Jan 4, 2020; Fort Worth, Texas, USA; TCU Horned Frogs guard Edric Dennis (2) slam dunks the ball against George Conditt (4) during overtime at Ed and Rae Schollmaier Arena. Mandatory Credit: Tim Flores-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — George Conditt IV’s shoes will make a statement.
About home. About his love of the game. About pride of the best kind — rooted in trust in one’s self and one’s teammates.
“The joy of the game started back in Chicago,” said the rim-running 6-10 sophomore, who also plans for his game to play a major role in Iowa State’s Big 12 home opener Wednesday at 7 p.m. (ESPN+) against No. 3 Kansas at Hilton Coliseum. “So the shoes that I’m going to wear this upcoming game, it means a lot to me. The joy of the game, basically. So I kind of emphasized on these shoes to, how can I say, put myself back at home, where I feel comfortable.”
Forget stress. Forget social media criticism directed at the program. Just amp up the sense of urgency. Embrace playing the game, which is, you know, supposed to be fun — whether you’re reeling from two straight two-point losses, or not.
“You get caught up in so much other stuff,” said ISU coach Steve Prohm, whose team (7-6, 0-1) is coming off a painful 81-79 loss at TCU in overtime. “You’ve got to remember why you coach. You’ve got to remember why you play. You’ve got to enjoy this. This is Kansas-Iowa State. Sellout crowd. I know it’s at home. I know there’s a lot of pressure to win and all of it, but you’ve got to enjoy it, too. We’ve got to have fun and we’ve got to be in the moment.”
That means the pick and roll defense must be executed properly after struggling so mightily in Fort Worth. That means the offense must remain efficient — and add an extra layer of explosiveness. That means treating Hilton and its crowd with deep respect, despite an array of head-scratching losses there in recent years that culminated in last Tuesday’s low-point setback to Florida A&M.
“We want to treat the program the right way and honor the guys who came before us, because the way we’re playing right now, it’s not doing that, so I talk to the old guys all the time,” said star sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton, who earned Big 12 Player of the Week honors after posting a triple-double in the loss to the Horned Frogs. “I FaceTimed Monte (Morris) last night. We talk all the time. Just trying to do my part. We’re all trying to do our part in trying to continue the success of this program.”
Monte’s message? Keep grinding. It’s all Haliburton and his teammates can do, of course, but adversity calls for calm, not panic.
“Everybody just wants to win,” Haliburton said. “I just want to win. I could(n’t) care less about triple-double, player of the week — I could(n’t) care less about that stuff. I just want to win, so it’s really frustrating but we just continue to chip away. It’s about the process at the end of the day. Success isn’t linear. It’s got a lot of ups and downs, so you’ve just got to learn from different things and just stay the course, stay (with) the process, and good things will happen.”
Possibly even against the Jayhawks (11-2, 1-0), who are the second-best team in the nation according to KenPom — and crucially, No. 2 on the defensive end.
Couple that with a sixth-best ranking in effective field goal percentage (56.2) and it’s easy to see how Kansas makes the game anything but fun for its foes, whether at Allen Fieldhouse or Hilton.
“There’s nothing like playing Kansas in there,” said Prohm, whose team has won three of the past five matchups against the Jayhawks in Hilton. “It will be electric. It will be fun. We’ve had great success against Kansas over the last eight years and they are, obviously, 14 out of the last 15 years, they are the top-tier team in our league, so we’ll be ready. … We’ve got to bow up and get it done.”