Q: The Big Ten isn't getting much play across the country.
Liclkliter: Hmm. I think I read it that we were number one in attendance again as a league. There must be some excitement somewhere. I enjoy the preseason reviews, but I know that the reason you play the games is to see how it shakes out. I think Michigan State, Purdue, Wisconsin to name a few. Ohio State….I think they have all gotten a great deal of respect, I think at least in the Top 30. Maybe Top 25. I probably left someone out. I do think that it's a competitive league, one that by the end of the year we are going to have five or six teams that are NCAA bound. Once you are in that, then anything can happen.
Q: Have you seen any dramatic improvements yet?
Liclkliter: We have only been together a few weeks. I won't say dramatic improvement, but I have seen steady progress. I have seen a commitment to where I feel like we are going to be able to compete. I think these guys really like challenges. I just left Matt Gatens in the locker room and told him where I was going. We were talking about the reason we enjoy the game so much, because of the competitiveness of it. I really believe that in itself will enable us to keep improving. If you enjoy competition and enjoy challenges, you will challenge one another in practice, that is the only way you get better. I see us improving and an opportunity to keep improving.
Q: Is it too early to have expectations for this team, because of its youth?
Liclkliter: Our expectation is the same no matter where we are at. We have a very basic pyramid. At the base of it, team first and improve every day. When the opportunity arises, let's compete at the highest level. Your goals should always be set in sports. They are right there, there is the schedule, we have a game, our next game is the game we will focus on. We will try to prepare well and compete that evening and be the best we can that day and be successful and win. If you can do it that way, you end up building a great house. I say house, I shared with our guys at Butler, when you renovate a home you get something done, you admire it, but you know there is more work to do and keep building. When you have that home or whatever it is completely done, you have great satisfaction. One of our players said after we won the N.I.T. that we had a beautiful basement, a good start. We want to put day upon day upon day and build and come out with a great product and the end. Something we can reflect back on and say it was a great experience.
Q: Do you see a window of opportunity in the Big Ten as a few programs are in a rebuilding mode? Do you see a window of opportunity to sneak up on people?
Liclkliter: It would be O.K. I don't mind how we do it. I do think as you look, most people are predicting us to be at the bottom. I have been a part of programs where the predictions have been high and we have maintained it and we have been low and surprised them. You can't get too caught up in that. So much of it depends on us, what is our approach, how good to we want to be and can we seize opportunities. I was telling the team the other day in a competitive drill. Two of our coaches were discussing the outcome. I said there is no discussion to outcome, it is final. There is one chance to play teams on that night, and whomever is successful, that is the best team. It always amazes me to hear someone say after the game and say we should have won or we could have, or next time….that is not the way it works. Do I think these guys can compete in this league? Yes. I believe that they can and that they will.
Q: Is Purdue from last year a role model for that?
Liclkliter: I was impressed by them. You can really allow limitations to just do that, that can limit you. If they said Purdue is young, it will be a process and they believed it, they couldn't have done what they did. It is a process, but I don't know how long it is. One of the advantages to working at Iowa on the second floor is that I run into Tom Brands or Dan Gable. I saw Coach Gable and told him that we were in the development stage, but I don't want to limit them. He said that is exactly it. He said when you say it's going to be a process, you limit someone. He echoed my sentiments. You limit them to how quickly they can get it. Why would we want to do that? I don't know any greater champions than those guys. Purdue is tangible evidence. Don't limit yourself.
Q: Do you see Jarryd and Cyrus on the floor together, since they do some of the some of the same things?
Liclkliter: I think they are similar. One of the things we have to look at with Jarryd, we feel like he is 100 percent. But even with that, you want to watch and see minutes played and how it builds up. That is something we want to gauge. I could see them sharing some minutes. 40 minutes is a long time to play. I don't foresee anyone playing that. I do think that you have two guys there that do a great job in the low post. They position well, they have good strength. I think they will probably share minutes as much as play together.
Q: Do you think you will have more players playing multiple positions?
Liclkliter: I do see that. I would prefer that. I like versatile players. They might play one position on offense and another on defense. I think that is to your advantage.