Lickliter, Iowa Prepare for Ohio State

The University of Iowa Men's Basketball team hosts Ohio State at 8pm on Tuesday night. Iowa head coach Todd Lickliter met with the media for nearly 30 minutes on Monday, and here is the transcription of that press conference.

Todd Lickliter Opening Statement

I really don't have a whole lot to say other than it's been such a challenge this year. It's hard to express the way you feel because I am really proud of some of the things that these guys have done. Their competitiveness, the way they play in spurts, and then I think of how we have not been able to demand of ourselves the consistency required to actually win in this league. That is the troubling aspect right now, and it's not like it would be easy. There have been really good opponents, they are well coached and its just challenging. With that said, that should dictate that you have to completely be in tune, appreciate every possession and play every one of them as if that is the one that dictates whether you win or lose. That has been hard for us; I think it's hard for everybody.

But for us, as I have said before, I expect games to be…if we are going to expect to win, then we have to expect them to be a single possession game. That is the way it is, for us to be successful and we need to embrace it and understand it. We cannot make decisions during the game that aren't high percentage decisions and expect to be successful. That happened to us again on Saturday. That takes nothing away from Northwestern. If we weren't playing them, then I am a huge fan. They were the competition and it demands that you commit to playing the way that you have to play to be successful. Now we have a couple more opportunities. We have a pyramid that we share with the guys; team first and improve daily. That should be your motivation. Put your team first so that you come in and prepare today to get better. The next level is win the next game one possession at a time. Someone asked me about not playing meaningful games; I have never done that. This game is incredibly meaningful, because that is the opportunity at hand.

Q: Considering the injuries this year and other adversity, it seems there is a talent gap between your team and with some of the top teams in the league. There isn't much margin for error.

Todd Lickliter: Even if you didn't, shouldn't you play that way? That would ensure that you play at your best. Humility is vitally important to success, in my opinion. Not everyone sees it that way, but I do. I think you measure talent a lot of different ways. I think that these guys are talented enough individually and collectively, I think they have shown they are, to compete. But, competing and winning sometimes…I like competing a lot more a lot more than I like performing or playing, but I want to compete and win. I have said this a few times; when you acknowledge that there are obstacles, it's considered an excuse. But I do think that injuries have obviously made it more difficult for us. I am not saying we would have won without the injuries. That is speculation. I am just saying that it provided another obstacle that we probably didn't need.

Q: Jeff Peterson was warming up during the Northwestern game. How is he?

Lickliter: He jogged yesterday. Acceleration is hard. As I told Jeff and I have told you, he is the kind of guy that if it's just pain, he is playing. It's beyond that, however. This injury doesn't enable him to accelerate the play. It's not just the pain.

Q: Is Saturday a possibility?

Lickliter: I think it's too early to say. I don't know for sure. He told me is going to try. He jogged up and down and did some drills yesterday and will try again today. He is really tough minded.

Q: Is Aaron Fuller hurt?

Lickliter: Something is wrong, he has a bruise on his right forearm that is really bothering him. Fortunately he shoots left handed. I have seen him favoring it. But he is playing. Jake has had his bumps and bruises, too. He gets through it somehow. With Jeff and with Cyrus, those are things that it's not just the pain. Those just keep you out.

Q: Considering the way Jake is playing in Jeff's absence and because hamstrings are hard to get through, no matter what happens, is Jake the point the rest of year?

Lickliter: He appears to have handled that well, I think. I told him the other day that I am really proud of the way he has adjusted. I think he looks comfortable there. Now we just need to work through…and he is really open to coaching. He doesn't see coaching as a bad thing. You can be critical of Jake and he respects and appreciates it. As far as making the decisions and running the point, I think he will keep doing that.

Q: Does that make you a different team this time around against Ohio State?

