AMES — It’s unlikely Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm will feel like taking a nap on the team’s long transatlantic flight to Spain next month.
He’ll be seated next to star senior forward Georges Niang.
“That’s great,” Prohm said Monday as the Cyclones readied for the first of 10 allowed practices in advance of the overseas jaunt. “We’ve got eight hours. We can figure it all out by the time we get there. That’s great. Hopefully he has got a couple good movies on his iPad that we can watch.”
The value of this trip hinges more on how personalities mesh and relationships deepen than the results of the four glorified scrimmages against likely hastily-assembled teams cobbled together around Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia.
ISU’s journey will span two weeks and could go a long way toward determining how tight the bond can be among players and coaches alike when the sellout crowds start streaming into Hilton Coliseum.
“We’re already a pretty close team but I think this gives us a chance to get even closer,” said reigning Big 12 defensive player of the year, Jameel McKay.
Niang agreed. Prohm retained recently returned assistant T.J. Otzelberger, as well as director of basketball operations, Micah Byars, when he took the Cyclones’ job in May, but added new faces (to current ISU players, anyway) in William Small, Daniyal Robinson and Neill Berry.
“The biggest thing is continuing to (build) our relationship with the coaching staff,” Niang said. “I think that’s the biggest thing: when you trust someone and you have respect for someone, you want to play even harder for them.”
The practices leading up to departure will increase in terms of intensity and frequency.
Prohm and his staff are obviously busy on the recruiting trail — and all are well aware of how imperative securing key components for the 2016-17 season will be to maintaining long-term program success.
“It’s huge,” Prohm said.
“We’ve got six scholarships, off the top of my head, right now. We’ve got to sign a point guard and another ball-handling guard and probably four frontcourt guys,” Prohm added.
High schoolers? Mid-year guys? Traditional transfers? Perhaps all of the above.
“We’ll still keep the same model that has been successful here and has been successful for me in the past,” Prohm said.
All of the above makes the next few weeks vital to both next season — where the Cyclones are a consensus preseason top-10 team — and the years to come.
Hence the focus on fun. On Bonding. On assembling the parts for a memorable short-term run and finding the pieces for the long haul.
“I think it will be a good time for us to get to know each other a little bit more and see new things together,” two-time record-setting point guard Monté Morris said. “I feel like this trip couldn’t have been a better trip to take because you actually get to play games with the new coach.”
Play and win, right?
“I don’t want to lose over there,” Morris said. “We’re all on the same page.”
As for everything else, they’re getting there.
Prohm said he hopes to work in three, four or maybe five familiar wrinkles into sets for the trip. His primary focus? Transition — in more ways than one.
“We’re going to get up and down,” Prohm said. “We’ll have some structure, but I’m not (as) concerned right now with implementing our defensive philosophy. We’ll do a little bit so we have got some structure over there. I’m more concerned about the other things that go into winning and that’s developing ourselves as a basketball team right now.”
Prohm said he hopes to have forward Georgios Tsalmpouris back by early next month, but his staus remains uncertain. "I couldn’t say yea or nay on that for sure right now,” Prohm said. … Hallice Cooke will play — and maybe play a lot — while overseas. Cooke’s coming off double hip surgery, but appears on track to be fully healthy. “It will all be on his body, on how he feels,” Prohm said. As for fellow guard Naz Long, he’s on track in terms of his recovery from similar surgeries, but is focusing on individual strength and shot work. Niang said he should be good to go for the season. “With that kid, I would never bet against him, so I know he’ll be back and ready.”… ISU will play under international rules while in Spain. That means a 24-second shot clock. “That won’t affect us,” Prohm said. “I know that.” … Niang is not a Spanish language expert. Yet. “What’s that, Rosetta Stone?” he joked. “I’ll buy one today.” … McKay will not likely be trying any exotic versions of paella. Maybe any version. When told squid is sometimes a key ingredient in Spanish dishes, he offered up one of his own specialties: A rejection. “Oh, no,” McKay said flatly. “I’m going to take a bag lunch.”