Lickliter: ‘They’re right there’


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As rebuilding projects go, Year No. 3 is when coaches expect to see results.

Losses turn into wins, players gain confidence and experience, and records improve — or so goes the rebuilding blueprint.

And make no mistake: Iowa signed off on a significant blueprint when it brought in head coach Todd Lickliter. However in the all-too-pivotal Year No. 3 under the coach, the Hawkeyes, at least on paper, have crumbled, sitting at 9-18 (3-11) and in a tie for 10th in the Big Ten.

A sign of regression? Not if you talk to Lickliter.

“They’re right there,” the third-year head coach said at his Tuesday afternoon press conference.

“This group can be … the ones that make it happen. They’re going to have to fight through some of these disappointments.”

The disappointments have been plentiful.

This season, Iowa started 1-4 — its worst beginning in 80 years — and now it’s five games away from finishing under .500 for the third-consecutive season. The last time that happened was after the 1931-32 season.

The team’s struggles aren’t without context. Since Lickliter took over the program, 10 players have transferred, including the most recent defection, Anthony Tucker, who was the team’s second-leading scorer in the 11 games he played before leaving on Feb. 12. He had been benched for off-the-court misconduct.

“There are some things I can control, and I couldn’t control some of those things,” Lickliter said.

The program’s defections over the last three seasons have left the head coach with a starting lineup featuring two freshmen and two sophomores on most nights.

Nearly 81 percent of the team’s scoring comes from underclassmen, and the Hawkeyes’ four top scorers are freshmen or sophomores.

This and a highly touted recruiting class have given Lickliter and Company reason to hope about the future — as long as transfers cease. Despite rumors and the team’s poor showing this season, Lickliter, along with freshman Cully Payne and junior Jarryd Cole, said he doesn’t anticipate any more transfers.

“Until I hear something from the guys that are here, then I’m not going to believe it,” Cole, a cocaptain, said. “I have every right to believe that everybody is going to come back.”

Payne said, “Last year, toward the end they were OK, and then all those guys left. It’s kind of like restarting.”

But throughout it all, Lickliter has maintained a sense of optimism.

The system will eventually pan out, the players will live up to their potential, and the wins will start to come — at least that’s the hope in Carver-Hawkeye Arena.

Now comes the hard part: turning that hope into results.

“I don’t think it’s just going to happen,” Cole said. “We have to make it happen. You can’t just sit back and say, ‘Good things are going to come.’ You have to act on it. I think we’re doing that. We’re in the right direction. It’s going to take a little bit of time, you know?”

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