Under Hoiberg, success is a democratic process

 AMES — Who facilitates? Who scores? Who stars when the spotlight hits the hardwood and the game clock ticks toward zeroes?

 As usual for ISU coach Fred Hoiberg, the answers to the above questions will be found by committee.

 And in 2014-15, the Cyclones feature as versatile a cast as the native son has ever led.

 There’s not a single player who can be pigeonholed into a single position — even point guard Monte Morris, who can ably play the two-spot as his 41 percent 3-point shooting attests.

 “I think when you have Fred at the helm of your ship you’re always going to be good,” said multi-talented forward Georges Niang. “He’s so good with working out personalities that I feel like our chemistry’s already ahead of the ball game right now.”

 Who’s the leading man? 

 The go-to guy?

 Depends on the situation, which reflects Hoiberg’s genius. He’s taken the NBA mismatch game to the NCAA. It’s not simply about assembling the “best” starting five.  It’s about loading one’s lineup with players who can exploit opponent’s weaknesses and expose conventional schemes.

  “I can technically play 6-9, 7-1 at the 4 and 5 if I want to,” Hoiberg said. “And hell, I’ve never been able to do that.”

 Want to go small and fast?

 Hoiberg’s got a plan for that.

 Plan to go tall and slow?

 He’s accounted for that contingency, too.

 “I think the best thing about this group is it’s got versatility,” Hoiberg said. “I can still play small but I can play huge if I want to and that’s something we haven’t had the luxury of doing in the past.”

 No, it’s been mostly small ball for Hoiberg in his first four seasons at ISU.

 It’s been good enough to rake up three NCAA Tournament bids — and a recent Sweet 16 gig that could have been much more.

 “I feel like with the talent that we have and if we get the chemistry to the level that it was last year, Final Four,” forward Jameel McKay said of future plans.

 Chemistry hinges on a variety of factors.

 There’s love and togetherness — locked arms and sweet songs.

 But meanness and contentiousness helps build that rare quality, too.

  “We might call somebody a name, or the red team gets physical with the gold team, but at the end of the day, when them lights go on and we go travel down to Lawrence or Manhattan, we’re all we’ve got,” Morris said of the heated moments in practice that precede clutch performances on the road. “Us 12, 14, guys we’re all we’ve got. So we know if we compete here we’ll have each other’s back when it’s really time to go. I think it’s just making everybody that much better.”

 So it’s about love. And hate. Two sides of the same baseline-to-baseline coin. It’s far less about “who” than it is about “what.”

 “We’re just all pulling for each other and at the end of the day it’s not one person that’s going to take home that trophy,” junior guard Naz Long said of prizes that span regional and national ambitions. “It’s going to be all of us — all of us holding it up, all of us celebrating in the locker room together so we’re just one, man. We’re one nation. That’s what we are.”


Rob Gray


Rob, an Ames native, joined Cyclone Fanatic in August, 2014 after nearly a decade and a half of working at Iowa's two largest newspapers. He spent 10 years at the Des Moines Register and, after a brief stint in public relations, joined the Cedar Rapids Gazette as an Iowa State correspondent three years ago. Rob specializes in feature stories for CF.