Fred Hoiberg’s Unique Formula Continues to Add Up To Wins

Posted by Bennet Hayes on November 21st, 2013

On Wednesday night, the Iowa State Cyclones went into the Marriott Center and scored one of the better victories of this young season, beating an explosive (and previously undefeated) BYU team, 90-88. A check of the box score would reveal few surprises on the Cyclone side; Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane dropped in 21 points apiece to pace Fred Hoiberg’s squad, and fellow starters Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue and Matt Thomas all pitched in at least four field goals of their own. What that box score doesn’t reveal is that Iowa State was forced to play crunch-time possessions without Kane (ejected for a flagrant foul), Ejim (fouled out with two minutes left), and Hogue (fouled out minutes before Ejim); or that it sparingly used Daniel Edozie, who came up with the biggest play of Iowa State’s win — a blocked shot and subsequent recovery on a Tyler Haws jump shot in the final seconds. They were far from perfect down the stretch — especially at the free throw line — but the Cyclones showed off a necessary resourcefulness in claiming a statement victory in Provo. As unlikely and unusual as that game-ending lineup was for Iowa State, the challenge at hand must not have felt that foreign for their coach. Piecing together new casts has become commonplace for the Mayor; no two rosters in the Hoiberg era have born any sort of close resemblance, but the former Cyclone star has found a way to remold each and every new-look squad into a winner. Suffice it to say, after only four games, he appears to have done it again this year.

Fred Hoiberg's Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn't Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Fred Hoiberg’s Roster Suffered More Turnover This Offseason, But That Hasn’t Stopped The Mayor From Leading The Cyclones To An Impressive 4-0 Start

Hoiberg has lost at least three starters in each of his three offseasons in Ames, including last summer. The departures of seniors Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, and Tyrus McGee meant Iowa State would be returning just two contributors from a year ago – Ejim And Niang. An exodus of that size, particularly without the arrival of a star-studded freshman class, would typically mean a rebuild is in order. Not in Ames. There’s a “transfers welcome” sign hanging from Hilton Arena these days, with the former Marshall guard Kane the latest talent to undertake Hoiberg’s relocation program. More newcomers join him in this season’s Cyclone rotation. JuCo transfers Hogue and Edozie both had a hand in last night’s win, while two promising freshmen, Thomas and Monte Morris – top 100 recruits both – round out the cast of new faces for the 4-0 Cyclones.

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Big 12 M5: New Year’s Eve Edition

