Iowa State University Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) lays up the ball around Baylor Bears guard Adam Flagler, guard Dale Bonner (3), and forward Flo Thamba (0) during the second half at Hilton Coliseum Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune
AMES — A true freshman making a significant impact in Big 12 men’s basketball in 2022 is something notable. It isn’t easy being the youngsters when you’re playing against grown men every night you lace them up.
To play and make an impact as a true freshman in the Big 1`2, you have to be an excellent player. You have to be the kind of player nobody realizes is a freshman until someone says they’re a freshman.
Iowa State point guard Tamin Lipsey is one of those players. T.J. Otzelberger knows it. Lipsey’s teammates know it.
Baylor’s Scott Drew found out on Saturday at Hilton Coliseum.
Lipsey tallied eight points, eight assists and five rebounds in helping to engineer Iowa State’s 77-62 win over Drew’s No. 12 Bears in the Big 12 opener.
Lipsey isn’t going to be Iowa State’s leading scorer too often this year. He might not put up nightly statlines that make headlines. He’s going to win, though.
He’s going to make an impact. He’ll be the straw that stirs the Cyclone drink and steps into the shoes as the next great Iowa State floor general. He’s already doing or has done those things, actually.
Tamin Lipsey is a special player, and everyone in this league is about to find out.
“I think any freshmen that play in this league’s gotta be special,” Drew said after the game. “Because you’re not gonna play freshmen if they’re not special.”
Lipsey’s numbers this season don’t look too overly impressive on paper. He’s averaging 6.3 points, 4.7 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 2.0 steals per contest through 12 games.
The numbers don’t do what Lipsey does for this team justice, though.
There is no statistic for steadying presence or it-factor. There’s his nearly three-to-one assist-to-turnover ratio, but I’m not sure even that truly demonstrates what Lipsey does for this team.
He’s the driver of the car. He’s the conductor of the train. He’s the one who keeps the wheels from falling off the Iowa State offense and keeps the Cyclone defense on the tracks.
“Pretty amazing,” Otzelberger said of his freshman point guard. “You see that poise. You watch him out there and you’re like, ‘Man, this guy can’t be a freshman. There’s no way.’ That’s his character. That’s how he prepares. That’s how he works. We’re fortunate to have a guy like that, that cares as much as he does and wants to make the right play.”
The perfect example of Lipsey’s ability to make the right play, and not only make the right play, but make the play most freshmen aren’t seeing, came while Iowa State held a 12-point lead with five minutes left on Saturday.
Lipsey came up with one of his three steals and started to push the ball ahead in transition. Most freshmen point guards would start their beeline towards the basket, towards the opportunity at an open layup.
That layup is the glory. Points are the thing that makes this game go and turn basketball players into icons.
Tamin Lipsey doesn’t give a damn about points, though.
At least not points for himself.
He promptly dropped the ball back to the trailing man, and Gabe Kalscheur rose up to can his fifth 3-pointer of the night and seal his game-high 23 points.
Nail meet coffin.
“Watching that game, not knowing (Lipsey’s) a freshman, you would think he’s played in the league for a couple years,” Iowa State guard Caleb Grill, who added 18 points on five 3-pointers of his own, said. “Tamin does a really good job of doing what’s best for the team and playing to his strengths. He doesn’t try to do anything that he shouldn’t do. He always does the things that he knows he can do and make the plays he can (make).”
I’d be willing to go as far as to say there is a strong case to be made for Lipsey as being Iowa State’s best player.
Yes, he’s young, and, I know, he doesn’t put up the numbers folks would usually expect from the team’s “star.” But, what makes Lipsey so great is his ability to make you believe someone else is the star when the entire operation revolves around him.
He lives to prop up his teammates, set up his shooters and dish dimes for wide-open dunks. Players want to play with a point guard like that. People want to be around people like that.
“I think he’s just done a great job with us kind of giving him the keys,” Kalscheur said. “Kind of like that faith of like, ‘You’re the guy. You’re our facilitator, our floor general.’ He’s doing a great job with it.”
What comes next for Lipsey and his development as a college player will be a fun thing to track. He can go to another level with the development of a consistent jump shot, and he’ll continue to gain strength when attacking the rim as the years go along.
The game will continue to slow down for him, which is crazy to think considering how slow the game already seems for the freshman from Ames.
He’s just going to keep getting better, and he’s the kind of player whose legacy will be judged by the number of good players he played alongside (and make look really good) and the number of games the team puts in the win column.
Lipsey might not set records for points or steals or even assists. Those things don’t matter.
Don’t you start to think Lipsey isn’t a star, though. He’s proving to be one right before our very eyes. It’s just hard to notice when he’s helping everyone else look good.
T.J. Otzelberger knows though. So do Tamin Lipsey’s teammates, and now Baylor head coach Scott Drew.
“I think the best thing he does is take care of the basketball,” Drew said. “He’s tremendous. Doesn’t turn it over and gets his shooters shots. The other thing is defensively, he’s really, really good for a freshman. TJ has done a great job identifying really good point guards, and that’s why they’ve been able to play as freshmen.”