Photo courtesy of Iowa State athletics communications.
Before Nick Weiler-Babb and Deonte Burton.
Before Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader, or Bryce Dejean-Jones.
Before DeAndre Kane.
Before Will Clyburn and Korie Lucious.
Before Royce White, Chris Allen, or Chris Babb.
Before Jake Anderson, or even Dedric Willoughby and Kelvin Cato.
Before all of those transfers there was the original transfer. He only played one year, he had a major impact, and All-American accolades before even arriving in Ames. He lifted Iowa State to new heights—heights that have not been seen since—albeit under much different circumstances.
It was January of 1944 and due to the ongoing World War II, the NCAA had implemented some unique rules to give colleges a better chance to field a team. The United States Government offered deferments to young men that were studying engineering or medicine and classified them as “4-F students.” College basketball stars from across the country were eligible to play when they studied those fields at accredited universities. Meanwhile, many of the other upper classmen around the country were overseas fighting in World War II.
Due to those rules, the Iowa State Engineering department gets the biggest assist for getting Price Brookfield on campus and on the basketball court.
Brookfield was a First Team All-American in 1942 as a senior at West Texas State (yes, you read that correctly). Brookfield was the original, more accomplished, DeAndre Kane.
Brookfield enrolled at Iowa State just in time for the fifth game of the season at Nebraska. In a Cyclones.com article chronicling the highlights of the Iowa State basketball program over the course of its 100 years, his teammate Bob Mott said, “I think Brookfield was one of the best all-around players to ever play at Iowa State. He was an amazing talent. He could play three positions. Brookfield shows up for his first game in January of 1944 and had not met anybody. He had never practiced with the team and hadn’t met Coach Menze. He gets there to board the train to Lincoln for ISU’s first conference game vs. Nebraska and scores 18 points in the first half. Coach Menze doesn’t even play him in the second half. He could do things at that time that no one had seen before.”
Ironically, read how Brookfield’s game was described by a Des Moines Register column:
“Price Brookfield, though listed as a center, sometimes did not even jump at the start of the halves. He roamed the floor with more grace and agility of a forward and guard than a center both on offense and defense.”
That sounds uniquely similar to a lot of players that Fred Hoiberg recruited and coached during his stint in Ames when he focused on recruiting transfers.
Brookfield came in and paced the Cyclones in scoring by averaging 11.6 points per game and was ultimately tabbed as a first-team all-league player in the Big Six and the second leading scorer in the conference. Not an astonishing number by today’s game but the Cyclones that year averaged just 43 points per game. Brookfield’s average scoring output was 27 percent of the total team scoring.
For comparison, only 13 other players in the history of Iowa State basketball have accounted for 27 percent of the team’s scoring during an entire season and only once has that happened in the last 18 years (Craig Brackins in 2008-09, Marcus Fizer in 1999-00).
The other scoring leaders on the team were Lloyd Koster (freshman) with 7.6 points per game and the sophomore Wehde brothers, Ray and Roy, with 7.7 and 6.5 points per game, respectively.
With Brookfield and other key contributors, the Cyclones qualified for the NCAA Tournament, an eight team field at the time. In the opening round at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City, Iowa State beat Pepperdine 44-39 to advance to the first and only Final Four in the history of the program.
In their next game against Utah, Iowa State held a slight 28-26 advantage midway through the second half. However, Brookfield missed all 14 of his shots in the second half and eventually Utah won out, 40-31. The Utes went on to win their only NCAA Tournament.
In that 1943-44 season, Iowa State finished with a 14-4 overall record and went 9-1 in Big 6 conference play to share the league crown with Oklahoma. Their only loss in conference play came at the hands of those Sooners in Ames after starting league play 8-0. The Cyclones were dominant throughout the year winning their 14 games by an average of 16.7 points.
Fred Hoiberg transformed the recruiting process in Ames and across the landscape of college basketball but he wasn’t the pioneer, though he was willing to go heavy with Division I transfers. Tim Floyd was never shy to push the envelope and bolstered his success after the departures of Fred Hoiberg, Loren Meyer, Julius Michalik, and Hurl Beechum largely by adding Kelvin Cato from South Alabama and Dedric Willoughby from New Orleans (via Indian Hills Community College).
But perhaps the most impactful and originator of “Transfer U” happened in 1944 with Price Brookfield.