Posted by dnspewak on December 31st, 2012

morning5_big12

  1. They’ve been gearing up for New Year’s Eve in Stillwater for months, and not because they particularly care about the calendar flipping or watching the ball drop in Times Square. Instead, they’ve been gearing up for tonight’s showdown between Oklahoma State and Gonzaga. It’s not only a Top 25 battle — the local media and fans are also billing it as a Game of the Century of sorts, the kind of program-defining game Travis Ford must win to re-establish the Cowboys as a relevant Big 12 program. Good news is, Oklahoma State earned some respect already by demolishing North Carolina State and winning the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. Ford isn’t desperate for a marquee victory, but that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t help. The Zags, on the other hand, are no stranger to the Big 12. They’ve already knocked off four teams from this league this year alone: West Virginia, Baylor, Oklahoma and Kansas State, all by an average of 20 points.
  2. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” The man who penned that quote — a Scottish author named Ian Maclaren — died in 1907. And yet the inspirational phrase applies to Ben McLemore more than a century later. As you’ve watched McLemore this season, you’ve seen him blossom as a scorer and leader for Kansas. You probably didn’t know he has an older brother in a maximum-security prison. You probably also didn’t know his older brother missed McLemore’s first college basketball game and might not ever get to see him play. The freshman wouldn’t expand on how his brother got to prison five years ago, and it’s also unclear how long he’ll be there, but the KU freshman was able to make a visit during the Christmas holiday. This has been McLemore’s life throughout most of his adolescence, and it’s something to think about the next time you see him step on the court at Allen Fieldhouse.
  3. During each of Kansas State‘s televised games, announcers have repeatedly mentioned Bruce Weber‘s motion offense and how it will take time for his new team to adjust to his philosophy. Unlike most of what comes out of commentators’ mouths, they’re right on this one. Weber is famous for his fine-tuned motion offense, and it’s more strict than what Frank Martin required on the offensive end. Defensively, though, nothing has changed. This team still needs to defend to win. As Weber puts it, “We have to guard. We’re good at it. We showed last week, if we can play at the right level, we can be OK offensively enough to win.”
  4. It’s been very difficult to see the downfall of Royce White after such a marvelous season with Iowa State in 2011-12. White’s issues with the Houston Rockets have been extensively publicized, and now there’s a new chapter: White has declined to play for the Rocket’s D-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Nobody’s quite sure where he’ll go from here, but White claims the organization will not do enough to accommodate his mental health issues. He issued a statement as well, explaining his stance and calling information released by the Rockets’ “misleading” and, at times, “totally inaccurate.”
  5. Upon hearing that former Oklahoma (among other schools, most famously Indiana) coach Kelvin Sampson could become a candidate for the Brooklyn Nets’ head coaching job, we have to ask the question: Do the Nets have an unlimited calling plan? Cheap shot. We know. Still, it’s wild to consider Sampson may get the full-time gig in Brooklyn after impermissible phone calls landed him in hot water with the NCAA in 2008. He’s actually under a “show-cause” penalty until 2013, which means he can’t get back into the college game until next year. So why not coach the pros? He already coached on an interim basis for 13 games this season during the absence of Kevin McHale, finishing a modest 7-6.
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Big 12 M5: 12.14.12 Edition

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 14th, 2012

  1. The annual 50-player Naismith Award watch list was unveiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club Tuesday Morning, led by Creighton guard Doug McDermott. Five Big 12 players spanning four teams made the list. They are: Baylor G Pierre Jackson, Kansas State G Rodney McGruder, Oklahoma State G Marcus Smart, Kansas G Ben McLemore, and Kansas C Jeff Withey. Jackson has looked the best so far this season, finishing with 25 points and seven assists in Sunday’s victory over Jackson State. The Naismith Award winner will be announced on April 7 in Atlanta.
  2. Bill Self didn’t seem too upset after his team’s 67-64 loss to Michigan State last night in the Champions Classic, but he told KUSports.com that it will be a while before the Jayhawks are mentally tough and “learn to compete.” He’s right. This wasn’t a 34-point loss like what West Virginia suffered at Gonzaga late Monday night. There weren’t any demoralizing aspects to last night’s game. Kansas is young. “Green and naive,” Self called his freshmen. And there will be a few more of these close losses throughout the non-conference season as Kansas preps for another Big 12 championship run. A bright spot in the loss was the solid game from redshirt freshman Ben McLemore, who had 14 points on 5-7 shooting. His athleticism and three-point shooting will be key for the Jayhawks’ development this year.
  3. Former Iowa State forward Royce White has the talent to make a nice living in the NBA, but his battle with anxiety might be derailing that career before he signs another contract. White’s fear of flying has been well noted by now. He missed parts of the Rockets training camp this season after missing flights, eventually figuring out a travel plan with the team that would allow him to bus to away games when practical. Monday, White skipped his team’s game against the Miami Heat and was absent from Tuesday’s practice as well after the team planned to send him down to the D-League. Today, White released a statement. Part of it reads, “As a rookie, I want to settle into a team and make progress; but since preseason the Rockets have been inconsistent with their agreement to proactively create a healthy and successful relationship. He later added this on twitter. Pardon me for not feeling bad for Royce White and his anxiety. Nobody forced him to sign a contract requiring him to travel across the country for seven months out of the year. If his fear of flying is as detrimental to his health as he says, he should have no problem giving back his NBA money and working at Sears instead. Otherwise, he should do his job.
  4. Kansas State finalized its trip to New York City for the Preseason NIT after dismantling Alabama-Huntsville Tuesday in Bramlage Coliseum, 87-26. The Wildcats will play next Wednesday in New York against Delaware, following the Blue Hens’ upset at Virginia last night. A win would put Kansas State in the championship game Friday night against what will be Pittsburgh or Michigan. The two-game trip could be a great experience for a Wildcat team still learning to play in Bruce Weber’s new system. With talented upperclassmen like Jordan Henriquez and Rodney McGruder back on board, getting acclimated with Weber is the only obstacle to another NCAA Tournament appearance for K-State.
  5. Jeff Goodman of CBSSports talked about ranked teams with point guard issues this season, and Kansas and its senior guard Elijah Johnson made the list. Johnson has played off the ball in his first three years with the Jayhawks as Tyshawn Taylor ran the show. Now there’s no one else but Johnson to fill that role. He struggled in KU’s opener against Southeast Missouri State, going 1-5 from the field with just four points and one assist. In Tuesday’s 67-64 loss to Michigan State he was much improved, finishing with 16 points along with a solid floor game (four rebounds, three steals). He added just two assists, though, and it’s clear he’s not a stereotypical point guard. With so many freshman on the roster, that might not be the best thing for this year’s team. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Goodman recognized a handful of other teams with solid point guard play and didn’t take long to mention Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, who is averaging 19.5 PPG and 9.5 APG through two games.
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Big 12 Team Preview #7: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted by KoryCarpenter on November 6th, 2012

