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Basketball

WILLIAMS: How to coach Cam?

Cameron Lard is one of the most interesting players we’ve seen put on an Iowa State basketball uniform in years.

The 6-foot-9 forward has had an up and down freshman campaign but in my opinion, has overall greatly exceeded expectations as a whole this season. His highs have resulted in video game numbers. Between Jan. 9 (at Kansas) and Feb. 21 (TCU), Lard failed to score in double figures only once. Five of those games resulted in double-doubles, including an eye-popping 19 point and 17 rebound performance on Feb. 10 in a win over Oklahoma. He followed that up with a 19 point and 11 rebound night vs. Kansas.

Lard has struggled, however, since Nick Weiler-Babb and Solomon Young exited the lineup (for the season) a few weeks ago. This has forced the Cyclones to go at it down two starters and with seven (sometimes six) players. Lard’s issues were obvious on Tuesday against Oklahoma State, a game that resulted in an uncharacteristic two point, six rebound performance.

What made matter’s worse was Lard’s body language during the loss. Not great.

Up all Wednesday night with a sick kid, I re-watched the TCU and Oklahoma State games…

The second viewing of each game confirmed my suspicions, that this looks like a freshman who feels he has to do everything right now. What’s the difference between Lard and fellow rookie, Lindell Wigginton? Well, Lard knows if he gets into foul trouble, there is literally nobody behind him to pick up the slack. There isn’t even a bad option, like a walk on to throw in there to burn some minutes. So over the last two weeks, the second Cam has picked up a foul, he’s just quit playing defense. It’s really been awful to watch.

I’ve come to the conclusion though that the boisterous body language and what’s been perceived as a lack of trying isn’t because he doesn’t care, but because he cares so much. Lard knows that his team needs him on the floor but lacks the experience and composure to figure it out on the fly. That’s how I interpret Lard. All we get to see from the stands is body language, so the nuance behind it can often be difficult for fans to understand.

The injuries, the unexpected death of a teammate’s father and overall lack of any depth at all has been very difficult for these young guys to handle, especially Lard.

Lard’s energy, which sometimes comes off as negative (hence his number of technical fouls), is contagious. For a program that will soon be seeking leadership heading into what looks to be a promising 2018-19 campaign, Cam, to me, looks like a guy who might be a very natural one.

How do you “become” a leader?

You either have “it” naturally or you don’t. When Lard opens his mouth, guys respond. He’s certainly rough around the edges at this point in his career, which is what makes Steve Prohm’s job so difficult as the offseason nears. How do you push along the maturation process so Lard can reach his full potential without coming down on that animation his teammates and fans feed off of so positively?

I don’t know, but after watching how Prohm dealt with Jameel McKay and Deonte Burton over the last three years, I fully trust him to do it.

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