March 27, 2009
IOWA CITY, Iowa - Among the many messages Todd Lickliter shared Friday afternoon with media assembled inside Carver-Hawkeye Arena was one simple one: The total number of student-athletes on the roster at the end of the 2008-09 University of Iowa basketball team already investing in the 2009-10 season may be four less than what it was a week ago, but the future is just as bright.
"I say look at the guys we have here," the head coach of the UI men's basketball program said when asked what fans of the Hawkeyes should be thinking.
"We have state champions, a team captain, players who started for us this year and all are investing right now in the program. And we're recruiting the right guys. I'm excited about the future. I love the guys we have and I love the guys we've recruited and are recruiting."
Lickliter used Friday's get-together to confirm the departure of four student-athletes who were on the Hawkeyes' roster when the 2008-09 season concluded. Lickliter said Jake Kelly had asked to resume his collegiate career closer to his home in Terre Haute, Ind., that Jeff Peterson will pursue an opportunity at the NCAA Division I level, and that David Palmer and Jermain Davis will likely continue their playing careers at the NCAA Division II level.
He said there's a reason why the NCAA allows student-athletes to transfer and that it's a good thing for everyone.
"At this time of the year, change happens in (college basketball) programs. NCAA rules allow it and it's a good thing," Lickliter said, noting that he's been on both ends - a coach losing a player and a coach gaining a player - during his career.
"Three of them more than anything desired a more prominent role or a role that we couldn't offer or guarantee. Jake Kelly's situation is very personal and one that I totally respect. I wouldn't be honest if I said I know how he's feeling. I can't. And I would love for Jake to stay, but that would be selfish.
"They - all four - were enjoyable to coach," Lickliter added.
"I say look at the guys we have here. We have state champions, a team captain, players who started for us this year and all are investing right now in the program. And we're recruiting the right guys. I'm excited about the future. I love the guys we have and I love the guys we've recruited and are recruiting."
Todd Lickliter when asked about what fans of the Hawkeyes should be thinking
Kelly, a two-time Big Ten Conference player of the week selection in the final month of the 2008-09 season after he replaced Peterson at the point guard position, lost his mother in a plane accident last summer. She had moved to Iowa City when he came to the UI campus two seasons ago.
"It's not as we would have mapped it out, but this can happen. You have a choice: You can be bitter or you can get better. We're going to move on and get better."
Asked if it was difficult to find student-athletes who want to "fill a role," Lickliter lightened the crowd with his sense of humor.
"The role of shooter isn't hard to fill," he smiled before adding, "There's a lot of ways to contribute and I think it's very possible to find players who have great appreciation for fulfilling a role."
Lickliter said he believes the foundation is in place for success.
"There are many challenges at this level. Many are fun. Some are hard. In some regards they're draining. I believe we're on the other side (of that). We have seven guys who are deeply invested and investing every day.
"They will be the foundation," he continued. "And we'll add to them the right guys and, again, I'm excited about the guys we're talking to."
Asked about "selling himself" to fans and others, Lickliter was himself: Straightforward and honest.
"I just try to be consistent and to be honest and to work hard and I'm going to continue to do that. I wish there was something magical that we could just (be successful) right now, but that's just not the way it works," Lickliter said.
"We're going to work hard and, hopefully, if there are those who are skeptical and critical, they will be gracious enough that when we get it turned, they'll say, `OK, I was skeptical, but I believe in them now.' And the ones that believe, we want to reward."
Some notes of interest...