Charleston S. Pregame: Lickliter Transcript

Putting the flu behind him, Iowa Coach Todd Lickliter met with the media on Wednesday. He talked about Friday night's season opener against Charleston Southern, Jake Kelly's injury, his starting lineup, his recruiting philosophy and more in this HN.com premium press conference transcript.

Opening Comments: I would like to thank each one of you that called or sent a note or worried about me. You're about like my family. If you saw, they all left to go to the Hawkeye game. (laughs) They said, "Hope you make it. We'll be back."

It's nice to be feeling better. A couple of things about that, I can't remember missing a game. I think if I was younger and a player I probably would have tried to get out there and play. As I look at it, they're in very capable hands. It's nice to have a staff that you fully trust. I was thinking about that the other day, the assistants that I've had that are now head coaches and doing quite well. These three guys are going to be the same way. They're perfectly capable.

I just missed it for myself. I would have liked to have seen us compete. I was excited about Wayne State coming in because I knew the coaches well. One of the reasons we brought them in is because I knew how competitive they would be. I knew they would be aggressive and defend. They were always a challenge for us at Butler. I was looking forward to that.

The flu hit me really early in the morning on Sunday. My first thought was that if I miss the shoot around I would get up for the press, for the radio. Then I thought that I might be able to come in right before the game. It was pretty obvious for about that 24-hour period that I didn't want to get out of bed.

Honestly, the most important thing is that I didn't want to be responsible for exposing other people to it. It was very uncomfortable. I just didn't want to be a part of that.

Everything worked out well. I wanted the game. I thought that we did more good than bad. At this time of year, what you're trying to do is continue to grow. I suppose you try to do that all of the time. At this time of year, you're looking for improvement, you're looking for players that are recognizing; that are in the play; they're involved in making good decisions; and how consistently you can do that as a team.

What's happening with us is that we have so many new guys and second-year guys in the system that we have miscues. It's not the same guy all of the time. And nobody is going it intentionally. It just happens. We're trying so hard to do our jobs that it's hard to cover for one another.

It's going to be a process we're going to go through. But they do so many good things as a team and as individuals that I'm hopefully that we can cover for some of those things.

If you watched, it's a very unselfish group. It's a group that understands one another. Their focus is correct. They found players in good positions offensively. We still need to improve our spacing. We had a good understanding of who should be shooting in what positions and were more than willing to pass it.

Defensively, there were some positive factors. I do believe we could do a better job with interior defense. To Aaron Fuller's credit, I believe he was the one that shared this with me. He had the flu earlier. For him to even be out there speaks highly to his desire to compete. He really enjoys competing. His minutes were limited. I'm sure he was weak, but I expect full recovery.

I do think we can improve interior defense. We can improve transition defense. Beyond that, it's the ability to recognize the situation and apply the proper technique at the appropriate time. That's what's happening.

One of the players, whom I'm close to, particularly close to, John Lickliter, I sat down with him yesterday for a few minutes. He was saying he understands what to do. He has an understanding. Applying it is hard because it's not in snap shots. It's in movements. It's what's going on. It's in the middle of something. I understand that. But to hear a player tell me that it is difficult. I appreciate that.

But the point of the matter is as I told him if it were easy there wouldn't be as great a reward. We want to make sure that we work towards the point where, as I've said many times, unconsciously competent. It's just a reaction and it's the correct reaction.

Beyond that, we looked at that tape and now it's exciting for our players I'm sure because we're into the competitive aspect. And it's exciting for us. Although as a coach in a new situation, I don't know if there is ever enough time to prepare. You want to feel like you've covered every base. That's very difficult in the time that they give you and to feel very comfortable.

The team that is coming in, Charleston Southern, has four out of five starters back. The have multiple ways to score. They're aggressive in transition. Their sets are very good.

Their coach, I got an opportunity to speak with him this summer. He had called in and they had just gotten back from an international trip to Krakau, Poland. My oldest son is doing graduate work in Krakau, Poland. I called him back and we had a lengthy conversation. It was quite interesting to be quite honest with you.

I mention that because having four out of five starters back and going on an international trip, you know that gives them 10 days of practice and the competition. I've got to think that they're close to being a veteran group. That will be a test for us.

I respect the way they do things. I like their team. I think it will be quite a challenge for us.

If you have questions that I can answer, I'll do so.

You guys got a national letter of intent from Eric May today. Can you talk about what you expect of him next year and how happy you are to get him in the program?

It's a pleasure to talk about Eric. He's a guy that full understands the tradition of Hawkeye basketball and embraces the opportunity to help us recapture it. That's exciting. I love guys that want to be here.

All of the guys want to be here, but we had one face-to-face conversation, one meeting, and the next day or the day after I heard from Eric saying that he wanted to be a Hawkeye. That's exciting to me because we were on the same page.

