IOWA CITY– The Hawkeye men’s basketball team struggled through a second consecutive losing season going 15-17, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Ten of those losses were by eight points or less, including six by four points or less.
Iowa had two seniors graduate and lost four due to transfer but have five players that started last year.
The Hawks opened strong jumping out 10-4 beating Kansas State, UNI and Iowa State. K-State finished 22-12 and made it to the second round of the NIT. UNI went on to win their conference title and made it to the NCAA tournament.
I got a chance to talk to assistant coach Chad Walthall on the season and the new recruits.
“We were at full strength when we played those guys,” said coach Walthall. “Obviously the injury to Cy, Jeff Peterson and losing Anthony Tucker for the second semester took its toll on our team but I think early on we were really playing well. We had all our guys in uniform and playing well.”
Then the wheels started coming off.
Anthony becomes academically ineligible after the 13th game. He also had mono and was suspended for public intoxication in the first semester.
Cyrus Tate goes down in the 15th game when the Hawkeyes were leading Minnesota, only to lose 52-49.
Jeff Peterson missed the final seven games of the season, five of them were losses.
The Hawkeyes did have a couple of big wins beating Wisconsin and Michigan in overtime, plus the double overtime win against Penn State to end the regular season. All of those wins were at Carver.
“We do play very well at home,” said Chad. “If we can carry that over and continue to play well at home but when we go on the road, let’s have a higher level of play on the road.”
That sometimes happens when you have a young team, as Iowa had only one senior, Cyrus Tate, that played all year.
Senior co-captain Devan Bawinkel will help lead the Hawkeyes next fall. Devan played in all 32 games starting nine. He had a season high 24 points against Ohio State. He one of only three players in school history to make eight 3-pointers in a single game, lighting up the Buckeyes going 8-13.
Junior Jarryd Cole is a co-captain for the second straight year. He also played in every game and started nine.
The 6-7, 250 pound forward/center came on strong during the second half of the season and led the Hawkeyes in rebounding eight times. He was recovering from a torn ACL the year before and should keep getting better.
Matt Gatens didn’t play like a freshman last year. The former City High prep set an Iowa single season record for free throw percentage (.904). He is the only Hawk to start all 32 games, averaged 10.8 ppg., and had 71 assists.
I’ve been following Iowa since ‘Super’ Sam Williams played in 1967 and he’s as good a freshman that I’ve seen.
“Really a good player and had a terrific freshman year,” said the coach. “I think if you look at his play you couldn’t ask for anything more. The exciting thing for us is he has room to grow.”
Anthony Tucker, before he became ineligible, started eight of 14 games, averaged 10.4 ppg., had a season high 24 points against Ohio State and pulled down 10 rebounds against Southwest Missouri State.
Anthony is 6-4, has put on 20 pounds (210) and is quicker.
He will play more point guard this year and is one of the best 3-point shooters on the team, hitting 43 percent from behind the arc.
Aaron Fuller had 19 starts and played in every game. His season highs were 16 points against Penn State and seven rebounds verses K-State.
He has long arms at 6-6 and hitting the weight room in the off-season will be a key for his progress.
Andrew Brommer at 6-9, 235 also needs to get stronger. He played in 20 games last year with season highs of five points and four rebounds.
John Lickliter redshirted last year and could get a few minutes at the point. He teamed up with Matt Gatens to help City High win the state championship when they were seniors in high school.
The Hawkeyes have four players signed for next year. Coach Lickliter says they might pick up one more if they find the right fit.
Two players, Eric May (6-5, 220) and Brandon Cougill (6-9, 260) are from Iowa.
Eric’s last second 35-foot shot helped Dubuque Wahlert win the state championship when he was a junior.
Eric was all state in football and basketball and was offered a scholarship to play football for the Hawks.
“He’s a terrific athlete,” said coach Chad. “He’s a strong kid. When he concentrates on one sport he will be very successful.”
Brandon Cougill (6-9, 260) is from Sioux City Heelan and was named “Mr. Basketball“ in the state of Iowa.
“Brandon is very skilled,” said Chad. “He can pass it and catch it as well as any big man I’ve ever seen. He is a capable shooter from three and we are excited about him.”
Cully Payne (6-1, 180) is an all state point guard from Illinois.
Cully averaged 21.6 ppg. and 5.4 assists as a senior.
“He is a very high basketball IQ player,” said the coach. “I think he will be very comfortable coming in playing. Kind of a ‘no fear’ player.”
Devon Archie (6-9, 220), a juco transfer, will add size and defense for the Hawks.
“Devon gives us a great deal of athleticism vertically that we didn’t have in the past,” said Chad. “Very good around the basket, good defender and shot blocker.”
All of the players are expected to play in Prime Time this summer. The first game tips off June 15 at 6 p.m.
The Big Ten will be tough next year. Iowa will be better and hopefully they will show up with a winning season.
Any pictures of Matt you could use?