Before questions, I have a couple of thoughts. The first one is when you come up on the wrong end of a game like that on Saturday, you fail to see the beauty of the sport sometimes. When I think about Wisconsin, how we had to persevere and make plays and how proud I was of the guys, and then Penn State did the same thing down the stretch. I wasn't nearly as pleased. But you have to respect that part of the game. If you are going to really be thankful in the ones you win, you need to at least be thankful that that's part of the game. It does make for a great game, and you can't hurry up and win these games, or you can't hope that it happens. You have to execute. There are lessons to be learned. It was interesting how the two scenarios contrasted.
I think this is a group that wants to be a good team. They were disappointed Saturday. They will grow because of it. We wish that we could have finished it out and have grown with a win. It was one where I thought for a great majority of the game, we really demonstrated good execution. I was proud of their effort. Down the stretch, we just need to make a couple of plays and we struggled to do that, and they had to make just about every play, and did it. You need to give them their due. We have to bounce back. We don't have time to do any kind of pouting.
The other thing, it has been mentioned a few times and I have said things about strength. I want to clarify that. Strength is never a negative. We think that is an area where you can commit to, you can develop strength. It can be a plus. A great example is Jamelle Cornley. I would say he is about 6-5. He is strong, he is skilled and versatile. His strength is a real asset. In fairness to all of the other players out there in college basketball, he came in strong. I remember him in high school. But he did rest on that. I don't have any idea what his growth has been, but I am sure that he has continued to develop that strength.
Along those lines, this is an aspect when you have, without excuses, a relatively young team. Freshmen usually have to adjust. They are almost shocked by how physical the game is. Our guys are adjusting, but I still think there is that experience level. When you are inexperienced, you grow through the stresses and difficulty of the game, and you become skilled and poised. The same is true regarding the physical aspects. These guys have worked hard, but there is probably an added degree of urgency now that they have experienced how strong some of these teams are and what they will need to do, commitment wise, in this off-season. But, we still have a lot of basketball to play and we will have to compensate now. I thought we did at times. I thought we maintained position, I thought we got in a stance; we did some things that could counter. Maybe we weren't as physical as we need to be. When we get there, these experiences will benefit us that much more.
Todd Lickliter: Yet to be seen. You can speculate. Stats don't tell everything. As you look at David's productivity, we could have played him earlier and he very possibly could have scored. He is a good shooter. He is a skilled shooter. There were some other areas I wanted to emphasize with him that he needed to develop and he has committed to that. I have said this a few times, I think he has handled the situation maturely, I think he has handled his situation here with a team vision and I think it's paying off. Is he where he needs to be? No. I think he knows that. But there is becoming a better understanding now, that if they can play together, I think maybe Davis, offensively, can play the four and Cyrus defensively can guard the four. That is what we are looking at. We have yet to see it, but it gives us a possibility. I am not saying we will do it all of the time. I think Matt Gatens and Aaron Fuller have played the four with good productivity. When they are both on the floor at the same time, you have two capable scorers. If either one of those guys had the physicality of a junior, which they don't, they would be that much better.
Q: Is Matt Gatens playing his ideal position?
Lickliter: I wouldn't want to limit Matt to a position. I think he is just a really good basketball player and he is an incredibly, almost to a fault, patient and poised player. I don't want him to force shots, and they are guarding him. Statistically, he is the best perimeter shooter in the league, and that is saying something. Part of that is shot selection. He doesn't take very many bad shots. Hopefully we can find ways to get him more shots. At Penn State, we didn't find enough shots for him. That comes from guys playing together. If you look, and I am hesitant to say it, we started two freshman, two sophomores and a senior basically that hasn't played a whole lot. It's that experience together…I will be thankful at some point when we know exactly who is on the floor with us, where they are at, what they are good at, how we can help them be successful. There are times when we struggle with that. I will be very pleased when we can put the opponent in tough spots by knowing position on the floor and who is there.
Q: With Jeff and Jake being banged up, it seems that both of them play without concern for injuries. Have they taken leadership roles and have teammates noticed they are playing hard in spite of their injuries?
Lickliter: I would guess so. I have not asked them. But you would have to appreciate their willingness to deal with some pain. John Streif is so good, they know exactly what you can play with and what you can't.. They won't let someone play with an injury that would potentially harm them. But there are times when you just deal with the pain. I think both of those guys have demonstrated a willingness to do that. I do think that is a statement to their teammates. Non verbal, they don't have to say anything. Sometimes those are the best messages.
Q: How is Cyrus?
