IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa point guard Cully Payne is leaving the Hawkeyes after missing most of last season with a hernia and watching his replacement blossom into an All-Big Ten performer.
Iowa said Tuesday that Payne, a native of Schaumburg, Ill., has been granted a release from his scholarship at his request.
Payne started all 32 games as a freshman for the Hawkeyes in 2009-10 and averaged 8.7 points and just under four assists a game. Payne missed all but the first five games in 2010-11, though, and later underwent surgery for a sports hernia.
According to Iowa coach Fran McCaffery, Payne had intended to apply for a medical redshirt to get a year of eligibility back.
"We appreciate Cully's hard work and contributions to the Iowa basketball program the last two years," McCaffery said. "We are thankful for Cully that he has been able to make a full recovery from his injury and wish him nothing but the best."
Iowa returns four starters from a team that finished 11-20 last season. Payne's departure leaves the Hawkeyes thin at point guard, though Bryce Cartwright proved he's more than capable of handling that role after a breakout season.
Cartwright, a junior college transfer, emerged in Payne's absence with 10.9 points and 5.9 assists per game and earned honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors.
Cartwright, who will be a senior, was at his best in Big Ten play with a league-high 123 assists in 18 games. He had 14 points, seven rebounds and six assists in a 66-61 loss to Michigan State in the conference tournament.
McCaffery now has three scholarships available for next season, and Payne's departure leaves open the strong possibility that he'll be looking for another point guard. Iowa brought in prep forward Aaron White from Ohio and Cedar Rapids Washington shooting guard Josh Oglesby for 2011-12 and is expected to sign at least two players this spring.
Payne originally signed with Alabama in high school, but was granted a release when former coach Mark Gottfried was dismissed. He then committed to former Hawkeyes coach Todd Lickliter.
Payne is the second Iowa player to leave the program since McCaffery took over for Lickliter last spring. Forward Aaron Fuller transferred to USC.
"My family and I felt like this decision was best for me moving forward. I truly appreciate the experience I was offered and wish my teammates nothing but the best in the future," Payne said in a statement released by the school.