Feb 8, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tyrese Haliburton (middle) reacts during the second half against the Kansas State Wildcats at Hilton Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
No brainer. Smart move. The best for him and his family.
Iowa State basketball star Tyrese Haliburton knew all of the above pointed to a perfectly-timed departure from Ames — and that leaving for the NBA as a projected high Lottery pick would be the right thing to do.
None of those rock-solid reasons made his eminently prudent choice any easier, though.
“It’s been a dream come true,”Haliburton — who announced his decision Tuesday — said during a conference call with the media. “I love Iowa State. Love everything about it. I think the difference between me and a lot of people (is) where they can’t wait to get to the NBA, they also can’t wait to get out of college. For me, I didn’t feel that way. I love everything about Iowa State — all the people there, the culture, the players and just friends I’ve made at the university. I’m going to miss them a lot and it was definitely a tough decision in that regard. … If there was a three-year limit on when you can leave, like football, man, I’d be ecstatic to get back for my junior year and help our team, for sure.”
Haliburton averaged 15.2 points, 6.5 assists, 2.5 steals and shot better than 50 percent from the field and 40 percent from the 3-point line before his sophomore season was cut short by a wrist fracture.
He played 10 complete games this season — two shy of the program record of 12 set by the late Barry Stevens in the 1984-85 season.
Haliburton even tried to play after injuring his wrist in the Feb. 8 win over Kansas State and only came off the floor when it was clear he couldn’t truly contribute.
“His lasting legacy will be he made a huge, huge imprint on this program,” Cyclones coach Steve Prohm said. “I think he made a huge imprint on this community and our fan base. And not necessarily just because he was a skilled, skilled basketball player, but he had an unbelievable spirit and he loves Iowa State. It will be awesome to hear him talk about that because I think he’s a guy going to the NBA now because it’s the best decision for him, but if he wasn’t able to leave for the NBA, he’d be so fired up to be back here for his junior year, because he loves this place and he loves what this place is about and he loves these people around here.”
That’s a lot of love. But Haliburton enbodied it both as a standout player and a rank-and-file student.
Now his aims shift to the next level. He said he’ll have a CT scan on his wrist tomorrow. Then he’ll clear out his belongings from Ames and hunker down again with his family in Oshkosh, Wis. for the immediate COVID-19-clouded future.
“Once I’m healthy and able to start the rehab process to get my wrist back to where it needs to be, that’s when I’ll start working out, but it’s hard right now,” Haliburton said. “At least in Wisconsin. I don’t know how it is in Iowa, but all the gyms are pretty much (closed).”
They’re lokced tight pretty much everywhere until further notice. Once Haliburton’s able to devise creative ways to hone his game again, though, his full attention can turn to making an impact in the NBA. And Prohm believes that impact will be immediate and far-ranging.
“I think he’ll be terrific,” Prohm said. “I think he checks so many boxes. It’s a great story really, to where nobody knew about him (early in his freshman) year and as people came to practice to watch the guys we had back on last year’s team — we had a lot of pieces that had a chance to play at the next level — all the scouts kept asking me about Haliburton, Haliburton, Haliburton.
“They loved his basketball IQ. They loved his floor demeanor. They loved his engagement with his teammates. They obviously loved his skill level. So I just think as he continues to get older and continues to mature and then get stronger, with his basketball IQ and his ability to really see the floor and make plays and make people better, I think he’ll be a great fit for a long time for any franchise and he’ll be an unbelievable role model in that city. I just think the higher he goes up the ranks the better player he’ll be.”
Haliburton made everyone at ISU better, too. As a player. A sort of player-coach. Even as a cheerleader. It’s hard to part ways but he said he’ll return as often as possible, regardless of where his hoops-based dreams take him.
We’ve been talking about this for a while now and I think the way he handled the process was really, really professional — him and his family,” Prohm said. “Tyrese has been unbelievable for this program and I’m really happy for him.”