Jan 23, 2021; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Minnesota Gophers guard Gabe Kalscheur (22) looks to passes the ball during the second half against the Maryland Terrapins at Williams Arena. Mandatory Credit: Harrison Barden-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State men’s basketball held its annual media on Wednesday and instead of a basic notebook (from a largely unnoteworthy day) I figured I’d drop some basic thoughts I had throughout the event.
The first question I wanted to ask T.J. Otzelberger during his press conference was an overarching one. What has been missing from Iowa State basketball over the last several years?
Iowa State has had some really good (or great in Tyrese Haliburton’s case) players on each of its last two teams, but the on-court results rarely reflected that. Something has clearly been missing and I don’t think it completely boiled down to a lack of quality talent.
Obviously, the talent part played somewhat of a role in the decline of Cyclone hoops, but it felt like something bigger was missing. Turns out, Otz agrees.
“I’d say program pride, caring about being a Cyclone more than (missing) a point guard, a center, a position, a basketball attribute. It’s pride in how we do everything in this program,” Otzelberger said. “We have a saying of, ‘How you do anything is how you do everything.’ It’s important to me how our guys shake hands. It’s important where they sit in class. It’s important how they conduct themselves. It’s important that they know the gratitude and the humility is there to be a Cyclone. This place means everything to my family and I. We’re not going to bring guys here and we’re not going to recruit guys that don’t value it to that same level.”
You can have all the talent in the world, but if you don’t care or take pride in who you do it for then the puzzle is never going to fit exactly how it should. All that talent and all those puzzle pieces might look great on the surface until you look deeper and realize the corner of one piece is bent or they don’t lie flush to the table.
Not everyone in the program was this way, obviously. There were guys who embraced their roles as Cyclones and went about their business in the best way possible.
There were enough who didn’t do those things and had their own personal agendas they carried above the team’s to create problems, though. Fixing that had to be priority one for whoever followed the prior regime.
“I’ve been a part of different teams that have played different ways,” Otzelberger said. “When you have guys who really care about the program, each other and winning, you can find ways to play competitive and winning basketball.”
Minnesota transfer Gabe Kalscheur’s shooting ability was one of the biggest questions when he committed to the program back in the spring. It was easy to see why when you saw his 3-point percentage dipped from 41 percent as a freshman in 2018-19 to 25 percent as a junior in 2020-21.
Early returns are strong in this area as everyone around the program is saying he’s been shooting the ball at a high level in practice to this point.
“He’s a very cerebral player, somebody who understands the game and has a great feel,” Otzelberger said. “We’re going to continue to encourage him and empower him to have unrelenting confidence because when he does that, it’s special. He can be a guy that you can count on to step up and get you big baskets and make big shots. We’re going to continue to put our trust in him that way and feel really confident in the path that he’s on.”
Indications show Caleb Grill is shooting the ball well right now, too. Rob Gray will have more on his return to Iowa State in a feature story later today.
On the frontcourt…
We’ve broken down the post-Xavier Foster situation thoroughly already so I’m not going to dive into that any more here. I’ll also have a feature on George Conditt on the site tomorrow so look forward to that.
The thing I want to say is I walked away really impressed by Robert Jones. He’s got an ability to break down the details of basketball in a way that most people (especially college kids in an interview setting) don’t possess.
I asked him a question about the importance of big men running the floor hard and expected a pretty basic answer. Instead, I got a nuanced answer that dove into the small details of not only running the floor hard, but the job a center has once he’s finished his initial rim run.
It reminded me a lot of another Iowa State athlete I covered named Jeff Woody. Jones could have a future as an analyst if he had any interest in the field.
That would come after what will hopefully be a successful career on the court as a Cyclone, though. He was coming on strong for playing time even before the Foster news and it wouldn’t shock me if the battle between him and Conditt to start at center runs all the way up to the preseason’s final weeks.
Don’t be surprised if you hear his voice on a Cyclone Fanatic podcast eventually.