Nov 11, 2016; Ames, IA, USA; Savannah State Tigers guard Casey Wells (12) guards Iowa State Cyclones forward Darrell Bowie (10) at James H. Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Tigers 113-71. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — In Friday night’s 113-71 season opening stomping of Savannah State, a freshly-suited Steve Prohm roamed the sideline of Hilton Coliseum looking like a little kid playing with a shiny new toy on Christmas morning.
Depth! Refreshingly, this Iowa State team appears to actually have some!
You can really only learn so much about a good Big 12 team at home against a random program from the MEAC. But in a game where Iowa State put up 85 shots (the two teams combined for a wild 161 field goal attempts), Prohm played nine Cyclones before the 12 and under timeout in the first half.
That is a luxury he didn’t have a season ago when the then first year head coach at Iowa State went six, seven and at the absolute most, eight deep while leading the Cyclones to the Sweet 16.
“Five through nine is going to be very important for this team,” Prohm said after Iowa State’s 35th consecutive non-conference victory at home. “We know what those four seniors are going to do. What can five through nine do? I think that will be the tale of what our team does.”
Very early on, it seems like quality depth too.
Nick Weiler-Babb, an Arkansas transfer who sat out last season, is a player who allows you to play position-less basketball. In a “small” lineup, he can play the one through the four. He had seven points, six rebounds and four assists in his debut.
Darrell Bowie and Merrill Holden – both fifth-year bigs – had solid careers at the mid-major level. Bowie impressed his coach by grabbing 10 rebounds with eight points in 16 minutes of work
A burly freshman, Solomon Young had 11 points and five rebounds in 14 minutes.
“I thought that Solomon made some big-time plays,” Monte Morris, who had 21 points and 11 assists, said. “He had been showing us that in practice. We know that he is capable of doing that and is getting better every day. He’s learning and is embracing the moment. We should see steady progression from him throughout the year.”
A highly touted JUCO combo, Donovan Jackson, has struggled early but is still a guy who Iowa State’s coaches think will be important to the team’s success.
The 113 points Iowa State scored tonight was the most since 12/22/1994 when the Cyclones beat North Florida 114-80.
— Kirk Haaland (@khaal53) November 12, 2016
Down the road against better competition, what’s a good number for this rotation?
“You always have your really good seven,” Prohm said when asked about what he is ideally looking for. “If eight and nine can be really good and you feel comfortable putting them in the game, that’s great. Eight and nine you just kind of never know their minutes. It could be 10 minutes one game and 20 minutes the next based on if you want to go four guards or is there foul trouble? You want nine that you feel really comfortable and confident in.”
Back to Holden, who averaged eight and five as a junior last season at Louisiana Tech. A really solid basketball mind that is familiar with his game once compared him to Kansas’ Jamari Traylor “with better skills.”
Watching the 6-foot-8, 224-pound (Trayor was listed at 6-foot-8, 220) forward go for 12 and five in his first official game as a Cyclone got me thinking about what his production will be this season compared to Jameel McKay’s from a season ago.
“They are both athletic,” Morris said when asked to compare. “Jameel ran the floor because of coming from JUCO at Indian Hills. We are trying to get Merrill up to that speed. With him rim-running we can get him a few more easy baskets. They are the same as far as altering shots at the rim. We are a little bit more confident in Merrill’s shot. We give him that 15-footer because he is capable of shooting it.”
McKay, who at times was a headache for a new coaching staff, averaged 11 and eight as a senior. If Holden can produce that on his own is a question, but the commotion of he and Bowie certainly should – minus the distractions.
In its season opener, Iowa State did what good teams are supposed to do vs. a low-major opponent at home – dismantle them. However Prohm’s rotation – specifically seeing him play nine guys in the first seven minutes – was encouraging.
From here, it’s all about tweaking before the first real competition begins in Florida on Thanksgiving weekend.