Over the next two weeks, we’ll bring you the obligatory team preview here at the Big 12 microsite. Iowa State at the #7 position is next on our list.

The Skinny

  • 2011-12 Record: 23-11, 12-6 Big 12
  • Key Contributors Gone: F Royce White, G Scott Christopherson, G Chris Allen
  • Head Coach: Fred Hoiberg, 3rd season
  • Projected Finish: 7th

Replacing Royce White will be crucial if Iowa State wants to continue its uptick in the Big 12.

Fred Hoiberg wasted no time after being hired at Iowa State in April 2010, quickly assembling a group of transfers who sat out the first season before making a big impact a year ago. The Cyclones saw a seven-win improvement in 2011-12 and played eventual national champion Kentucky tough — at least for a half — in the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament before losing, 87-71. Now Hoiberg is looking to do it again. Last year’s top three scorers are gone, led by NBA first round pick and do-everything forward Royce White. He has two more excellent transfers eligible to play this season and a solid four-man recruiting class to blend with those transfers. Hoiberg proved he could mesh everything together for a successful season a year ago, but he had a lot of help with one of the most difficult forward match-ups in the country in the form of Royce White. The non-conference schedule plays out nicely for the Cyclones, with a few tough games — a possible game with UNLV in Las Vegas in the Global Sports Classic and BYU in Ames — but plenty of multi-directional schools will be at home to boost the win total while the newcomers learn to play together. Hoiberg said at the Big 12 Media Day that he has accomplished what he set out to do, quickly building up the program with transfers and surrounding them with good four-year guys. It was successful last season and Hoiberg’s roster moves this year proves that he thinks it will work again.

The Personnel

Hoiberg said that he’ll always play to the strengths of his team, no matter the style. Last year, he gave the ball to White just about anywhere on the floor and let him distribute to the shooters, and it worked. White was too big for most guards and too fast for most big men. And when he drew extra attention, Cyclone shooters were ready, knocking down 293 three-pointers on the year. Hoiberg called last year’s team unconventional because of White’s offensive game, something that won’t be the case this season. “We’ll have Korie Lucious, a pure point guard again,” Hoiberg said at Big 12 Media Day. “I’m excited about that. It gives us the opportunity to play a little faster.” Lucious, now a redshirt senior, played three seasons at Michigan State, contributing to two Final Four teams for Tom Izzo while averaging 6.5 PPG and 4.1 APG in 2010-11. He takes over for White, sort of. As Hoiberg mentioned, Lucious is a pure point guard, while White was nothing of the sort. Lucious will look to pass first and score second. He’ll push the tempo, and while he’s not a 6’8″, 260-pound mismatch, he brings his own skills to this Cyclone team. “He’s got that experience of leading a basketball team.” Hoiberg said. “And we’ve got the athletes to get out and run and play with him.”