I know that he's a very versatile player. His focus has been on team success. He helps his teammates play at a higher level. We're excited to add him.

He's one of those guys that can guard more than one position and he can put a lot of pressure on the defense because he can play on different positions on the floor. He's strong enough to play in and around the basket. He also has the ability to face it our on the perimeter.

Even beyond that, he's the kind of individual we want in our program, both on and off of the court.

He sounds a lot like Matt Gatens. Do you see a lot of similarities?

No. There are similarities. But there are enough differences that they'll complement one another. They'll figure out how to compliment each other.

One of the things that are very, very similar with Eric and Matt is that they both win. They're both champions. I like that part. I like those similarities.

You look at your recruits so far and you kind of have a Midwest perspective. Is that intentional or is that just the way that it's working out?

What we try to do is target individuals regardless of where they are at; that we feel will fit; that will complement; that will have the same sort of vision we have. There's no need to broaden your base when you have what you need close to home. It doesn't make sense to me.

If we need to, we'll go as far away as we need to go. But, it wasn't the case. We're very pleased with the players who are committed and the players who have signed. If they were all from Iowa, that would be fine, too. But the fact of the matter is that you normally need to go outside of your state.

Minnesota has proven to be pretty good for us. We're excited about those guys.

It's not a case where we're focusing on one region. We're focusing on individuals and the team concept.

Is that a development with high school coaches around the state, trying to build some inroads maybe that weren't there in the past before you got to Iowa?

What we try to do is focus on the present where we're at and what we want to do. I've said this, I've enjoyed watching Iowa basketball. And it was a conscious effort on our part, too, to realize we're in a different area than we were at Butler. We need to expand. We didn't need to recruit Minnesota at Butler. We weren't able to recruit Iowa quite as much. We needed to branch out in that area.

Chad Walthall obviously offered that experience to us beyond what else he offered. So, again, I think it's more that we know what we're looking for in the individual and if it's offered in your back yard, that's going to be a positive also.

You saw Eric in Louisville and he was guarding some bigger guys. The story goes that it kind of tipped the scales for you and he was the kind of guy you liked.

Well, I'll tell you, I was sold right away. It wasn't just that he would guard bigger guys. I could just tell by his spirit and the way that he went about it that he really wasn't concerned with who you asked him to guard. He was going to try to do it and he was going to be successful.

And that particular game at Louisville, I saw a quote by him that it seemed like he made every shot. I think that was pretty accurate. It's not just that he can guard bigger guys, I think that he can guard on the perimeter, also, He'll figure it out.

I think he'll be challenging because he's versatile. He can face the basket, He can go in and around the basket. He's going to be a very, very good player.

There's another story. You saw the 35-foot shot waiting for John's game. Somebody told me that it wasn't the fact that he hit it, but it was the way he caught it, pivoted and released it. You kind of liked that more.

Well, I like the make for their sake. If I were coaching him, I'd like the make.

But that's a great point. His focus was on making the shot. In Eric's mind and guys that make big shots, their thought is never on what might not happen but on what was going to happen. And he executed.

Now, you have to hand it to his teammates and his coach. It was a well executed play. But it was also a big shot.

How is Jake's hand?

I don't really have a report only in that it's a situation where it's day to day and it's what he can tolerate.

Will he play on Friday?

I don't know. I just wait. I just leave so much of that up to John (Streif), who I have great trust in. We're going to do what's best for him.

I know he would have wanted to play in the exhibition. But we're going to make sure we don't get a setback on it. We've waited this long, we're going to make sure it's healed.

How set are you on a starting lineup right now?

For today?

For Friday.

We're not set. We'll see how it goes.

One of the things about it is that you don't know what's going to happen. And again, as you could see the other night, there are going to be more than five contributors. If they start or come off of the bench, I expect a contribution.

How about Tucker? In watching the game, did you ever have your hand over your eyes or does he have free reign to shoot?

I wanted to ask you. If you were sitting in my spot, would he have free reign?

Yeah.

Yeah, I'm with you. You know what? Here's a guy that you can give free reign and he'll only shoot shots that he knows he's going to make. It doesn't mean that they're all going to go in. But he doesn't shoot his shot because he's open or he hasn't had one in a while. He knows what feels good to him. And I trust him as far as shooting the basketball.

Early in the year, I had to stop one time and encourage him to shoot. So, I trust that he'll take good shots.

Palmer gave you four rebounds in 13 minutes. Is that what he needs to do to increase his role compared to what he did last season?

I don't know if he needs to try to increase his role. He just needs to be effective when he's on the court to help us win.

Rebounding his important. And he's done a good job of that. He's done a good job in the preseason of rebounding the basketball and he's done a good job of spotting up and shooting. He shoots the ball pretty well off the pick and pop. He can be effective.

