Mar 5, 2020; Memphis, Tennessee, USA; Memphis Tigers guard Tyler Harris (1) reacts during the first half against the Wichita State Shockers at FedExForum. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports
Tyler Harris is used to playing fast.
The slick-shooting Iowa State transfer guard played at a high tempo as a member of his hometown Memphis Tigers, but the Cyclones’ ideally well-spaced and ball screen-based offense provides him with a different pace of play-related wrinkle.
“It’s kind of different than Memphis because it’s more of a spread and pass and cut-type offense,” said Harris, who will make his ISU debut in Sunday’s 12 p.m. season opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff at Hilton Coliseum. “We played fast at Memphis last year. We play fast here at Iowa State. But I would say the offense here is kind of (flowing) more like a fast break offense.”
Harris shot 33 percent from 3-point range in his two seasons as a Tiger and has emerged as one of several Cyclones capable of being consistent shotmakers throughout the season.
ISU ranked seventh in the Big 12 in 3-point shooting percentage last season, but adding Harris, along with graduate transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands (from DePaul) among others, is expected to help rev up that long-distance production.
Top returners such as Rasir Bolton and Tre Jackson — who’s out with a hip issue until mid-week, Cyclones coach Steve Prohm said Monday — give ISU myriad backcourt options from beyond the arc as well as at the rim when dribble-drive opportunities emerge.
“Bolton can get double figures at times,” Prohm said on his team’s media day. “Coleman-Lands could. Harris could. Javan Johnson could. Obviously (post player) Solomon Young (can). Night in, night out it could be different guys, so I think it’s a committee of guys and I’m probably forgetting (some such as) Tre Jackson and (forward) George Conditt. … I don’t foresee it maybe as being 18, 15, 12 (points). It could be a lot of 10, 9, 11 (points) from that standpoint. My big thing is, hey, can we get ourselves around 75 (points) and then can we really defend.”
The Cyclones could show their biggest gains on the defensive front early in the season. It’s also where growth is most needed — along with more consistent long-range shooting — as they seek to re-establish themselves among the top half of the conference in terms of wins and losses.
“Effort, energy, execution,” Prohm said when asked what he expects to see from his team early in the season. “That’s really it. Everything else, I’m not really concerned about right now. Can we play with great effort? Can we play with great energy? Can we execute what we want to do on both ends of the floor? That’s really it in a nutshell. I’m not gonna overdo it. It’s early. We’ll have some tape on them because they do play Marquette and Wisconsin this week, but we won’t dive into Pine Bluff ‘til Friday and Saturday. We’ve still got a lot of stuff we’ve got to make sure we’re taking care of with our team.”
Part of that, of course, is pandemic-based. Part is injury-based. Prohm did say that other than Jackson, everyone else is greenlit for practice early this week. Now it’s about coming together and starting to figure out rotations, which will remain very much a work in progress in the early weeks of the season.
Most important: Who can defend at a high level?
Also vitally important: Who can emerge as dependable, efficient shooters early in the Cyclones’ fast-paced offense?
Harris, among several others, appears poised to help immediately on both critical fronts.
“Basically, I’m learning all the offensive concepts like passing down, cutting through — all the types of different types of movement going in,” Harris said. “Because our offense … it’s very fast-paced, kind of flowing into things instead of just getting set and just running the offense. That’s been a key part for me and part of what I’m adjusting to.”
CONTROL WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL
There have been a spate of early-season men’s college hoops cancellations because of COVID-19 issues, but Prohm is proceeding as if his team can steer clear of the bad luck that’s forced prominent programs such as Duke and Baylor (Bears coach Scott Drew announced recently he had tested positive for coronavirus) to cancel or postpone season openers.
“Our end goal is obviously to get to March,” Prohm said. “How do we get to March? What’s the best way to keep our student-athletes healthy and safe? And then try to get games in, as many as we can, along the way. I think everybody understands that there are going to be ebbs and flows to the season, that there (are) going to be cancellations, that there are going to be postponements. I think we have to always keep the first things first and if we do that, we’ll get through it. But there’s no question it’s not going to be perfect in any scenario. Our kids — the people here — have done an amazing job. It starts with our football team (which) has done terrific. They were the first program here to go through it. … We’ve just got to continue to preach safety, preach well-being, but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect recipe either. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the landscape we’re in right now, so we’ve got to deal with it.”
FOSTER’S UPSIDE “TREMENDOUS”
Highly-touted 7-0 freshman Xavier Foster’s weathered his own personal adversity throughout the past few months on top of dealing with the pandemic. He’s been banged up at times, battled illness, recovered from a concussion and generally tried to get up to speed while missing some practices along the way.
But those trying times have allowed him to cultivate some hard-earned perspective — and taken some of the pressure off in terms of what he can immediately provide to the team.
“I mean, you look at a guy that’s close to 7-feet (tall) that probably feels more comfortable playing facing the basket. He can really shoot the ball. (He’s) got great touch. He’s got great size and athleticism — he can really run. He can change shots. He’s got activity. He’s very skilled, but it’s gonna be a process, but its like that with a lot of freshman, so we’ve got to be patient. We’ve got to continue to work with him.”
Foster, who averaged a double-double (24 and 10) his senior season at Oskaloosa, is approaching his freshman season with a deep sense of humility— and appears eager to tackle that requisite work Prohm highlighted above.
“Considering where I’ve come from with the injuries, how I’ve been playing in practice, I would love to see myself being (the) seventh or eight man; coming off the bench, when (Young and/or Conditt) need a break,” Foster said. ” I’ll go in there and bust my behind for three, four minutes, try to give us a little bit more energy.”