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Big 12 M5: 10.16.12 Edition

Posted by Nate Kotisso on October 16th, 2012

  1. Bob Knight is in the headlines once again. The former Indiana and Texas Tech basketball coach is auctioning his national championship rings along with his 1984 Olympic gold medal.  On the heels of Arkansas football coach John L. Smith’s financial issues, was Knight the latest to resort to selling his goods for a quick buck? No, he’s doing this to pay for grandchildren’s college education. Up for bid are his three NCAA championship rings from 1976, 1981 and 1987, his gold medal as Team USA coach (given to him from the LA Olympic Committee) as well as a sports coat and warm-up jacket also given to him as part of the 1984 Olympic team. Good to know nothing’s wrong with Knight financially speaking. You almost had us there, coach.
  2. The Baylor Bears have them a fan in CBS’ Matt Norlander. He likes the Bears as a preseason Top 20 team and it’s hard to think of them otherwise. Ricardo Gathers and Isaiah Austin are bound to make immediate impacts as freshmen with the departures of Perry Jones III and the Quincys, Miller and Acy. Throw in the Big 12 preseason POY in Pierre Jackson, three-point assassin Brady Heslip, highflyer Deuce Bello and you’re looking at a team that can blossom at the end of the year, just like the two Elite Eight teams of recent vintage (2010, 2012). Scott Drew certainly has a type.
  3. Kansas State is still getting used to Bruce Weber just as Weber is to K-State. Kellis Robinett of The Wichita Eagle had an outstanding piece detailing how the two are meshing. The first time the Wildcats tried to run Weber’s motion offense was a comedy of errors. Players were unsure of where to go and featured, as the story notes, “teammates accidentally crashing into each other.” When Frank Martin was around, K-State ran half-court sets so it’s understandable a scheme change would take some time to master. One difference senior Will Spradling notices between his current and former coach is that one mistake would have caused Spradling to hear Martin’s loud voice in his ear while Weber is willing and able to rehearse the play as long as it takes to get right. In the grand scheme of things, this won’t make the Wildcats win more games because KSU would have been projected as pretty good whether Weber or Martin were calling the shots. Gonna miss Martin’s death stare, though.
  4. Former Iowa State everyman Royce White has gotten off to a bit of a rocky start in his NBA career. He didn’t arrive at the Houston Rockets training camp on time due to anxiety issues over flying. To quell those fears, White and the Rockets came to an agreement on traveling arrangements during the preseason. Monday night White saw his first action as a Rocket and, in limited action, he looked every bit the player he was in Ames. He wasn’t put in a box, he was Royce. For Rockets fans like myself, that’s music to our ears.
  5. I am a big fan of the College Basketball All-Name Teams provided by the fine folks at Ballin is a Habit every October. Now that this fall ritual has moved to NBC’s College Basketball Talk, this year’s list of names may be the deepest ever. Big 12 schools have their share of wacky namesakes but the real humor is in the name of each category. Read this while you enjoy your lunch later today. You may not have much of one when you’re done looking it over.
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Big 12 Summer Update Summary

Posted by dnspewak on August 8th, 2012

With two months remaining until Midnight Madness officially kicks off the 2012-13 season, there’s no telling how the rest of the summer will shake out in the Big 12. We’ll watch intently as the NCAA rules on the eligibility status of TCU’s Devonta Abron, Texas Tech’s Blake Nash and Oklahoma State’s J.P. Olukemi, and we’ll cross our fingers each day not to log online and read of a new injury, suspension or arrest. A lot can happen between now and mid-October, but it’s already been an eventful summer in the Big 12. The league added two programs in West Virginia and TCU, several teams picked up late signees from both the high school and junior college ranks, and the coaching carousel spit out the old and welcomed Bruce Weber and Trent Johnson to the fold. Here’s a look at the major happenings from around the Big 12 during the past four months, incorporating both the good and bad this summer (click through for the complete summary):

