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Basketball

WILLIAMS: Five takeaways from basketball media day

AMES — So I attended Iowa State’s annual men’s basketball media day yesterday and I didn’t recognize anybody!

My experience with this new-look Cyclone team was actually quite enjoyable though. The young guys are full of energy while transfers like Zoran Talley have a new lease on their basketball lives.

As practice continues, we will learn a lot more about this group before the season opener vs. Missouri on Nov. 10.

We will also have the opportunity to do so on Thursday night at Whiskey River in Ankeny during our annual hoops tip-off party. Our “special guests” are scheduled to arrive at around 6:30 and we’ll have a program for fans shortly after seven. If you’ve been to our parties before, you know what to expect (although I believe that our new venue is the best location we’ve ever had). If you’ve never been, I promise you’ll have a great time.

Back to media day…While we never really learn too much at these events, I did gain perspective on a few items. They include…

1 — Steve Prohm is right in his element with this group

It’s almost as if Iowa State’s third-year head coach is relishing the low expectations that come with coaching this group. Prohm has told me before that he thrives off of being an underdog. I know for a fact that the “Prohm can’t recruit” garbage fueled him on the recruiting trail late this summer.

Coaching this team is like teaching a toddler to ride a bike. They are going to fall down quite a bit at first and fans need to realize that. But Prohm seems to appreciate the rebuilding (my word, not his) process. Leading up to this season, he has often compared it to his third year at Murray State.

Even so, Prohm did say that his expectations were a seventh-straight NCAA Tournament for Iowa State, which is exactly what he should say. If you aren’t playing to win the game, then what are you really doing?

I wouldn’t hold my breath but hey, crazier things have happened. Example: Iowa State football winning with its third-string quarterback as a 31-point underdog at Oklahoma two weekends ago.

2 – Young bigs certainly look the part

Being that I will be at the Big 12’s media day next Tuesday in Kansas City (where Iowa State will take Solomon Young, Donovan Jackson and Nick Weiler-Babb), I wanted to specifically spend my time on Tuesday afternoon getting to know a few of the newcomers.

One of the young men I spent the most time with was freshman forward Cameron Lard. The 6-foot-9, 225-pound redshirt rookie made a point that I have heard numerous sit-out transfers make on media day – that he learned more than he thought he would on the sidelines last year.

Lard, who arrived to Iowa State late in 2016 and ultimately redshirted, said that he wouldn’t have been ready for the high school to college jump a year ago and that the year to grow will benefit him in the future. I was a fan of this quote too…

“I very much take pride in my defense,” Lard said. “I’m probably not the best perimeter player but anything around the rim, I feel like that’s on me if they get easy layups while I’m in the game. That’s on me. I take a lot of pride in getting a block or getting a stop around the rim.”

That’s a fantastic mindset for a young post to have, and it is the same feel that I get from most of these guys.

We saw it with Solomon Young a year ago. Young brought a dimension to that roster that nobody else possessed, hence the reason why the Cyclones went 10-2 with him in the starting lineup.

“I know he was a freshman but he came out every night ready to play and he dominated in his role,”Lard said of his partner in the frontcourt. “That’s what got them over the hump, when he started playing. He knew his role with the four seniors he was playing with.”

Another guy who passes the eye test…

3 – Zoran Talley is an interesting guy…

My conversation with Iowa State’s 6-foot-7 junior transfer out of Old Dominion was a blast.

How badly did this young man want to extend his basketball career? Talley took 27 credit hours this summer to qualify to play immediately at Iowa State! Twenty seven!

“I did six classes the first summer session, which is 18 hours and then I did three classes in the second summer session, which was the other nine,” Talley said. “I literally sat with my laptop in my bed with books all summer.”

Talley was Conference USA’s Freshman of the Year in 2015-16 and the Sixth Man of the Year in 2016-17.

“I learned that if I really want to get something done, I can do it. I knew how badly I really wanted it,” Talley said. “I’m just blessed to have this opportunity to be honest with you. I’m going to take it all in and enjoy every minute of it.”


Talley averaged 11.3 points and 3.3 rebounds per game as a sophomore.

From the sound of things, Talley will be a contributor on both ends of the floor this season before hopefully becoming a major player next season.

In great detail, here is what Steve Prohm said about Talley’s game…

“I texted him last night and I said, ‘Here’s what we need from you: I need you to be in attack mode offensively. And defensively and offensively, I need you to rebound the basketball for us.’ The best thing he does, he can really run. He can put pressure on the defense in transition. He is really, really good 15-17 feet, getting in the paint, driving guys, driving bad closeouts, putting him in our baseline runner action that we ran a lot last year for Naz and Matt and Monte. Now he scores different out of there. Matt and Naz scored from 3 off that. Monte scored a little bit of 3 and mid range. Zoran is looking to curl and get to the paint, floaters and mid range. A really athletic wing that we’ll play at the three and if we go small we’ll play at the four and put him (in) and play small ball with him at the four. But I think he’s a really, really talented, talented player.”

4 – About Lindell Wigginton…

Please don’t try to compare Iowa State’s freshman point guard Lindell Wigginton to Monte Morris. That’s not even fair.

If you think back to when Monte was a freshman, you’ll recall that he didn’t even play much the first half of that season. Behind the tutelage of DeAndre Kane, it took Morris a significant amount of time to develop into the guy who was eventually a top five player in the history of the program.

Actually, the 6-foot-2, 185-pound Wigginton is a much more polished prospect at this point in his career compared to what Monte was. Wigginton has some size that Monte lacked and is more capable of getting to the basket as a rookie in the Big 12.

My guess though is that compared to Monte, he won’t be as secure with the basketball either.

They might play the same position but are very different players, so spare the comparisons.

BIG SHOES: Donovan Jackson’s eager to fill them

5 – I still know nothing about the grad transfers

Buzz surrounding Jeff Beverly and Hans Brase is, well, nonexistent right now.

That’s ok. Neither is what I would describe as a flashy player.

Prohm did note that Brase got out and scrimmaged with the guys on Monday, which is good news regarding his troubled knee.

As far as Beverly goes, at 6-foot-6, 242 pounds, he definitely has a Big 12 frame. But does he have Big 12 skills?

Stay tuned.

A lot more hoops coverage is coming your way!