Iowa State's Jiri Hubalek has spent his share of time in coach Greg McDermott's doghouse the past two seasons.
And we're not talking one step inside the door.
"I've been all the way back, in the corner,'' Hubalek said. "There were spiders back there. It was a learning experience for me.''
The 6-foot-11 senior center has done a lot of learning since arriving in Iowa from the Czech Republic five years ago. And it goes beyond the game of basketball that brought him here in the first place.
Hubalek will be in the starting lineup at 7 p.m. today when the Cyclones host Bethune-Cookman. He was in Hilton Coliseum dressed in cap and gown on Saturday to receive his degree in Liberal Arts and Sciences.
"It's an amazing achievement for me,'' Hubalek said. "I came to this country for two reasons - to get a degree and play great basketball. I achieved the first one. Now I still have to try and become the best basketball player I can be.''
And that's where the doghouse comes in. Hubalek, recruited to Iowa State out of Marshalltown Community College by the previous coaching staff, has drawn wrath and praise from his coach the past two seasons.
"I'm not sure it's a doghouse he's been in,'' McDermott said.
But sharp works have spiced the coach-player relationship. In late October, McDermott sang Hubalek's praises for the way he'd played in the first two weeks of practice. Hubalek then broke a bone in his right foot, which kept him out of Iowa State's first two exhibition games.
"I'm frustrated with the way he's played, and he's frustrated because he's not able to do the things he was doing with relative ease before his injury,'' McDermott said. "He'll get back to that. It's just going to take some time.''
Iowa State (4-4) hasn't played since beating Iowa 56-47 on Dec. 8. That game was Hubalek's season in a nutshell. Jiri got pulled from the game a minute in because he blew a defensive assignment. He bounced back by scoring a season-high 15 points.
Getting barked at in practice is nothing compared to Hubalek's arrival in this country. He landed in Marshalltown with little grasp of English.
"I had a great time in Marshalltown,'' Hubalek said. "I got a degree there. The people there helped me through the toughest times since I've come to the U.S. I was not speaking much English, and I didn't know the surroundings. They just took me in.''
Hubalek redshirted his first season at Marshalltown Community College, then signed with the Cyclones after one season of junior college ball.
There were more bumps in the road. Hubalek had to sit the first six games of the 2006-07 season and pay $1,688.73 in restitution for receiving what the NCAA deemed to be improper benefits from a Marshalltown family.
But nothing derailed him from getting his degree. His girlfriend, Helena Cizkova, was on hand to see Jiri graduate. He hopes his parents came also come to the U.S. to see him play in February.
"I'd like to do something with basketball in the Czech Republic,'' said Hubalek, who will take graduate classes the second semester. "A lot of kids don't have the opportunities I had. They don't know exactly how it works. I had no one to tell me. I would like to take the experience I've gained here to the youth of the Czech Republic.''