  • Iowa StateRoyce White made the unsurprising decision this spring to leave after a season for the NBA, but coach Fred Hoiberg signed an extension and Utah transfer Will Clyburn is tearing up summer league. The Mayor will be just fine.
  • KansasSo there’s a minor scandal involving an alleged drug dealer running around the 2010-11 Kansas basketball team. This could turn messy eventually, but for now, Bill Self is celebrating the late additions of freshmen Milton Doyle and Rio Adams, both deemed eligible by the NCAA to play this season.
  • Kansas State: We’re still not exactly sure why Frank Martin left a rock-solid program for one of the worst jobs in the SEC, but it’s Bruce Weber’s team now. He assembled a staff of familiar faces this summer, including former Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery, to lead a team returning almost every key piece from last year’s NCAA Tournament squad.
  • Oklahoma: All is quiet in Norman. Thank God. After Kelvin Sampson and Jeff Capel dragged Oklahoma’s basketball program through enough scandal to last a lifetime, Lon Kruger dealt only with a transfer from reserve point guard Carl Blair. Besides that, he’s using the summer to mesh a team with several individually talented returners, a few stud freshmen and impact transfer Amath M’Baye.
  • Baylor: Even amidst mass defections to the NBA, legal trouble from a former player, and an NCAA punishment/probation for impermissible phone calls and text messages, Scott Drew is still sitting pretty with a loaded roster for 2012-13. A few summer roadblocks won’t be enough to derail what he’s built in Waco.
  • TCU: The Horned Frogs hired Trent Johnson to lead them during this time of conference transition, and he’s fighting an uphill battle in almost every respect. His facilities still lag behind the rest of his league, as does his overall fan support and, most importantly, his sheer level of talent on the roster. He’s still waiting to learn the NCAA’s ruling on Arkansas transfer Devonta Abron, who’s appealing to play immediately.
  • West Virginia: Bob Huggins added a third major transfer last month in Boston College guard Matt Humphrey, who used the graduate school loophole to gain immediate eligibility. He’ll join Juwan Staten (Dayton) and Aaric Murray (La Salle), and together they must lead a group of fairly unproven but improving returners.
  • Texas: J’Covan Brown left school a year early, meaning Rick Barnes must now rework his roster this summer without his do-it-all scoring guard. Good news is that point guard Myck Kabongo decided to stay in Austin, and everybody’s already raving about the early performances of freshmen big men Cameron Ridley and Prince Ibeh.
  • Texas Tech: Six players transferred this offseason, allowing Billy Gillispie to ink nine newcomers for the Class of 2012. With questions still lingering about the scholarship situation, we’re not exactly sure who’s going to suit up for the Red Raiders in October. One freshman already left the team, and top recruit Wannah Bail’s academic issues forced him to briefly leave campus. Plus, South Florida transfer Blake Nash is waiting to hear about his hardship waiver, so this team is really a mystery right now.
  • Oklahoma State: All other problems in this league seem trivial compared to Oklahoma State. A jury convicted former forward Darrell Williams of rape in front of a courtroom full of teammates and head coach Travis Ford, the latter of whom testified on Williams’ behalf. Adding to those woes, Ford suspended center Phillip Jurick after a marijuana arrest last weekend, so it’s been a difficult summer for the Cowboys. On the plus side, freshman Marcus Smart’s performance at the U-18 Championships this summer already has coaches buzzing about his potential.
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Big 12 Summer Update: Iowa State Cyclones

Posted 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.

The Mayor Is Smiling This Summer After an NCAA Tournament Appearance

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.