Lickliter: He said yesterday he is still sore. It's unique. I had a player, I think I said this before, my third year at Butler, it took him nearly six weeks, but we kept playing. Finally we said we are not going to play you until you can do it without limping. It was hard, because I wanted to put him in. But I think we are doing the right thing. When you are back, let's make sure you are back for good. He has been on the bike and moving around better, but he still has some soreness up high. I think it's getting better day by day. Anymore I just do it daily. I don't predict if he will be back or not.
Q: Talk about Michigan State.
Lickliter: They are skilled at every position, they are well coached, they are in the top ten and they out-rebounded their opponents. I think they have 100 more offensive rebounds than their opponents. They present real problems. What you have to hope for is that you can get your defense set and somehow keep them in front of you and then maintain your position. Even with that said, they can make jump shots. You are not a top ten team unless you are really good. They are well deserving of being in the top ten.
Q: Are you happy with the strength and conditioning program that is in place, or will you be trying to tweak it?
Lickliter: What you want to do, it's like anything else; you evaluate and you say, are we as strong as we need to be? No, we are not. So let's get there. If that means tweak it, then do it. If it doesn't, it means more commitment from our players in the off season, then let's do that. I am not an expert on Strength and Conditioning. I do know that the body, with reasonable stress, adapts to it and you grow. I don't know what the best methods are, I don't know what the training is, I leave that to the strength coach. But I have been a part of teams that have been incredibly strong; they take great pride in their strength. I know where that leads. You gain confidence. The officials tape that you watch in the preseason, where you see the emphasis on the rules, one of our former players who came in at Butler, he was really quite slight, he was on the tape for body checking someone. He gained enough strength and confidence that there was contact made, and he could absorb it. He had developed the physical capability of playing at that level. He could already play, he was very skilled, but he needed to get to the physical level. He wasn't as a freshman. We have young players. How do you put a gauge on they will be strong enough at what point? If we do that, it's like anything else, if we say this is a process in any regard, then we are selling out the immediate. I don't want to do that. I know it's a process, but let's make sure we are doing everything we can to expedite it.
Q: Do you feel like the players, especially the young guys, don't understand how physical this league is?
Lickliter: That is what I am saying, I think maybe it takes the experience to understand. I bet they understand now. I don't think this is a group that will shy away from it. The speed of the game and the physicality of the game probably shocks a majority of freshmen. There are some freshmen that adapt quickly. I bet there is some shock when college players go to the NBA. I bet there is another level of speed and physical play. Those that adjust the quickest are the most productive…those that are skilled. I had the great fortunate of coaching Earl Boykins, 5-4, he played in the NBA. He was skilled, intelligent but also very strong. I think he was benching about 285 when he was in college. I heard that he increased that during his NBA career. He weight 135 pounds or something like that. He knew the importance of the strength. It's important in so many ways.
Q: Do you have a specific coach assigned to your team for strength training?
Lickliter: Not for us only. In this building, there are the Olympic sports. I don't know how they are divided up. I don't know how many teams each coach has.
Q: Would you like to have your own?
Lickliter: Oh, well sure. I would like for him to be on staff. Wouldn't that be great to have your strength coach as part of your staff? I don't know if anyone does that or not. If we are going to dream a little bit and have a wish list, yeah. It's an important aspect of competitiveness.
Q: Are the same things emphasized here that you had at Butler?
Lickliter: There are some things that are probably a little bit different. One of the things at Butler was as soon as they arrived, there is an understanding of what has been accomplished there in the weight room. Your position, I think they said this is how strong each one of those positions needs to be. I think nearly all of our four men at Butler benched 325 or something. LaVall has the numbers. There was a real appreciation for it, and an understanding of how important it is.
Q: Do you sense that here?
Lickliter: I think it will happen. It's been talked about a lot now. I think it's on the way.
Q: Are you on your way to getting a dedicated strength and conditioning coach for men's hoops?
Lickliter: They are going to look at the structure of the program and there will be an individual assigned to us, but not only to us.
Q: Are the strength training facilities and equipment up to date or where they need to be?
Lickliter: Obviously, there needs to be an update in that, and that is part of the expansion. I think that has been an emphasis since the day I was first introduced to Iowa basketball. We have to make a push for expanded facilities. We have a small weight room. With that said, I really believe you can get stronger with pull-ups, pushups, sit ups. I don't think it's all about facilities. It's like anything else though, the better facility you have, the more opportunity you have, the individuals see the commitment level and have access and the opportunity to grow.