Did you miss part one of our in-depth interview with Iowa State assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih? If so, CLICK HERE to get the skinny on the three recruits Iowa State signed this spring.
In the final part of our interview, I ask Coach Abdelmassih about Fred Hoiberg and the NBA, Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane’s draft stock, more recruiting and more.
CF: Clearly you guys had a successful spring on the recruiting trail. But you did it amongst the constant Fred Hoiberg to the NBA rumors. Does that help recruiting? Does it hurt it? How do you guys deal with that when you’re trying to get kids to come play at Iowa State and right or wrong, Fred’s name is all over the news?
MA: It is a mixture of it helping and hurting. I would say it was hurting with two of the three kids that we signed. It wasn’t hurting but it wasn’t helping because there were so many constant questions. Not so much directed at him. They were always directed at me. They would text me, ‘Coach is being mentioned for the Timberwolves job.’ ‘Coach is being mentioned for the Warriors job.’ It was nonstop. It got to a point for with me, being someone who is really close with him, at the end of the day it just speaks volumes for the respect that guy has not only in the NBA but across basketball. I think it helps in that regard that you can tell these families and tell these guys that you are coming to play for Iowa State and a guy who is wanted by the majority of all NBA teams if they have an opening. That speaks volumes in the recruiting process. His loyalty to the university was never wavering throughout the spring. Clearly, with signing these guys, I would hope that the fans saw us adding these guys because we intend on being here. We’re not adding them so that the next coach gets to coach them. We are adding them because our ultimate goal is to compete for a national championship and they were the right pieces in the spring.
I am excited. I thought that our spring was tremendous. I thought, not to speak about myself, but going through a tough recruiting process with a high-level kid and not getting him, I thought we rebounded very well. We got guys who really fit this program and are about Iowa State. You always want to get kids who want to be here and the three kids we signed all do.
CF: What we saw from Dustin Hogue in Madison Square Garden…Obviously to expect that from now on might be a little bit far-fetched but with you knowing Dustin’s game as well as anyone, did that give us a glimpse as to what his senior season could be? What happened that night?
DH: He was playing back home on the biggest stage in all of basketball and he had maybe one of the best debuts in Madison Square Garden history (laughter)! That is crazy to think with such a history in that building. The thing that I really appreciate about Dustin is that he works so hard. When he got here a year ago from Indian Hills, you could tell that he wasn’t working out. I could tell that he was stiff because he hadn’t really moved that much. Expectations for him going into the summer were that he needed to be the hardest worker or he would be struggling to play. He did. He worked so hard last summer. Once the season started rolling and he started defining his role, he took off and ran with it and worked hard at his game. To expect that performance, of course would be ridiculous. But I think Dustin could be a guy who can go out there and average 12 to 13 points. The goal for me that I have been challenging him with is to lead the Big 12 in rebounding. That will be tough because Jameel McKay wants to lead the Big 12 in rebounding. That’s a great thing if you have competition amongst your own players because it makes everybody else that much better. In Dustin’s final year, I expect big things. I expect him to be a leader as we go through a lot of battles and tough tests. I’m looking for a really big year.
CF: I’m curious about Melvin Ejim and DeAndre Kane’s NBA status. Their combine numbers looked good although I’ll admit, I’m anything but a guru with that stuff. Are you guys hearing anything about what teams think about those guys?
MA: Both Melvin and DeAndre have done a really good job of putting themselves in position to possibly get drafted. Melvin tested great. He really shot the ball incredibly at the combine. Reports from his specific team workouts say that he has shot the ball tremendously at those up to this point.
DeAndre, the biggest thing with him is the interview process just for teams to learn about some of his past and the Marshall experience. But both are putting themselves in position. DeAndre’s range is huge. He can go in various different spots on draft night just because there is so much uncertainty about him but I think all of that will be worked out throughout June. I think he will work out for about 18 different teams.
