AMES — Four prominent prospects identified, signed and inked in roughly five months.
That ambitious recruiting gambit, which reached fruition Wednesday, made first-year Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm smile a little as he addressed reporters at the Sukup Practice Facility.
“Great job,” said Prohm, whose seventh-ranked Cyclones open the season Friday at 4 p.m. against Colorado at Sioux Falls, S.D. “Great job by my staff. Really excited about those four guys. Good balance with the two junior college kids (Emmanuel Malou and Donovan Jackson), two high school kids (Solomon Young and Jakolby Long).”
Malou, from Yuba (Calif.) Community College, glimmers as the jewel of the 2016 class — but you won’t hear Prohm say that. Prohm favors diplomacy over singling players out. Nonetheless, Malou’s length (6-9 with a wingspan barely shy of current Cyclone Jameel McKay’s 7-4) and athleticism translate to him being considered as one of the best JUCO prospects in the country.
“Emmanuel Malou probably has the most hype,” Prohm said. “But Donovan Jackson (of Iowa Western C.C.), I think, is a super point guard that we’re really excited about. I think Soloman Young brings a toughness to our team that we’ll need coming into next year and then Jakolby brings toughness on the perimeter. So I don’t want to put one in front of the other, because then they come on campus thinking a little bit differently than they need to be.”
Prohm believes all four recruits can made an immediate impact next season, but Malou’s upside makes him a focal point.
“He’s one we wanted for sure,” Prohm said. “T.J. did a great job. Knew him, had a relationship with him. I just had to see him play when I got here and really liked him. I think he can do great things for us next year.”
Here’s what Malou said about what drew him to ISU: “The system and the people. With coach (Prohm) and coach (Otzelberger), I just feel so comfortable with everything. I’ve never been so sure about something in my life. I feel like it is just the right decision for me. I have so much support in Iowa and I’m familiar with the area. I’m just happy, so happy.”
As for Jackson, he’ll become the heir apparent at point guard if NCAA assist-to-turnover record holder Monté Morris elects to go to the NBA after his junior season.
Upon signing, I asked Jackson about the stratospheric expectations Morris established at the point — and how he’d adapt to them.
"I’m not worried about pressure,” he said. “I know my abilities. I’m going to be honest. I’m going to try to keep the tradition going; keep trying to be a top-10 program and try to be the Big 12 champs. I’m just going to do my job the best that I can and possibly win a national championship.”
Prohm said his past history with NBA point guards such as Cameron Payne and Isaiah Canaan coupled with ISU’s recent starters at the position should make Ames a prime destination.
“If I’m a guard, if I’m a point guard, I’d want to come play at Iowa State,” Prohm said. “You’re going to get a lot of freedom. (We’re) going to put you in position to be successful.”
About that freedom: It involves scoring as well as distributing. Shooting skills must be strong from day one.
“I love guards who can shoot,” said Prohm, who still retains one scholarship. “And that’s the one thing that will stay the same — they’ve been able to shoot the basketball well; teams of the past of mine have been able to shoot the basketball well. The strength of this year’s team is 16-for-32 (from 3-point range) the other night, so I don’t want a lot of guys out there that can’t make decisions on the perimeter, who can’t make shots, because it just suffocates your offense and kills your spacing.”