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Basketball

Expectations high as ISU opens 2014-15 season

AMES — Iowa State guard Sherron Dorsey-Walker’s journey into the realm of major minutes will likely sail on through the next two games.

 The rest of the season? That’s up to him — and, of course, the No. 14 Cyclones’ coach, Fred Hoiberg

“Another opportunity for me to showcase and do whatever it takes to help my team win,” Dorsey-Walker said.

 That team will be without the services of Matt Thomas and Abdel Nader for both today’s 7 p.m. season-opener against Oakland (Mich.) and Monday’s 8 p.m. game against Georgia State. Minutes will be harder to come by once they return from suspension — and also when forward Jameel McKay becomes eligible Dec. 20. So Dorsey-Walker and fellow reserves such as Daniel Edozie and Clayton Custer must treat the next four days as a virtual combine.

 If they perform well, they’ll find a niche among a deep squad with Final Four aspirations. Struggle, and their familiarity with the bench could greatly expand.

 “I’ll say what I said after the exhibition (a 115-48 rout of NAIA Viterbo),” Hoiberg said. “I’m not sure the rotations have fully worked themselves out yet, especially early in the season when we’re going to be missing three of the guys that I think will have very key roles once conference season rolls around. … When you have guys who are out of the lineup, it’s a great opportunity for others to step up and show what they can do.”

 It’s step-up time for the entire team, though.

 Unlike last season when ISU surprised many hoops pundits by winning the Big 12 Tournament and advancing to the Sweet 16, Cyclone players can’t find but a handful (hint: conference coaches who predicted they’d finish fifth) of external doubters. It’s not like they’re not trying, though.

 “I’m sure I can dig up some interviews where people don’t think we’re going to be as good or people say we can’t defend,” said star forward Georges Niang, whose broken foot in the second round of the NCAA Tournament made the push to the first Sweet 16 in 14 years all the more impressive. “There’s a lot of thing we can use to motivate us.”

 That mostly rages within — during practice at the Sukup Basketball Complex and now, finally, real games. Words don’t win games. The right actions do. 

 “All that type of stuff is just opinions and what people think,” said clutch-shooting guard Naz Long, who hit 8 of 11 3-pointers in last season’s opener. “And at the end of the day it’s not about what you think, it’s about what you do on the court. Anyone can say Final Four, or they can say we’ll win a national championship. You know, no one had us winning the Big 12 (Tournament) championship and we did it, so me, myself, I like being the underdog. … I like about being on those types of teams because there’s a certain amount of hunger those teams have.”

 Count Dorsey-Walker — who tied Long with a team-high 17 points in the exhibition win — as one who’s gone from hungry to ravenous. And tonight he’ll get to face an old friend and teammate in Golden Grizzlies guard Kahlil Felder, which adds to his motivational mix.

 “(We) grew up together,” Dorsey-Walker said of his former Detroit Pershing High School and AAU teammate. “We were playing in the same program growing up, from elementary school to middle school to high school. It was good.”

 Not so good that Dorsey-Walker’s been engaging in text message-based pregame boasts, though.

 He’s got bigger things on his mind.

 “I’m trying not to text him,” Dorsey-Walker said. “He’s on the other side now.”

R

Rob Gray

administrator

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.