Mar 25, 2022; Chicago, IL, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach T.J. Otzelberger yells during the second half against the Miami Hurricanes in the semifinals of the Midwest regional of the men’s college basketball NCAA Tournament at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
T.J. Otzelberger is not sounding the alarm about the changing dynamics of college basketball.
While coaches across the country have voiced their opinions on NIL, the transfer portal and numerous other developments across the sport in recent weeks, Otzelberger has focused on adapting Iowa State’s plan of action to this new reality.
“I try not to spend a whole lot of time analyzing what decisions are made that are above my head, and instead just trying to figure out what do we need to do to keep adapting and being the best program that we can,” Otzelberger said on Friday prior to the Coaches vs. Cancer Gala in West Des Moines. “We have a formula that we think works at Iowa State, and we’re going to continue to implement it, regardless of what the rules are, with the transfer portal, NIL and all the other topics that people are talking about now. Over the years, there have been many other things that that folks have thought are going to change things forever, and it’ll never go back to where it was, and then we all realize things at some point seem to go back to normal. We just have to adapt to it.”
Iowa State’s place in this new world of college hoops entered the spotlight last month when star freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter entered his name into the transfer portal despite being considered the centerpiece of everything Otzelberger and their staff were building for the coming years.
Name, image and likeness opportunities are thought to have played a significant role in Hunter’s decision, with Iowa State athletics director Jamie Pollard stating last month that Hunter had signed with — and was being paid by — an agent who was pulling the strings behind the scenes.
While Hunter’s departure sounded the alarm for fans, Otzelberger is moving forward without dwelling on what could have been.
“Tyrese did everything right by our program,” Otzelberger said. “He came in, he had a great opportunity. He made the most of it. He was an impactful player on a team that went to the Sweet 16, and won a lot of games and Tyrese is an awesome young man, he’s a terrific worker, came to practice every day, and did a great job. If he feels like there’s an opportunity out there that fits what he’s looking for more than Iowa State, who would any of us be to try to hold him back from that? We’re proud of what we’ve built and what we’ll continue building moving forward. It’s important that the people that are part of that really want to be there. We wish Tyrese the best. He’s a tremendous young man and did right by us. There’s only good things to say about him.”
At the end of the day, Otzelberger knows there’s a formula that works at Iowa State and there are plenty of players out there who are more than willing to buy into what the program has to offer.
That has been proven as fact in recent weeks with the additions of St. Bonaventure transfers Jaren Holmes and Osun Osunniyi, both of whom announced their commitments to the program in the wake of Hunter’s decision.
Sure, there will be players Iowa State will miss on due to its inability to play the games with NIL that the “blue bloods” can, but that does not mean it will kill the program entirely.
It is just going to take time to adapt and continue to carve out a niche within the sport’s new realities.
“I don’t look at the situation that we’re in as a disadvantage. I’d say that we know what we’re up against,” Otzelberger said. “There’s a lot of programs out there that you know, whether it’s NIL or the blue bloods or the programs that others deem maybe in a bigger spotlight are going to be places where certain kids want to play. We still feel really good about our product, our process, how we do things, and that we’ll get the right guys that want to come in and be Cyclones.”
“If there’s anything that’s been evidenced up to this point in the offseason is we’ve had some guys that have left, and we’ve had some guys that have replaced them. The guys that have replaced them are excited to be Cyclones. We feel like they’re really impactful players that can make our program strong. We’re gonna keep doing it the way we’re doing it. We’re not really worried about what others do. We believe in our process and feel like we’ll continue to be successful in that process, regardless of what the guardrails or parameters of NIL or other things are.”