Mar 7, 2018; Kansas City, MO, United States; Iowa State Cyclones forward Zoran Talley Jr. (23) controls the ball against Texas Longhorns guard Jacob Young (3) in the first half during the first round of the Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports
Steve Prohm could have a not so unwelcome problem on his hands entering the 2018-19 season.
After going through a schedule in which his roster was constantly depleted by injuries, causing a lack of depth, the Cyclones’ fourth-year head coach will be forced to make some decisions. His program is set to receive a serious infusion of talent in the shape of sit-out transfers Marial Shayok and Mike Jacobson, plus the arrival of one of the highest-rated recruiting classes in program history.
On paper, it seems like the days of Iowa State rolling out a seven-man rotation as it had to at times this season will be coming to an end. It could also mean several of the Cyclones’ returning rotation players could see their minutes cut next season.
That fact is what made Zoran Talley’s end to the 2017-18 season so important for the former graduate transfer from Old Dominion. With players like Shayok, Talen Horton-Tucker and Zion Griffin entering the fold next year, the team’s last 10 games gave Talley a chance to prove he deserves to remain near the top of the rotational pecking order.
He certainly took advantage of the chance by averaging 10.6 points on 51 percent shooting and 5.4 rebounds per game during that stretch. Once the former Conference USA sixth man of the year recovered from the stress fracture that caused him to miss 10 games early in the year, he played well above his season averages (7.5 points, 45% FG, 4.0 rebounds).
“Playing with confidence,” Talley said when asked what changed for him in the season’s closing weeks. “I’m not going to lie, when I stress fractured my foot, I got down on myself. When I came back, it wasn’t easy. I wasn’t playing as much and I felt I should have. I just stayed positive knowing that my time would come. Just took advantage of that opportunity.”
Obviously, Talley will have an entire offseason to further prove he deserves to keep his minutes on an Iowa State team expected to be much improved next year. With that said, the way Talley proved he belongs at the high-major level to close the season certainly helps his case.
He even showed some intriguing abilities in transition during the Cyclones’ season-ending loss to Texas in the Big 12 Tournament. Talley is a strong finisher near the rim when playing downhill plus displayed an impressive floater game that will force defenders at the rim to make decisions.
On top of the scoring ability, Talley dished out several transition assists that can lead the mind to wander towards thoughts of the 6-foot-7 swingman consistently grabbing boards and pushing the ball downcourt himself while surrounded by more reliable scoring options than he was most of this year.
The most crucial thing for Talley entering the summer will be becoming more consistent with his jump shot in order to prevent defenses from sagging off him in the halfcourt. If he can do that, Talley will certainly be another interesting piece in Prohm’s arsenal next season.
“Most definitely my jump shot and also I want to get better at my ball-handling,” Talley said about improving his game. “Overall, just playing smarter. A lot of turnovers I have, I’m smarter than that, fewer turnovers. Just playing harder, getting more in shape.”