If you hung around the Sukup Basketball Complex in Ames enough last season, you undoubtedly heard the murmurs of what Abdel Nader was doing on Iowa State’s stacked scout team.
“A lot of times he looks like the best player on the floor,” I’d often hear about the Northern Illinois transfer who had to sit out 2013-14 due to NCAA rules.
Nader, who missed the first two games of this season due to a suspension, certainly didn’t look the part in his first few outings as a Cyclone. He was sluggish and appeared to severely lack confidence. Heading into Friday, Nader was averaging a modest 4.4 points and 2.4 rebounds per game.
Without a suspended Bryce Dejean-Jones at Iowa, Fred Hoiberg said on Thursday that his Cyclones needed somebody to step up and pick up the slack.
Nader was that man.
After missing his first nine 3-pointers of the season, the 6-foot-6 forward was 4-for-5 from long rang, collected six rebounds and dropped 19 in his first Cy-Hawk game.
He isn’t rusty anymore.
“I’ve been waiting for that breakout game by Abdel,” Hoiberg said. “He is such a talented player. We saw it all last year when he was on the scout team. He needed a game to get his confidence. He rebounded. He guarded. It was a good all-around performance.”
The key here was that in a hostile environment, Nader didn’t try to do too much. He didn’t force bad shots and while the 19 points were impressive, his defense and rebounding were what made the performance so valuable.
“I stick to who I am,” Nader said. “I try to play my game and play within the team. Nobody is bigger than the team. I had opportunities tonight and took advantage.”
If Nader is clicking, his inside-out game is just another dangerous element to what is an already scary basketball team. Luckily for Iowa State, this emerging facet of the roster decided to break out when the Cyclones needed him most.
“It’s a confidence builder,” Hoiberg said. “I talk about confidence all of the time. This is a game when you have it, it is a heck of a lot easier than when you don’t. Hopefully that took the lid off for Abdel from the 3-point line because he certainly is aggressive going to the hoop.”
UP NEXT: SOUTHERN ON SUNDAY
Coming off of an emotional road win, Sunday’s 5 p.m. tip against Southern (2-7) lies in a classic letdown spot for the Cyclones. The Jaguars don’t appear to pack much of a punch though. Losers of 6-of-7, Southern most recently lost to Minnesota 85-57 on Wednesday night in Minneapolis.
KenPom.com is currently projecting a 84-58 Cyclone victory.
Bryce Dejean-Jones is expected to make his return to the team.
HOGUE: Entering Friday, somehow Dustin Hogue was only averaging 2.7 rebounds per game. With Dejean-Jones out of the lineup and a move back to the three-spot, the forward went off for 13 and 13 in the win over Iowa.
“That’s who Dustin is,” Naz Long said. “We’re going to see a lot more of that. Everybody knows the type of animal he is.”
HOIBERG WANTED TO PLAY: After the game, Hoiberg said that it was a lot more fun to play in the rivalry game than it is to coach in it. The Maylor apparently let his players know this too.
“Coach kept telling us that he wished he could play tonight,” Long said. “He kept telling us to stay calm and act like we were in Hilton. It’s just another gym. Come out there and play. That’s what we did tonight. We were cool and everything was fine.”