NORTH LIBERTY, Iowa - Speculation swirled that Kaylon Williams might become a Hawkeye when he left Evansville this spring. It turned out to be just talk and the Cedar Rapids native chose to play at Kirkwood this upcoming season.
Williams said that Iowa and Iowa State told him that were looking for players that could come in and help right away. When he transferred from Evansville, he forfeited next season according to NCAA rules.
When four players left the Hawkeye program during the offseason, two of them points guards like Williams, the coaches chose to sign Illinois lead guard Cully Payne. In an "it's funny how things happen sometimes" scene, Payne and Williams faced off in a Prime Time League game here on Monday.
Payne netted 24 points due in large part by connecting on 6 of 7 three attempts, including his last four. He also kicked in 10 assists.
Williams notched 14 points along with eight rebounds and eight assists.
Payne plays more like your prototypical point guard. He sets up the offense, has the ball in his hands a ton, and sees the floor well. Williams stands about four inches taller, can rebound and defends real well.
I caught up with both players after Williams' team won a hotly contested 97-94 decision in the final seconds.
Q: Are you taking classes thus summer?
A: Nah, I'm just working out, lifting and playing.
Q: You‘ve been here for a couple of week. What do you think you need to work on heading into the season?
A: We're already getting better over the three or four weeks we've been playing. That always can be improved. But we've been playing really well together. I think we could be very good this year.
Q: Are you seeing what you need to improve? Strength is always a big one for freshmen.
A: Definitely, that's probably the biggest one. I'm lifting a ton right now, four or five times a week, just trying to get that physical aspect of the Big Ten.
Q: You shot it well tonight. Has that always been a strong part of your game?
A: Yeah, especially since I got here. I've been doing a ton of working out; a lot of catch-and-shoots, off-the-dribble stuff. Me and Brennan (Cougill) probably shoot 300 shots a day on our own. We've been really working on that.
Q: You said that you feel you‘re going to have a pretty good team. What leads you to believe that?
A: We have some great big guys, athletic, with Brennan and Aaron. We have drop dead shooters in Tucker and Bawinkle Point guard wise, me and Tucker can go back and forth, which is good for both of us. We just have a great team chemistry and we all play hard.
Q: You seem to play under control, advanced for your age. Is that natural?
A: That's pretty natural for me. My dad was a junior college coach when I was in fifth grade, so I've always played up with older kids. It's just really me learning over the years how to control a game.
Q: What are your expectations going into your first season?
A: To win. That's my biggest expectation. To do whatever I can and we can as a team to get some good wins.
Q: What looks are you trying to receive while at Kirkwood?
A: I want to play in a bigger conference. Missouri Valley is a great conference with UNI and a lot of good teams, but I want to push myself to be able to play in the Big Ten, the Big 12, the PAC-10 or something like that.
Q: What type of looks did you get when you left Evansville?
A: I received a lot of letters from the University of Evansville stating that they weren't allowing schools to contact me because they weren't close to home. Schools more than seven hours away couldn't contact me. I had a lot of schools that I don't know of that they would send me letters and tell me about. The Big Ten, Iowa, the Big 12, Iowa State, I've talked to them. They both said that the Kirkwood decision was a good decision.
Q: Were you surprised they (Iowa, Iowa State) weren't more interested now, that a scholarship wasn‘t available now? Didn‘t you lead the Missouri Valley in assists?
A: Yes, I did. I'm a pretty straight-forward guy. I can't even lie. I was pretty upset after leading a big time conference in assists as a freshman. My job there, I guarded the best player on the other team. I figured if I could do that there, I could do that in another program. It just didn't turn out that way. They got a good player in Cully Payne. I like the kid a lot. He's a good player. I wish the best to those guys. I hope they and Coach (Todd) Lickliter get it turned around.
Q: Is that motivation on days like this when you play against somebody that got a scholarship?
A: Definitely. You get a guy that gets offered instead of you and you don't want him to outplay you.
Q: If you put a good year together at Kirkwood and Iowa and Iowa State come after you is your preference to stay in-state?
A: At this point, I don't know. After everything that's happened, I'd have to think about it. I was pretty set on trying to go to one of those schools this year. So, it's just a wait and see type thing.
Q: What has Iowa told you other than it‘s a good idea to go to Kirkwood?
A: They kept it straight forward with me. They were looking for guys that could come in and play right away because of guys leaving and whatnot. I told them that I understand that. You have a big time program they're trying to turn around down there. They did a great job recruiting in my mind. That's there approach. I respect those guys. They're DI coaches. They have to win ball games otherwise they're gone.