Big 12 Summer Update: Iowa State CyclonesPosted by dnspewak on July 10th, 2012
In an effort to remind you that college basketball does in fact exist during the summer, Big 12 microsite writers Danny Spewak (@dspewak) and Jeremy Pfingsten (@jeremylp21) will roll out three summer updates per week during the next month. The goal is to compile every bit of news and information from the summer months for each team and package it into neat, easy-to-read capsules for your convenience. We begin with Danny’s update on Iowa State:
Iowa State Cyclones
2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 (3rd place)
Fred Hoiberg is having a better summer than you. After every basketball writer in America questioned his risky strategy to recruit four Division I transfers to his Iowa State program last year, the Fab Four silenced the naysayers and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2005. Hoiberg may lose the bulk of his starting lineup to graduation and the pros, but The Mayor has successfully changed the basketball culture in Ames in the span of just one season. So yes — he’s probably having a terrific summer by basking in his team’s 23-win season. And, more importantly, Hoiberg’s bosses rewarded him with a contract extension to give him some extra stability and millions of dollars in cash. That doesn’t mean there’s not work to do while the weather’s still warm, though. Hoiberg’s job now requires him to mix a large class of newcomers with a few returning veterans to keep Iowa State from becoming a one-year wonder.
Summer Orientation: It’s important to stay realistic about summer league basketball, but these statistics for Will Clyburn are too gaudy to ignore. The 6’7’’ wing, eligible next season after transferring from Utah, put up 111 points in two games in the YMCA/Capital City League this summer. He scored 63 in the first game and 48 in the next. For all you math majors, that’s a 55.5 point-per-game average over two contests. Small sample size? Certainly. And summer league? It’s not the NBA. But it’s encouraging for the Cyclones to see Clyburn excel, especially since that league features several of his Iowa State teammates. Former Cyclone Royce White even says Clyburn, a former All-Mountain West honoree at Utah, will make the team better this year than last.
Clyburn has already set a league record for points, but he’s not the only Cyclone making headlines in this league. Freshman Georges Niang actually held Clyburn to 28 points (measly, right?) when the two faced each other in the Y, and there are high hopes for this four-star stud forward from New Hampshire. Fellow froshs Sherron Dorsey-Walker and Naz Long are also earning some experience in this league before their first college seasons, and three-star forward Kerwin Okoro just joined the league in late June.
There’s one newcomer missing in all this: Korie Lucious. He’s stayed under the radar this summer but will play a major role for this team at the point in 2012-13. The grizzled veteran of two Final Fours at Michigan State is looking for a fresh start after Tom Izzo dismissed him, and Hoiberg says Lucious’ speed will allow his team to play a little more up-tempo next year.
Looking Good: Bubu Palo has the best name in the Big 12. That isn’t debatable. The former walk-on is also one of the best stories in the league, thanks to his hard-nosed defensive play and inspiring work ethic. Every stereotype you’ve heard about the hard-working walk-on comes to life with Palo, and that’s OK because he’s an important part of this program. Palo doesn’t want to just be the inspiring Rudy figure as the backup point guard anymore, though. This summer, he’s working on his outside game. If Palo can find a way to add this element to his repertoire, there’s no telling how it could complement his already solid game.
This off-season is also an important time for a few of Iowa State’s forwards, all of whom will fight for playing time with White’s departure to the NBA. Anthony Booker and Percy Gibson averaged about 10 minutes per game last year, but both could push for spots in the starting lineup depending on their improvement. The knock on Gibson is his defense, so that’s an area he’ll need to shore up in order to get ahead of the pack. It’s fairly certain junior Melvin Ejim will start and play major minutes at one of the forward spots after a respectable 2011-12 campaign, but his fellow frontcourt mates have a lot of work to do.
The roles for guards Chris Babb and Tyrus McGee could evolve this summer, too. Babb started every game a year ago and McGee saw big minutes off the bench, but both need to make up for Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen‘s departures. Christopherson was one of the better shooters this conference had seen in quite some time, so it’s up to Babb and McGee to provide that outside threat. Babb did not shoot well from beyond the arc last year (32%), but he’s better than that statistic would suggest. McGee fared much better at 39% and showed the ability to go off from the three-point line on any night.
Roadblocks: There’s no greater roadblock than losing the conference’s most versatile player to the NBA Draft. Still, although Royce White gave Hoiberg just a year of college stardom, he can now instruct prospective high school recruits to turn on the Houston Rockets and watch a Cyclone play in the NBA. There’s no more important pitch on the recruiting trail than that– I coached an NBA player. Plus, it’s not as though White’s decision was a surprise or shock to Hoiberg, so this doesn’t leave his program in shambles. Hoiberg did lose Tavon Sledge and Jordan Railey to Iona and Washington State, respectively, something he may not have seen coming. Sledge transferred after appearing in eight games in 2011-12, while Railey leaves after averaging 3.5 minutes a game in 13 appearances.
State of the Program: At this time last summer, Hoiberg was recovering from a last-place finish in his first season and welcomed an entirely new roster with way more questions than answers. His fan base was getting antsy– in fact, it’d been antsy for the past few decades. With some of the best fan support in the Big 12 and the “Hilton Magic” reputation, these people in Ames had seen it all lately. In 1998, their coach, Tim Floyd, left for the Chicago Bulls after a few NCAA Tournament appearances. The next coach, Larry Eustachy, oversaw a few of the most successful seasons in Iowa State history during his tenure before scandal forced him out in 2003. Wayne Morgan took over and got fired after three seasons. And then Greg McDermott left for Creighton in 2010 after four unsuccessful seasons. You get the point by now. Iowa State needs stability, the kind of coach who can build a consistent winner and stay here forever. Hoiberg just might be that guy. He’s beloved in Ames and has no reason to ever leave, and he also finally has this program on the right track. That’s why Year Three of his tenure is so critical. He got the hardest part out of the way: Start winning. Now, he needs to keep winning, and it appears as though he’s going to do it by mixing transfers with major high school prospects. Hoiberg will have a lot of new parts in 2012-13, but it is imperative for him to reach the NCAA Tournament again to establish himself and the Cyclones as a winner in the long-term.