Mar 18, 2017; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach Steve Prohm looks on during the first half of the game against the Purdue Boilermakers in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: James Lang-USA TODAY Sports
When Steve Prohm took over at Iowa State, he and his staff were facing a major undertaking.
Fred Hoiberg’s style of taking transfers each spring and sprinkling in a few high school kids had left the program’s classes highly unbalanced. It left Prohm in a position of being tasked with filling several classes with five, six or even seven scholarships to fill, which is a lot to ask in the competitive world of college basketball recruiting.
Now, four years into Prohm’s tenure in Ames, those problems have largely been alleviated as the program announced the signing of three high school recruits – Marcedus Leech, Luke Anderson and Tre Jackson – to fill each of the three scholarships (currently) set to be open following the 2018-19 season.
“We’re excited to get another really good class of high school kids and continue to kind of build the base of our team and program going forward,” Prohm said on Thursday. “Excited about all three guys, Tre, Luke and Manny. Manny is Marcedus’ nickname. All of those guys bring something different to the table. Tre is kind of a combo scoring point guard, played both guard positions, but I think he’s got a wing characteristic about him and a toughness about him. Manny, obviously, battled injuries, but I think he’s healthy now and he’s got tremendous upside athletically, really has got a great ability to shoot the ball, got a great personality, I think his personality will be great here. Luke brings a lot of versatility and skill to the frontcourt. He can play a couple different positions. But I think they’re all great fits.”
Steve Prohm gives some thoughts on his 2019 recruiting class in this CFTV. pic.twitter.com/YfXI50kmqu
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Leech is likely the headliner of a class that certainly will not blow anyone away when it comes to looking at stars or rankings. The Poplar Bluff, Mo. native is rated as the No. 301 player in the class and No. 65 small forward, but both of those numbers have dipped significantly since a major leg injury that left Leech sidelined for his entire junior season.
The 6-foot-5, 170-pound wing was once considered one of the top players in the 2019 class and held offers from Kansas, LSU, Miami, Missouri, Wichita State and a host of other major programs. Even Kentucky and Louisville reportedly showed interest in the one-time thought to be a blue-chip prospect.
All of that changed once the injury hit. In the end, one program and one coach was there alongside Leech throughout his entire rehab process and helping him prepare for a senior season he will begin next week.
“I think he’s in a good place. Whatever we were able to do within the letter of the law, we were able to do just to check on him and he’s doing well,” Prohm said. “. Talking to his people back home, his coaches, the doctors, all the people that are around him back in Arkansas, he’s playing right now. He’s playing well. He’s got most of his athleticism, his explosiveness back. It’s still going to be some time to be where he wants to be, but the great thing about him is if he gets it all together, he’s got a great chance to do some great things. He’s a tremendous athlete. The one thing I didn’t know until being around him more is he really can shoot the basketball.”
Anderson brings a great deal of versatility to Iowa State’s roster at 6-foot-8, 215-pounds with the skills to play inside or on the perimeter. The No. 200 prospect in the class and No. 35 power forward chose the Cyclones over offers from Xavier, Dayton, Kansas State, Georgia, Georgia Tech and a handful of other programs.
The Lakeland, Fla. native has an ability to play as a stretch-four while also possessing a size and frame that could allow him to compete down-low in the Big 12, making him a good fit for Prohm’s positionless style of basketball.
“Guards, can you dribble, pass and shoot? Forwards, really, can you dribble, pass and shoot, you’ve just got size. Really, what it boils down to with forwards is who can you guard on the other end of the floor? Can you guard a three? Can you guard a four? That’s what it really depends on where you play different guys,” Prohm said. “That’s for everybody. All forwards want to be point guards. All guards want to be point guards. Everybody wants the ball in their hands, but the best offensive teams are the teams that move the ball and share the ball and that’s the biggest challenge with our team. I think we’ve made a lot of progress in that, a lot of growth in that if you’ve seen us play the first couple games. We’ve got to continue to stress that and our goal is to be at 60 percent assist ratio.”
Jackson is most likely the biggest unknown of the three players Iowa State signed this week. The 6-foot-1 combo-guard saw his recruitment grow during the summer evaluation period and ended up landing him offers from the Cyclones as well as South Carolina.
It is Jackson’s toughness on the court that really draws Prohm in.
“Tre’s got a great toughness about him,” Prohm said. “(He has) a great work ethic and character about him that I think he’s got a chance to step in and help us.”
Iowa State’s approach on the recruiting trail moving forward will largely depend on the program’s circumstances entering the spring. Most people inside and outside of the program are expecting Lindell Wigginton to jump to the NBA after his sophomore season, which would open one more scholarship.
“I think you have (recruit as if Wigginton will leave) from a standpoint of protecting the program and making sure you have the program in good shape,” Prohm said. “But that doesn’t mean you’re over-signing. It just means you have to have your hands on kids that you think you can get that can step in and help in case. That’s a great thing. If we have a great year and he goes pro, man, I’m ecstatic for him and his family and our program. But, you’ve got to recruit. You may not have a scholarship and then you’ve just got to explain to people in the spring when that comes.”
It is always hard to predict attrition in college basketball, which could open the possibility for more unused spots on Iowa State’s 2019-2020 roster. The circumstances the program faces will be one of the driving forces in how Prohm and his staff choose to use however many spots they have.
“Could be a fifth-year guy. Could be a transfer if we feel good about where we’re at with a lot of things. Could be another guard, another forward. I really think it’s just how it shakes out in the spring,” Prohm said. “. I think we’ve got to try to have our hands on transfers, which won’t come until the spring, and then possibly a high school guy, but at a certain position. Maybe, some experience. We’re recruiting a bunch of different guys because I think different scenarios could play out.”