Melvin will be the same. He will get in front of as many teams as possible. One thing and this won’t be a shock to anybody is that his interviews have been unbelievable – some of the best interviews that some of these executives have seen. He’s such a well-spoken kid and articulates so well. Melvin’s game is crazy. Four years ago we never thought in a million years that we would talk about the NBA Draft. It is an accomplishment that he achieved himself because he outworked everybody. He gradually improved every single year and put himself in the position to be drafted in the NBA. For anybody, that is a dream come true. If you’re first or 60th, that is a great accomplishment.
CF: Matt, we talk a lot about sports in general quite often and you know my feelings on the NBA. I love the playoffs. I love the athletes but one thing really drives me crazy. It is the way that these teams draft. I know that age is the one knock against both of your guys but if you’re a good playoff team and Melvin or DeAndre is on the board in the second round, why not take one of them? What are they drafting for? Potential or to help your team win?
MA: It is a philosophy of these executives. There are some GM’s that for DeAndre and Melvin, age isn’t a factor because they know they can come in and contribute – specifically for DeAndre because he is the oldest player in the draft. Listen, with all due respect to the people who are mentioned in the Lottery and the top 10, one specifically who we played against in our conference in a similar position with DeAndre, my whole thing is what does he do better than DeAndre? I don’t care how old DeAndre is. How much better is he going to get and how much better is DeAndre going to get? Where does that cut off on where you can compare them? In my opinion, he is one of the best guards in the country. He should be viewed that way but the age, and it is parlayed with the fact that his Marshall experience was so negative. That is hurting him. So he has to work on that himself. He has to interview great and go out and prove it by working out against these guys that he is better than them.
Melvin, it’s a similar thing. You get the questions about age but more of it is that he is a tweener. What position is he going to play? That’s the thing about the draft process. They are going to ridicule absolutely everything between now and the end of June when the draft occurs but once they have to make that decision and those names are available, they are going to draft the best players. They throw all of that BS that they heard out. They throw all of the negativity maybe that they were saying out. It is all about results for them. They want to get the best players to help their organization win. That’s what in envision draft night being for those two.
CF: So does that mean you think both will get drafted?
MA: I think that they have put themselves, to this point, in the equation. DeAndre plays a position that is so wanted in the league and it is almost extinct. There aren’t many elite guards anymore. There are probably 10 elite guards out of the 60 starting ones and backups. He is in a great position because of the position that he is going to play in the league. Melvin, there is no reason why a team that has a pick doesn’t look at Melvin as a guy that is going to help team morale, be a great locker room guy and at the same time, work hard every day with the expectations that his name might be called and he might be put in the game. There’s no reason at all why a GM shouldn’t consider Melvin as one of those guys. He is a lot better than guys who are on draft boards. It’s not a fair process because if it was fair, teams wouldn’t screw up by picking these guys. I think that they are both in a position to hopefully get their names called.
CF: Looking ahead…You guys are full on scholarships for next year. I think you have two spots open for the year after that. I know that you can’t get into specifics but how does your recruiting mindset go now?
MA: I think our recruiting approach from here on our over the next couple of years is, we had such a great offseason. We have some really good foundation guys who stabilize our roster. Where we are at with a limited number of scholarships, we are going to try and build on some things in the high school scene. It’s funny because I know fans ridicule our high school approach but where we are at right now as a program is, they better be really good to come in here and impact us right away because we can get a transfer that will. At the end of the day, we are looking for guys that are high level, that are skilled and can come in and contribute. We are going to try to get those guys. Whether we do or not, I have no idea but I know we are going to work at it. We are going to be out there in July looking at guys and evaluating guys and will try to get them on visits in the fall and winter. With that being said, if it doesn’t work out, we are in a very luxurious position where we always have the spring to look back on to try and add a few pieces with the transfer route. We will look at junior colleges. That’s something that we are looking forward to in the future with certain guys that we know we have. We are going to lock in on a few that can help us but with the JUCO scene, the high school scene and the transfer scene, bottom line is wherever they come from, if they can help us win we are going to look at taking them. No matter what level they came from or what their background is, we are going to do our due diligence to put our best guys on the floor to help us achieve our goals.