Monday Musings: Breaking down Iowa State’s roster with addition of JT Rock

Mar 17, 2023; Greensboro, NC, USA; Iowa State Cyclones head coach T. J. Otzelberger gestures during the first half against the Pittsburgh Panthers at Greensboro Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, Fanatics!

Iowa State’s men’s basketball roster got another major boost at the end of last week when four-star center JT Rock announced he’d be reclassifying from the 2024 class to join the program this fall.

Rock’s addition to the 2023 class, already one of the most highly-touted group of prospects in program history, boosted Iowa State up to the No. 10 class in the country, according to 247Sports, and the No. 7 class in the country, according to the 247Composite.

Only Kentucky, Duke, USC, UConn, Michigan State and Louisville signed a more well-regarded group of prospects in the 2023 cycle than Iowa State.

T.J. Otzelberger and staff’s efforts on the recruiting trail are made even more impressive when you consider four of the five members of the class come from Iowa or states immediately bordering it.

There is no doubt this is the best class of Midwest kids assembled in the 2023 cycle. It very well might be the most impressive class ever assembled in any sport by an Iowa State coaching staff.

It will be interesting to see what kind of contribution Rock is able to make to the program in his first season. Obviously, the other four freshmen will be at an advantage having a full summer with the program under their belts.

Still, Rock brings a unique body and skillset that Iowa State just doesn’t have on its roster at this point.

The Sioux Falls native is a true 7-footer with the ability to play around the paint, or stretch the floor from beyond the perimeter.

His skillset already made him a star in South Dakota, and allowed him to shine on the grassroots and camps circuits, including at the prestigious NBAPA Top-100 and UA Future 60 camps.

He’ll need to continue to add body mass and strength, but those will surely come quickly once he gets into a college strength and conditioning program.

At the very absolute least, Rock will gain valuable experience from practicing and going head-to-head every day with guys like Robert Jones, Tre King, Hason Ward, Omaha Biliew and others.

Those reps will be important for Rock even if his first season with the program ends up coming with a redshirt.

On the flip side of that, it is entirely possible that Rock could arrive in Ames and play himself into contention for minutes this season.

Do I consider that to be a likely scenario? Not really when you remember Rock is supposed to be going into his senior year of high school, but, again, Rock brings some dynamics that weren’t really present on Iowa State’s roster prior to his official addition, so nothing should be ruled out.

It is hard not to love what Otzelberger and his staff have done in assembling this roster when you consider the key pieces the program was tasked with replacing heading into this offseason.

Gone were Gabe Kalscheur and Jaren Holmes, two of the Cyclones’ driving forces offensively from a year ago, but in steps transfers Curtis Jones, Jackson Paveletzke and Keshon Gilbert, three players capable of filling the production hole left by backcourt departures.

Those three will be helped by backcourt returners Tamin Lipsey and Demarion Watson, both of which can be expected to make solid leaps from their freshman to sophomore seasons.

In the front court, Iowa State will be as deep as any team in the Big 12.

You’ll have the bruising tone-setter in Jones. King brings a Swiss Army knife type skillset with the ability to do different things at every level of the floor offensively. Ward’s ability to create havoc defensively shined through in his first year with the team, but folks inside the program have raved about his growth on each end of the floor going into year two.

Add Rock to that equation and you’ve got four guys capable of playing as a true center on your roster, and that doesn’t even include Biliew, who very well could play center, too, if the program needed him to.

I love the depth and versatility of this roster at this point, and I’d be surprised if the Cyclones aren’t making their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament next March.

More Musings

*** Expect to see a full update with Rock on the site later today. I’m looking forward to catching up with JT to learn more about the process of reclassifying, and why he made the decision to graduate early in order to join the program a year ahead of schedule.

*** Am I the only one ready for the end of the dog days of summer? Nothing against baseball, Wimbledon or any of the other sports going on right now, but I’m ready for the college football season. I’m ready to see what this Iowa State football team is going to look like this season. I’m ready to have some games to write about again.

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.