STANZ: Making sense of Iowa State’s rotation with Wigginton and Young return looming

Dec 6, 2018; Iowa City, IA, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) goes to the basket as Iowa Hawkeyes guard Maishe Dailey (1) defends during the first half at Carver-Hawkeye Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports

We will soon be entering interesting (and somewhat uncharted) waters when it comes to Iowa State’s basketball rotation. Steve Prohm and his staff have had a tall task in the form of balancing minutes during the first month of the season, but that task will grow even taller once Lindell Wigginton and Solomon Young return from injury as soon as this Saturday against Drake.

How will the staff reintegrate two of the Cyclones’ most experienced players into the rotation they have used on their way to an 8-2 start to the season? How will they balance removing at least one highly-productive player from the starting lineup?

“Just figuring out how to win. That’s what it comes down to. How do we put our best players out there in order to win and then continue to get better? Competition is great,” Prohm said on Monday. “Lindell will add a huge boost to our team though. It just makes our perimeter deeper. It gives guys like Nick (Weiler-Babb) an opportunity to rest more at times. Really, Lindell brings a lot of experience and a great scoring punch for our team and another playmaker. Solomon, when he’s healthy, he gives us the enforcer around the basket that we need. He’s a guy I think we missed the other night at Iowa. Some toughness and physicalness around the basket.”

Wigginton was one of the most productive players in the Big 12 as a true freshman and will look to build on that production in year two with a much more talented group of players around him. Let’s be real: Last year’s team would have been a lot closer to 2-8 than 8-2 if they had been forced to play the first 10 games of the season without their high-scoring, high-flying combo guard.

The most likely scenario upon Wigginton’s full return will be moving freshman Tyrese Haliburton back to the bench. It just so happens Haliburton has played his way into being a guy Prohm can hardly afford to take off the floor, most notably with his record-breaking 17 assists in Sunday’s game against Southern.

The freshman from Oshkosh is one of Iowa State’s most active defenders and brings a unique level of energy every time he steps on the court. He is a high-level passer, especially in transition where he has compiled a 24 assist-to-1 turnover ratio through the first ten games.

There is little chance Prohm would choose to move Weiler-Babb to the bench considering his history of relying on seniors as starters. But balancing how those backcourt minutes shake out will be one of the biggest storylines to follow as Big 12 play gets underway next month.

“It’s like I tell all the guys, what do you do with the minutes you get to get more minutes the next game,” Prohm said. “We’ve just got to stay selfless. That’s the No. 1 thing. We just can’t let selfishness and the disease of ‘me’ creep into the team. Because if we don’t, I like this team a lot. I like our ability.”

I find it hard to believe Haliburton would do any sort of rocking the boat upon returning to a bench role. It just does not fit the kid’s personality, which everyone inside the program raves about constantly.

The balancing act in the frontcourt will remain just as interesting as it has been since Cameron Lard and Zoran Talley returned from suspension earlier this month. Neither has become a major contributor as of yet, but, especially in Lard’s case, that can probably be largely attributed to Michael Jacobson’s surprising start to the season.

The Cyclones are capable of playing with just one big on the court and until either of those players does something to show they deserve more minutes, they will not get them.

“I’ve told all those guys and I’ve told Cam, you aren’t going to show up and play 30 minutes a game. There’s a great quote, ‘You don’t start off where you ended last year.’ You’ve got to earn your keep,” Prohm said. “You’ve got to earn your keep and you’ve got to do it every day. Practice habits, film study, individual workouts. As those become dominating and those become great and then your 10 minutes, when I look at the stat line and it’s a great rebounding line in this 10 minutes or a couple baskets or a defensive presence, then your 10 minutes become 15, 15 becomes 20 if that’s what’s best for the team. I’m not giving minutes away. We’ve got a lot of guys and so you’ve got to do right and you’ve got to earn your time.”

Once Young makes his return, frontcourt minutes will be at even more of a premium. Someone is going to get frozen out of the rotation in a sense purely because there are not enough minutes to go around for everyone.

A lot of people, including myself, have questioned at times the way Prohm has brought Lard back from his suspension. The kid was an All-Big 12 performer as a freshman last season and has looked lost during his first three games back.

He has not been a large part of the offense. He is not rewarded when he runs the floor hard or is able to secure position on the block. Prohm has attributed that to him not appearing engaged during his stretches on the court.

If this Iowa State roster will max out this season, they need to figure out how to get their most purely talented frontcourt player engaged, even if it takes a little longer than it will for Wigginton and Young to return to their previous roles.

“I think it’s different situations. I’m not going to go into all why it’s different situations but I think it’s different situations,” Prohm said. “Getting an injury is different. Now, you’ve got to work your way back and understand what you’re doing because they’ve been out a long time and get yourself into game shape so that may take some time, but it’s not going to be the same.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.