Feb 28, 2017; Ames, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm talks to the official during their game with the Oklahoma State Cowboys at James H. Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — With only a handful of returning players and even fewer returning contributors, it is hard to see the start of Iowa State’s men’s basketball season as anything other than a reset. The Cyclones’ roster is mostly made up by newcomers entering Steve Prohm’s third season at the program’s helm and that has allowed the team to go back to square one.
Iowa State held its fourth preseason practice Tuesday afternoon and at this point Prohm and his staff are still in the process of laying the foundation for this year’s team.
“Obviously, there’s been a lot more teaching that usual, but that’s just the norm when you have so many new guys,” Prohm said before Tuesday’s practice. “Guys are in the gym. Guys are watching tape. Guys are putting in the extra time that it needs to be successful. I’m excited. The biggest thing right now is just teaching these guys how to play. If you asked them right now, we probably have one transition offense in. Because we’re really just trying to understand the concepts right now of how to space the floor, how to play in pick and roll, what to do when the ball goes in the post, what to do on certain coverages, but they’ve been good. I’m really excited.”
Most of the buzz surrounding Iowa State’s 2017-18 team, which was picked to finish last in the Big 12 by Athlon, has centered around freshmen Lindell Wigginton and Terrence Lewis. Those two, plus redshirt freshman center Cameron Lard, come together to form what is most likely Iowa State’s most talented freshman class since Matt Thomas and Monte Morris first stepped on campus in 2013.
While all three players have been in Ames for months, they are still in the process of fully adjusting to the collegiate game.
“They get a lot thrown at them,” Prohm said. “Cameron, Terrence and Lindell, but I think they’re really good. Again, they’re getting in the gym. They’re watching tape. They’re putting time in. It’s just a lot coming at them right now. Both offensively and defensively and academically and socially, but that’s why Cameron, you know, I told him, ‘Defend, rebound, know where you need to be at your position offensively.’ Lindell, ‘Make plays.’ Terrence, ‘If you’re open, shoot it.’ Do your strengths right now until you learn more.”
The most high-profile position battle for this year’s team lies at the point guard spot Morris held down as one of college basketball’s best for the past four seasons.
Senior Donovan Jackson, junior Nick Weiler-Babb and Wigginton all figure to see time as the Cyclones’ floor general in 2017-18, but the the spot will most likely be more fluid than the past several years when Morris was clearly the team’s leader at that spot.
“I think we have three really good guards right now,” Prohm said. “I’m really excited about Donovan. I’m excited about Lindell. I’m excited about Nick. They’re not playing together right now. Two are on a team together one day, two on a team some days on the other days. Right now, we’re doing a little bit by committee then over the next couple weeks we’ll start identifying roles a little bit. Whichever one of those guys grabs the rebound, they’re able to push it. My thing with point guard, it’s funny, everybody wants to know who’s going to bring the ball up the floor. When you’re a point guard, like when I kick you the ball up the sideline, you need to make a good decision. You need to shoot it, pass it, dribble it, post feed, reverse it, you become a point guard and that’s the thing. I like playing with three guards, but that’s why I want them all to dribble, pass and shoot, because once you have the ball in your hands you become the point guard. You are the general. The way we’re playing right now, especially this year, we’ll really spread the floor and have a lot of different guys that can hopefully drive it and make decisions.”
*** Graduate transfer forward Hans Brase is still in the process of working his way back from ACL surgery that ended his last season at Princeton. Prohm said he is fully integrated into non-contact portions of practice, but is still coming along when it comes to full five-on-five.
“I just met with (team trainer) Vic (Miller) yesterday, I’m hoping he can scrimmage against Nebraska (on Oct. 29),” Prohm said. “That would probably be maybe his first time. He may not be ready for that. But, like I said, if he’s not ready in November, I’m not really concerned. I’d rather have him, because he brings a lot of experience to our team, he brings some skill, he brings some basketball IQ, and so I’d rather have him January, February, March than I would six weeks November, December.”
Prohm said Brase is currently the only player still battling injuries and the other 11 scholarship players are at full health.
*** Prohm was asked quite a bit about the scandal that came to light last week and has since rocked the foundation of college basketball. He said while it is concerning for college basketball, it will not change anything about the way Iowa State does business on the recruiting trail.
“You obviously when things like this happen you meet with your coaches and say, ‘Hey, here’s what’s going on,’ and you educate people that you’re around,” Prohm said. “Because obviously what those guys are going through is obviously a tough situation right now. We don’t need to reevaluate the way that we recruit. Not in any form or fashion and so you just try to develop relationships. My old boss used to say, ‘You’re going to get the guys you’re supposed to get.’ I just jokingly would say, ‘I hope they’re good enough.’ No, we don’t have to reevaluate anything, but what you just have to understand is who you represent and you can’t let this game become more than it really is. A lot of people are going through some tough things right now and so you can’t, unless you put yourself, nobody can say what I’m going through in certain situations, whether it was taking over for Fred (Hoiberg). Nobody can say what those guys are going through. Nobody knows unless you’re going through it. Obviously, I hope for everybody’s sake and college basketball’s sake that everybody ends up okay.”