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Big 12 Weekly Five: 06.28.12 Edition

Posted by dnspewak on June 28th, 2012

  1. We haven’t been able to talk college basketball for months, not since Kentucky cut down the nets in New Orleans. Thursday night, however, the NBA Draft will allow us junkies to get our college hoops fix by watching all of our former stars learn their fate. We’re always ready for surprises on draft night, but the endless number of mock drafts gives us a vague idea as to where the Big 12 standouts will go. One mock draft predicts Thomas Robinson at the number two spot, which has essentially become the consensus among all the draft “experts.” Kansas teammate Tyshawn Taylor is slotted as the last pick of the first round there, and Quincy Miller (#18), Royce White (#19) and Perry Jones, III (#20), are on the list, too. Many other players should hear their names in the second round, which is admittedly a bit more of a crapshoot.
  2. Kansas did just fine for itself last season, winning another Big 12 championship and reaching the national title game. But it wasn’t the easiest year for coach Bill Self, who had to mix and match with a short bench and only a handful of reliable contributors outside of the main nucleus. That’s why Self is excited about adding more depth in 2012-13, and he’s especially excited about the progression of sophomore guards Naadir Tharpe and Ben McLemore (ineligible last year). With those two expected to contribute more as well as the arrival of star freshman Perry Ellis, Self believes he should have more options.
  3. It’s hard to believe, but once the summer ends college basketball will be right around the corner. So it’s never too early to talk about non-conference schedules. Texas Tech will apparently add three major home games to its schedule next year: Alabama, Arizona, and Arizona State. That should give Billy Gillispie a decent idea as to how much his team has improved after a fairly disastrous first season.
  4. Oklahoma State has also announced it will host Gonzaga at Gallagher-Iba Arena on New Year’s Eve in 2012, an exciting match-up for those of us who’d rather watch hoops than college football during the holidays. Interestingly, OSU claims this could be the biggest non-conference home game at Gallagher-Iba in more than a decade, which sounds a bit like hyperbole but could certainly be true. And frankly, college basketball is better when that historic arena is rocking, which means the Cowboys better get their act together and string a few wins together before that December 31 game. There’s reason to believe Travis Ford’s team could get better too, especially if freshman Marcus Smart finds a way to co-exist with Le’Bryan Nash.
  5. Baylor is no stranger to scandal, and it’s happening again. In a strange twist, a former basketball player has been charged with extorting Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III. Richard Hurd is accused of telling Griffin he would disclose some sort of dirt on him to the public if he did not receive a sum of money, which  actually makes us more than a little curious as to what Hurd “had” on Griffin. We didn’t recognize the accused’s name when we saw it, but apparently he was a walk-on at Baylor who actually averaged 17 minutes per game in 2004-05.
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Royce White Aces Interview Process, Quells Important Offcourt Concerns

Posted by EJacoby on June 14th, 2012

No draft prospect’s stock is perhaps as volatile as former Iowa State point-forward Royce White, who’s been rumored to fall anywhere from the late lottery to the early second round. White led a solid Cyclones team in points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, and field goal percentage last season as a dominant college forward with unquestionable ability as an impact pro player. But NBA evaluators are rightfully concerned about his many off the court issues — getting kicked off his first team (Minnesota), having trouble staying in shape, and, most importantly, his well-known anxiety disorder. Scouts fear that his personality traits could hinder his development and make it difficult for him to adapt to fast-moving changes at the next level. But this week at the NBA Draft Combine, White had a chance to speak face-to-face with league executives and draft scouts through the interrogation process, and he was phenomenal in the interview room. White was one of the best overall public speakers of the group, but more importantly he was refreshingly honest and insightful with answers to specific questions about his anxiety and his game. If NBA teams pass on White solely because of attitude concerns, that’s a mistake based on how well he carried himself in the interview room.

Royce White was just as impressive in front of a microphone at the Combine as he was on the court last season (Iowa State Daily photo)

Overall, White was hands down the best interview in Chicago. Most prospects simply try not to hurt themselves during the interview process and choose to answer with standard player clichés: “I’ll do anything the team wants me to [...] I can play any position [...] My shot is better than I showed last season.” But White gave honest answers to every question, coming off as a confident young man that understands himself and his game. “Very mediocre; average,” said White about his jump shot. “Hopefully I can have the ball in my hands, I kind of proved that I’m good doing it. But if I don’t, that’s fine as well,” he said when asked about having to play off the ball in the league.