You talked about the meeting with John. Did that feel like a father-son-talk or a coach-player talk?

Yes. (laughs) I don't know if you can separate those. John and I have talked extensively about his role; not in a way that he wants to play more minutes. He just wants to help and make it a good experience for him. He wants to coach some day. He wants to make sure that he's contributing in practice and doing what he needs to do to help the guys on the floor get better.

We also talked about, which I think is going to happen, is that he'll redshirt this year. He wants to spend more time in the weight room. He wants to try to master the system. Plus, I think he probably wants to stay in college for five years. He's figured out that it's a pretty nice life.

It's such a pleasure to finally be able to spend more time with him and talk basketball. We've gone our separate ways so much. He's been a high school player while I've been a college coach. It's something that I don't think either one of us will take for granted.

I've given each player a journal to use. I hope they'll do it. The last group, and this is not like I'm predicting anything, but the last group I gave a journal to was two years ago. I had a couple of guys say to me that they sure wish they would have kept that because that's when we had such a great year.

But it's something that's good to do if you think you want to coach. I'm hoping that he'll keep his journal and he'll work towards that.

I talked with Dr. Tom not too long ago about Keno being around and the different things that he was exposed to as a student and where it led. I don't think he would mind me telling you how much he enjoys coaching with Keno. It's something that, again, I don't think you would ever take for granted as a father that you could share in some of those moments.

Now, will this be third generation or is there a fourth generation?

My father was a coach. My grandfather, my mother‘s father, saw himself as a coach. He probably did it officially some. But he‘s the one that really inspired everybody.

He was a graduate of Hanover College and really spent his lifetime recruiting all athletes to Hanover College in Indiana. He was the one that actually recruited my father to go there. He was a three-sport athlete at Hanover. So, I think he‘s the one that started us on that path. If John and Garrett continue then it will be something that we all share.

You mentioned this being Year 2 of the system. You‘ve got your own recruiting class in now for the first time. That adjustment period between the players and the new coach has kind of passed. Going into Year 2 and Friday‘s first game, where do you see this team in comparison to last year at this time?

Well, it‘s not something that I‘ve really analyzed as far as in comparison to last year. I don‘t do a lot of comparisons in that way. What I‘m trying to evaluate is are we as far along as we can be given all circumstances. And I have to think that we‘re not as far along as we need to be, but we‘re as far along as we could be.

I don‘t think there is a group that you could assemble that would be more committed. It‘s just a situation where it‘s not an easy thing. It‘s going to take some time. But it sure is a lot easier when people have a commitment level that these players do.

I‘m pleased with the approach of the returners. They‘ve been able to demonstrate what is important in this program and what will make is play as a unit. We all bring our individual skills, but to become a team you have to have a system.

I believe that‘s true. How would you become dependable? How could you trust each other if you didn‘t know what you were going to do or what the expectations were. So, they done a great job of demonstrating what is important. And the incoming players have embraced it.

So, we‘re as far along as we could be, but probably not as far along as we need to be.

What about Jeff running the point? Were you OK with that?

Yeah. I honestly believe that he‘s more comfortable. That‘s important.

I felt like, and I spoke about this, and I meant it in general not just abut the point guard position, but last year we were all anxious at times. All of us have a tendency to want to find out where we fit in and what we need to do and how we‘re going to impress and sometimes that gets in the way of trying to master your responsibility.

Jeff struggled at times with trying to complete a role; to do what the expectations were, that he placed on himself and what we placed on him. And I think he‘s more comfortable now in saying, "OK, I know what the responsibilities are in this program for this position. And I‘m comfortable with performing those.

Is it going to be mistake free? I‘ve never had a point guard that‘s mistake free. But as I told him, if I tell you this is a game that isn‘t made to be played perfect, please don‘t use that as an excuse to not strive for that. Please strive for it. It is a difficult game.

Jeff has done a good job. I also believe that Anthony Tucker can run the point. And I believe that Jermain Davis can run the point. I feel like we‘ve made progress. No question.

Is there any specific game plan for Charleston Southern or this early in the season are you just worried about the plan for your team?

We‘ll always be most concerned with what we do. But with Charleston Southern, I think you really need to understand their personnel. You need to respect them in transition. And you need to be aware of what they like to run in the half court. Their sets are very effective if you don‘t have the awareness.

So, there is a very healthy respect for Charleston. We will obviously look at edit and let our guys visualize it. We will walk through it. We will prepare for them.

One of the things t hat I‘ve enjoyed about the system that we inherited and developed through the years is that if you didn‘t have a scout we would still be able to cover the actions that will present themselves in a game, defensively. We like that fact. We feel like we‘re thorough. But we do like to have an awareness. So, yeah, they‘ll be a focus on Charleston Southern.


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