Lickliter: I don't know for sure. Jeff played well against them. We struggled in the first half and played better in the second. They are a team that plays predominantly zone, and keeps you on the perimeter. We are going to have to be fresh and make jump shots probably. They are long, too. It would make sense to me the way they defend right now. Thad came from the school like we have, where we played a lot of man, but it makes sense, what he is doing.

Q: How are recruiting efforts going for the rest of this class?

Lickliter: We like where we are at. We are excited about it, we like the guys we signed. One of the things is we really believe that Jeff, Jarryd, Jake made real strides in a year, a year and a half. We are really pleased how they came back. We are saying that, OK, these freshmen in the program, if they make those same strides and the first three guys continue, and we bring in a few more, we are going to get to a point where…the last two preseasons have been defense. We are hoping now that our older guys can help teach the defense and we can do more individual instruction in the fall. That is the natural progression. LeVall Jordan was saying yesterday how much he enjoyed that one on one. We have a problem here; we don't have a facility that is open all of the time so making that work….where I came from, if a guy wanted to work out at 9am due to his class schedule, that is what he did. That is not available here. We have to work through that issue, but we are starting to get to the point in the program where we can shift and balance it a little more.

Q: Are there any specific areas you are targeting in recruiting at this point?

Lickliter: We are looking at someone we think can impact us. Whatever position that may be.

Q: How do you approach it? Do you see two or three guys you like, and offer two or three guys or target one?

Lickliter: First of all, you identify and evaluate. At that point, once you evaluate, if they are good enough and they fit your need, we are going to offer them. We are only going to offer them after we have done our background and evaluation on them. At that point, we don't rate them or hold anyone up. If you are offered, the ball is in your court. The first guy that takes it gets it. That is the fair and right way in my opinion.

Q: With Jake's emergence as a point guard, does that alter your recruiting?

Lickliter: The one thing about it is in an ideal world, you have more than one point guard on the floor. Not just in the program but on the floor. I would love to have three point guards out there playing the perimeter position and a skilled four that can play point forward. I like guys with those skill sets with those mindsets. What you need to have is a scoring point. Jake is a scoring point. If you had another scoring point that you could slide over, that is fine, too. The way we run it, your perimeter players are going to be very similar. I don't have a problem with just finding that best perimeter player we can, a guy that has really good skills. I think we need a guy who is very comfortable shooting the basketball.

Q: Once Jeff is healthy, which could be next fall, will he be on the court at the same time with Jake, and which one runs the play?

Lickliter: I don't know on that. We are going to wait and see. I learned a lesson a few years back. I brought in a really, really good freshman point guard. I put him at the point and I moved the junior to the two, and the next year, I turned it around and we were much better. To predetermine something is not a good thing. You need to see how it works. They are both on the floor together, the same time all the time. What you want to look at is who is comfortable and where.

Q: Do you have just one scholarship to give?

Lickliter: Yes.

Q: Do you expect everyone back?

Lickliter: Yes, that is the only way to operate. We will finish out this year, have our meetings and evaluate things, but I always anticipate everybody coming back.

Q: Against Ohio State, there will be one of the best freshmen matchups in the league, with Buford and Gatens.

Lickliter: I don't know if they will be matched up. I think Mullins is one of the better freshmen in the league too. I think the freshmen and sophomores in this league are great. Not to take away from the upper classmen, they are good to. I think Buford is terrific. Matt has really played well. The biggest thing with Matt is trying to help him find shots. One thing that will really benefit Matt next fall is just the individual work. He will enjoy it, it will help him with his perimeter skills, he will become more versatile. Right now, it has been a deal whereas they extend the floor on him, because the way he shoots the three, they are crowding him more….we need to help him there. Right now we need to find him shots.

Q: Is there anything you can do to help Balwinkel out of his slump?