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RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Royce White

Posted by dnspewak on May 31st, 2012

The NBA Draft is scheduled for Thursday, June 28, in New York City. As we have done for the last several years, RTC’s team of writers (including Andrew Murawa, Kevin Doyle, Evan Jacoby, Matt Patton, and Danny Spewak) will provide comprehensive breakdowns of each of the 35 collegians most likely to hear his name called by David Stern in the first round on draft night. We’ll generally work backwards, so for the next week or two we’ll present you with players who are projected near the end of the first round, and we’ll work our way up into the lottery as June progresses. As an added bonus, we’ll also bring you a scouting take from NBADraft.net’s Aran Smith at the bottom of each player evaluation.

Note: Click here for all published 2012 NBA Draft profiles.

Player Name: Royce White

School: Iowa State

Height/Weight: 6’8”, 270 pounds

NBA Position: Power Forward

Projected Draft Range: Late First Round

Royce White Turned Iowa State Into an NCAA Team (AP)

Overview: Before Royce White ever played a college basketball game, he made headlines for all the wrong reasons as a freshman at Minnesota. After signing with Tubby Smith’s program, he ran into legal trouble in a theft incident at the Mall of America, earning himself a quick suspension. He never stepped on the court with the Gophers, and he left the school by creating an Internet sensation through a bizarre YouTube video (now defunct). By the time he became eligible  after transferring to Iowa State, White’s bad boy image defined him as a player. And yet it took all of about five minutes for everybody to remember why he was a blue-chip recruit out of high school. In his first collegiate game, he torched Lehigh (yes, that Lehigh) for 25 points and a double-double. As the season progressed, he made a name for himself as a do-it-all point forward, the kind of matchup nightmare that led Missouri coach Frank Haith to compare him to Magic Johnson (to which White called “outrageous,” of course). He stormed through Big 12 play with double-double after double-double, leading the Cyclones to a surprising third-place finish and the program’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005. White was the obvious choice for Newcomer of the Year in the league, as well as first team All-Big 12 honors.

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Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Top Half

Posted by rtmsf on April 6th, 2012

Yesterday we gave you our season grades for the bottom half of the Big 12. Today we bring you the top half.

5. Kansas State (22-11, 10-8)

McGruder Led a Surprising K-State Team This Season

FINAL GRADE: B+

Despite all of the personnel question marks and the graduation of star Jacob Pullen, you had the sense Frank Martin would figure something out. He certainly did, as his team weathered a mid-season swoon to finish strong and reach another NCAA Tournament. Martin may have left for South Carolina after the season, but his final Kansas State team fought hard in 2011-12 despite a load of adversity. A December championship at the Diamond Head Classic helped the Wildcats enter the Top 25 before Big 12 play, but poor offensive execution and a lack of consistency on the defensive end doomed the Wildcats during the winter. They weren’t playing like Martin’s teams usually did. They weren’t tough, and it showed, starting 1-3 in Big 12 play and dropping four home games in Manhattan. Oklahoma swept them. Things were getting ugly, and they hit rock bottom after a home loss to Kansas on Big Monday on February 13. That’s when Martin turned this thing around and solidified an NCAA Tournament berth. The Wildcats got back to the basics: defense, rebounding and delivering a knockout punch to opponents. Rodney McGruder stepped up his play as the team’s star, helping it win four of five games to close the season, including road wins at Baylor and Missouri. The controversial suspension of Jamar Samuels left Kansas State without its best forward in an NCAA Third Round game against Syracuse, but it’s impressive that this team even reached that point. With McGruder presumably returning next year, first-year coach Bruce Weber will have a lot to work with. Angel Rodriguez should be even better as a sophomore, and Will Spradling and Jordan Henriquez should grow, too.

