Mar 16, 2019; Kansas City, MO, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (22) reacts after a play against the Kansas Jayhawks during the second half of the final of the Big 12 conference tournament at Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Amy Kontras-USA TODAY Sports
Tyrese Haliburton knew whatever was wrong with his wrist Saturday night was bad.
Iowa State’s sophomore point guard, a projected lottery pick in June’s NBA Draft, had been dealing with pain in his left wrist for nearly two months, but this was different. He initially had some feeling in his hand and fingers, which contributed to his decision to start the second half of the Cyclones’ 73-63 win over Kansas State at Hilton Coliseum, but quickly after getting back on the court, he could feel his left hand going numb.
Once he laid down to go to sleep that night, the pain was too intense to allow for any rest. The mobility in his fingers had started to lessen.
Whatever this was, it was bad.
“I knew it was probably a problem. Sunday came around and I got my MRI,” Haliburton said on Monday, shortly after it was announced he would miss the remainder of the season with a fractured left wrist. “The X-Ray actually came back clean so everybody was optimistic, but in the back of my head I knew something was wrong.”
Hearing Haliburton describe his emotions after learning the injury would prevent him from returning to the court this year pulls at the heartstrings of anybody who loves basketball, and especially any person who loves Iowa State basketball.
Few players in recent years have cherished each opportunity to put on the Cardinal and Gold uniform as much as the once largely unheralded recruit from Oshkosh, Wis. The only ones who come close -— names like Georges Niang and Naz Mitrou-Long —- are among the greatest to ever play at Iowa State.
They are fan favorites who took advantage of every opportunity to give back to the Iowa State community while continuing to excel on the court. Haliburton is in that same mold and he did it all while sporting a smile wider than the aisles at Hilton Coliseum.
But, that smile was nowhere to be found on this day.
“Once they came and told us all the information, it was hard for me. This place means a lot. Not being able to be on the court hurts for sure,” Haliburton said. “It’s going to be hard for me. Obviously, I feel like I have the capability to help my teammates on the court. Not being able to do that sucks, for sure. But, my voice goes a long way. Being who I am goes a long way. I have a right to kind of sulk for a couple of days. I can be as mad as I want, as angry as I want, upset, but it’s bigger than me. I’ve just got to help the next guys out and figure it out from there.”
Haliburton means as much to this year’s Iowa State team as any other individual has for any other edition for the Cyclones. He is the team’s leading scorer at 15.2 points per game plus leads the Big 12 in assists, dishing out 6.5 dimes per game while snagging 2.5 steals through 22 contests.
In the Cyclones’ one contest without Haliburton this season, the program hit one of its lowest lows in quite some time with a 70-68 loss at the hands of Florida A&M in Ames. From a basketball standpoint, this is a nearly unsurmountable loss for an Iowa State team that struggled mightily at times even with its best player.
Now, Steve Prohm‘s team will be tasked with charging forward without its floor general. Not just for this season, but perhaps forever if Haliburton’s future professional decision goes the way most expect it to.
“We’ll discuss that when we get there,” Haliburton said. “In all honesty, right now, I couldn’t care less. I just care about where I am right now, Iowa State, and just really thinking about helping out my teammates right now.”
It comes as no surprise Haliburton would be thinking of his teammates at this moment because that is exactly the kind of kid he is. It is the same thing Niang or Mitrou-Long would have done.
The difference is we got four years with Georges and five with Naz. We expected to get at least two with Tyrese, but, instead, we might have to settle for a little more than one and a half.
Even someone who is always quick to flash a grin would have a hard time smiling about that.