Lickliter: Joel Cornette has been the shooting coach, that might be the problem. I just think that a guy has to stay after practice, he has to get comfortable. We don't have a lot of time. That is the hard thing right now, is you want to stay fresh. We don't have a whole lot of time. In regards to a quick turnaround playing wise, and secondly, just court availability. He needs to find some time where he can get in with a coach and just shoot until he feels comfortable again. I am very confident in him. I have watched him. I know he has struggled. So often that is a lack of comfort. With Devan, a big thing is that he needs to catch the ball ready to shoot. I watch it go if he misses one or two, he becomes even less prepared to shoot it because he is such a team guy, he doesn't want to miss that third one. Well, his job is to shoot the ball. He needs to be prepared to shoot it.

Q: Do you eel like the two guys you have signed can come in and make some type of impact next year?

Lickliter: They will need to come in and play. They are both unique. May is unique in that he has college strength right now. He is a skilled player. If I am reading him right, he appears to be highly competitive, which I am excited about. Cougill has good size and has great hands. Offensively, he is very skilled. Catch it, pass it, he sees the open man. Both of them, their adjustment, it's the same with our guys, it's the demand, the competitive demand. You are just not used to it. Very seldom do you play in a high school game where all five opponents can be effective. That just doesn't happen. How many teams have five division one guys on them? When you are in this league, all five guys on the court were the best players on their high school teams, maybe in their state. It requires a commitment, mentally, that you are not accustomed to. That adjustment is something that everyone goes through as freshmen. For us, what is ideal is that you are either redshirted, or your play enough minutes to get the idea. They are out there watching upper classmen doing what they have to do. We don't have that luxury. We are playing guys, they are great guys, working hard and doing a good job. But in fairness to them, they probably shouldn't be playing this many minutes. Not because I am disappointed in them, but in fairness to them.

Q: Can May play the four?

Lickliter: We will see. I wouldn't be surprised. I had a guy years ago that was a big, strong guy. He played the four, but I wanted him to guard a point guard and I asked him at half if he could, and he said if you want me to. What a great answer. I get that feeling about May, if I ask him, he would say that. I think he will enjoy a challenge.

Q: How is Anthony Tucker doing?

Lickliter: He seems to be doing great. I think he would be the first one to tell you…the only thing worse than learning from experience is not learning from it. I think he wishes he didn't have to learn from this experience, but at least he has learned from it, by all indications. I am excited about him being in the weight room. HE goes in there four days a week now since he is not playing, he gets individual workouts in and doing the other things that are vitally important to being a student athlete.

Q: Are you expecting, or hoping that most of your players stick around this summer?

Lickliter: I don't know. We have to look at all of that. I wish we could find a way for them to really compete three or four nights a week. I have said this a few times, one of the great benefits at Butler was that everyone came back in the summer, or at least part of the summer. We had guys that were pros and they would come back. If you lost, you had to go to the west gym. We were playing pickup games where it was a game to eight, you were competing hard, and there was something on the line. You didn't want to lose and have to work your way back in. I like that. I don't see us having that environment right now, and I wish there was a way to get that. I think you learn more in those competitive settings than you do in a lot of other things. I think everyone will stay and will be here and will work out, they will play. But my preference is that we would be how to figure out how to get a really competitive setting. I don't know what the answer is. I have some other issues going on with Ohio State this week that I haven't had time to think about it. We are looking at everything we are doing to see if there is something that can help us expedite the direction we want things to go. I am not a patient guy.

Q: Do you think the Prime Time League no longer serves a purpose, from the Iowa basketball point of view?

Lickliter: Not necessarily. As I said last year, I think you have to evaluate it. We are not where we need to be as a program. I am not blaming anyone. That is my responsibility. But when you are not there, you need to look at all the factors and at least evaluate them and say how can we be more effective in each area. Part of that is your off-season work. What are you doing in the off-season to grow and get better? If we are doing the right things, keep doing and do more of it. If we need to adjust it, let's do that. We need to look at everything. Like attendance, people are looking at that. Let's fix those things. We have to address where we are at. I have to do my part in that.


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