Dec 28, 2019; Orlando, Florida, USA; Iowa State Cyclones quarterback Re-al Mitchell (6) throws the ball against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during the second half at Camping World Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Before digging into a long-overdue emptying of my mailbag (it is bursting at the seams), I’d like to address the news that broke over the weekend regarding Re-al Mitchell and his entering the transfer portal.
What are my thoughts, you ask?
I think it freaking sucks. That is an elite level athlete that years ago, Iowa State fans would be salivating to have in the program. I wanted to see more of him.
I totally understand why Mitchell wants to move on from Iowa State. He is clearly quite the talent and it is obvious that he wants to be a quarterback in the future. Coming into Iowa State at the same time as Brock Purdy – who I believe will go down as the greatest quarterback in the history of the school – was bad luck on his part.
Could Iowa State have done anything different to keep Mitchell?
Like most of you, I always wanted to see more of Re-al. But I also don’t know everything that goes on behind the scenes. What was he like in practices? How well did he know the playbook? We know he can run, but what was his accuracy like?
Still, for an offense that struggled to run the ball at times in 2019, I would have loved to have seen a little more of that “Blaze” package to change things up behind that offensive line – and give Purdy a little bit of rest as he was clearly dinged up down the stretch.
But I also understand the trust that the coaching staff has with Purdy and not wanting to take the ball out of his hands.
My guess – knowing what I know – is that the above idea wouldn’t have kept Re-al Mitchell in Ames. From what I understand, the young man wants to play quarterback and when you combine Purdy with the two freshmen that recently signed with Matt Campbell’s program, that probably wasn’t going to happen in Ames.
Now, onto the mailbag.
Shawker writes: What are your thoughts on the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing?
CW: Yesterday was a difficult one to be in local sports media as far as knowing what to do.
Obviously, I had the same feelings as everybody did about the tragedy. Being a girl dad, seeing the pictures and videos of Kobe and his daughters absolutely tugged at my soul.
The difficult part was to know how much time to put into it with what we do here at Cyclone Fanatic and on KXnO.
It might not seem like it, but I have old school journalism tendencies. When it comes to covering major national stories, you’re taught to localize it. Jared Stansbury wrote a great piece on what Kobe meant to not only him but also Steve Prohm and Tyrese Haliburton. We got Fred Hoiberg, who played and coached against Kobe on the radio show, and former Iowa Hawkeye Jess Settles told some phenomenal stories about going through the pre-draft process beside Kobe back in 1996. Awesome stuff.
As far as Kobe himself goes, two things stuck with me.
— Check out these tweets. They sum up what I was feeling when I first heard the news.
Sad thing about the Kobe story is how much more he had to give. A lot of athletes are happy being athletes, which is fine. Kobe was a businessman/icon who paved the way for many who will benefit down the road. Such a talent, w/ one of the most best smiles you’ll find in sports.— Chris Williams (@ChrisMWilliams) January 26, 2020
I legit wonder if LeBron becomes the crossover business icon he is today if not for Kobe’s vision 15 years ago. The NBA’s popularity – the Instagram League – where these guys became brands instead of players is because of Kobe. That’s where he set himself apart from the rest.— Chris Williams (@ChrisMWilliams) January 26, 2020
— I hate how much of a loss this was for the sport of women’s basketball. I feel like beside his daughters, Kobe would have been an absolute champion for the future of that game – a game that I am very passionate about as well.
Maybe he would have owned a WNBA franchise someday? Maybe he would have coached in the league?
The whole thing just sucks. I don’t know what else to say.
NWICY writes: Will the men’s basketball team finish at .500? Will the women’s team make the NCAA’s?
CW: So I just went through and came up with a “best-case scenario” (in my mind) for the men’s team and that’s 6-6 the rest of the way, which includes a few road wins in games that I do not believe they will be favored in. That puts the Cyclones at 15-16, so your answer is no.
Not that getting into the NIT is a big deal, but the Florida A&M loss could really come back to haunt this team if it wants to play in any sort of postseason tournament, which you need to have a .500 record to do so in.
Iowa State’s current KenPom projection ends the season at 14-17.
As far as the women go, I’m no bracket expert but I suspect they are going to be on the back end of the bubble all of the way up to the Big 12 Tournament in March. Winning at Oklahoma State last week was huge. Can the women win all of the games they are supposed to win and maybe steal another on the road? If so, they are going to have a shot. The thing about the women’s league this year is that behind a couple of teams, most others are fairly similar. It really is a toss-up every time they go out there. But the ladies are trending upward at the right time so let’s sit back and enjoy the ride.
Madguy 30 writes: What are the feelings/outlooks for men’s basketball next season?
CW: I’m going to assume that Tyrese Haliburton is going to go pro.
If that’s the case, I mean, it is hard to be crazy optimistic about a major turnaround in one year.
I do love the freshman class that’s coming in and believe its potential is being underrated by many fans. I think those guys are really good and should be able to compete right away in this league. I also think that freshmen Tre Jackson and Caleb Grill are both Big 12 players – just neither are ready to be getting the run that they are at this point in their careers. Hopefully, they are better off because of it in the future.
George Conditt is a future pro.
Can Zion Griffin take that next step?
If Solomon Young plays like he has the last two weeks, I am intrigued about his senior campaign. The same can be said for Terrence Lewis.
But this program needs to get older. Adding a couple of GOOD graduate transfers or junior college prospects who want opportunities to be the man inside of a traditionally strong program is a must if Iowa State wants to have expectations going into 2020-21.
The one thing I have learned covering college basketball is that these rosters never end up looking how you think they will.
Jdcyclone19 writes: What does Dave Andrews bring that is worth $200k more than Rudy Wade? What changes do you expect to see?
CW: I’d be a liar if I told you I knew the ins and outs of the Iowa State football strength program but here is my guess: Campbell is about to enter year No. 5 at Iowa State and with that, you look to evolve. What is working? What can be improved?
This is obviously an area where after taking a look at the program after its first four years, Campbell thought that a move would enhance Iowa State football.
I do not know much about Dave Andrews yet but I know he and Matt go back decades, both being from Ohio. I also know that Matt was impressed with his staff, which includes former Cyclone Trever Ryen.
I also know that behind every charismatic coach, there is an S&C coordinator who spends more time with these players than anybody. It perhaps is the most important spot on a coaching staff outside of the head man.
Bsaltyman writes: What is your favorite whiskey?
CW: That’s like asking me which kid I love more. Come on.
It depends on my mood. I prefer bourbon to any other style. If you’re making me pick one right now, an exotic one I’d name is Blanton’s. It’s hard to find and probably my all-time favorite.
As far as basic stuff that you’ll find anywhere, it’s difficult to beat Woodford Reserve or Buffalo Trace.
Whiskey tasting has become quite the hobby of mine so I am always trying new things and the palate is constantly changing.