Otzelberger hoping to see year-to-year development from returners

Iowa State University Cyclones head coach T.J. Otzelberger reacts during the during the first half against Kansas at Hilton Coliseum Saturday Feb. 4, 2023, in Ames, Iowa. Photo by Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune

T.J. Otzelberger is hoping to see his returners make a leap.

Player development is one of the areas where Otzelberger and his staff feel they thrive. They think they’re at their best when they’re helping guys to perfect their craft, and that’s precisely the stage the program has been in since the end of last season and ahead of the entire team’s return to campus next month.

“We take a lot of pride in our program with player development,” Otzelberger said on Wednesday during a Cyclone Tailgate Tour stop in Des Moines. “We feel like that’s something we really hang our hat on. For those guys coming back, Rob (Jones) is entering his third year with the program, Tre (King)‘s been with us for two and a half years, and Hason (Ward), Tamin (Lipsey) and Demarion (Watson) going into their second year, we’ve seen guys take a big jump.”

One of the examples of the leap Otzelberger hopes to see from his returners is Gabe Kalscheur, who went from an inconsistent role player first at Minnesota then in year one at Iowa State before earning a second-team All-Big 12 selection this past season.

He saw it from Jones, too, who doubled his scoring average and saw increases across nearly every major statistical category between 2021-22 and 2022-23.

“That was something Gabe Kalscheur did from his first year to his second year,” Otzelberger said. “I think we saw Rob make progress from year one to year two. We know he can do more now.”

Otzelberger noted that he’s seen great progress during the spring from Ward, which backs up what associate head coach Kyle Green told me last week during a Tailgate Tour stop in Paton.

The 6-foot-9 center from Barbados averaged 2.8 points and 2.2 rebounds per game in 23 appearances for the Cyclones this past season but did so after spending the entire summer in his home country while working through visa issues.

Now, they’re starting to see some of the skills that made him a first-team A-10 All-Defense selection at VCU in 2020-21 shine through.

“Hason Ward had a really terrific spring,” Otzelberger said. “Made some great strides.”

Perhaps the most intriguing year one to year two leap to track will be that of Lipsey, the sophomore point guard who stuck out as a freshman after arriving on campus expecting to come off the bench.

Otzelberger said Lipsey continues to work on his shooting while also stepping out as more of a vocal leader within the program. The head coach hopes to see more of that leadership, especially from Lipsey and King.

“Tamin and Tre are guys we see as leaders,” Otzelberger said. “Tamin can be more vocal and he’s worked on his shooting.”

Watson will be another one who is interesting to track, especially from a physical standpoint, as he gets his second college offseason in the weight room under his belt. He has as much potential as any of the returners if he’s able to develop at a strong rate.

” For Demarion, we saw flashes from him last year,” Otzelberger said. “All five guys, we’re excited about the progress they’re going to make through the summer and into next season.”

Jared Stansbury


Jared a native of Clarinda, Iowa, started as the Cyclone Fanatic intern in August 2013, primarily working as a videographer until starting on the women’s basketball beat prior to the 2014-15 season. Upon earning his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Iowa State in May 2016, Jared was hired as the site’s full-time staff writer, taking over as the primary day-to-day reporter on football and men’s basketball. He was elevated to the position of managing editor in January 2020. He is a regular contributor on 1460 KXNO in Des Moines and makes regular guest appearances on radio stations across the Midwest. Jared resides in Ankeny with his four-year-old puggle, Lolo.