4. Iowa State (23-11, 12-6) 

FINAL GRADE: A

The Transfer Effect worked to Iowa State’s benefit this year. In December, we wrote a piece questioning Fred Hoiberg’s recruiting tactics, as he’d brought in four Division I transfers this season. It took a while for everybody to get acclimated, resulting in a couple of losses to Drake and Northern Iowa during an inconsistent non-conference stretch. But once league play began, this team took off. Royce White took the nation by storm with his wild hair and versatile play, showing an ability to run the Cyclones’ offense as a sort of point-forward. He emerged as one of the most fascinating and entertaining players to watch in college basketball, but the team around him helped add to the fun. These guys shot lights-out from beyond the arc, including senior Scott Christopherson, who finished with the highest three-point percentage in the Big 12 (45.5%) for players with more than four attempts per game. Hoiberg added a fresh energy to this program, leading ISU to a victory over Connecticut in the NCAA Tournament. His team even briefly competed against Kentucky before falling apart late in that matchup. There was no fairy-tale March run for The Mayor, but given time, his program may eventually reach those heights. The 2011-12 season marked a major turning point for the Cyclones.

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Grading the Big 12’s 2011-12 Season: Bottom Half

Posted by dnspewak on April 5th, 2012

With the 2011-12 campaign now just a memory, it’s difficult to actually remember all of the drama and agony the Big 12 experienced during the last five months. Kansas’ thrilling loss to Duke in the Maui Invitational seems like ages ago, as does the Jayhawks’ first loss to Kentucky at Madison Square Garden. Remember when Missouri and Baylor were only a few of the remaining unbeaten teams in college basketball? Or when Texas found a way to lose game after game in the most heartbreaking fashion? These memories are hard to digest, but you’ll probably never forget the Border War drama between Kansas and Missouri, nor will you forget Iowa State’s rise thanks to the brilliant play of Royce White. The Big 12 kept playing until the final game of the 2011-12 season, ending with Kansas’ loss to Kentucky in the title game on Monday. And with the conclusion of this wild campaign, the final grades are in. Kansas earns an A+. Big surprise. Texas A&M earns an F. Big surprise, too, but for different reasons. The other eight teams settled into a grade somewhere between those two extremes.

We’ll cover the bottom half of the league today, and the top half tomorrow.

10. Texas Tech (8-23, 1-17)

Gillispie's First Year in Lubbock Wasn't Great

FINAL GRADE: D

The Red Raiders get a free pass in Billy Gillispie‘s first season. Playing almost exclusively with newcomers, Texas Tech had no chance this year. Robert Lewandowski was the only senior on the roster, but not even he could lead this team to any sort of success. Their inexperience was just too much to overcome. The Red Raiders were plagued by turnovers all season and they never got consistent point guard play. Jordan Tolbert emerged as the leading scorer in the frontcourt, and he played the most consistent basketball on the team from November through February. Still, even after a last-place finish, Texas Tech should not worry about the state of this program. Gillispie’s success at UTEP and Texas A&M proves he can win in this state, and he’ll have almost everybody back next season.

9. Texas A&M (14-18, 4-14)

FINAL GRADE: F

Sorry, A&M. You fail. Picked in the pre-season to win the Big 12, the Aggies suffered through a nightmare year, though there are extenuating circumstances to consider here. Coach Billy Kennedy learned of a Parkinson’s diagnosis in the fall, which kept him sidelined for fall practice and away from his team during critical teaching moments. As a first-year coach, Kennedy never had the chance to establish himself to his new players. Adding to the woes, many of those players missed time themselves with injuries. Star wing Khris Middleton had surgery on his knee in November and sat out part of Big 12 play. Point guard Dash Harris missed a handful of games, too, and his backup Jamal Branch transferred before conference play. Kourtney Roberson played only nine games before his season ended due to injury as well. As the troubles mounted, the losses began to pile up. The Aggies simply could not score because of all the roster turnover and the lack of creators on the offensive end. We thought this team could muscle its way to a Big 12 title by playing with the principles former coach Mark Turgeon instilled, but that never happened. Now, Kennedy must revamp this program and forget about the 2011-12 nightmare.

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