Hason Ward becoming impact player in practice before Cyclones depart for Bahamas

Mar 4, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Hason Ward (24) and Baylor Bears forward Jonathan Tchamwa Tchatchoua (23) battle for the loose ball during the first half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

AMES — Iowa State men’s basketball will set out on its preseason trip to the Bahamas later this week, before returning to Ames to prepare for the 2023-24 college basketball season.

There, coach T.J. Otzelberger and his coaching staff will get their first look at the newcomers in the program for this year, but also the growth that certain players have made over the off-season.

One name that keeps coming up is Hason Ward’s.

“I really think Hason Ward could be a guy that, you know, people aren’t expecting that can be one of the more improved players in the entire conference,” Otzelberger said. “I think he’s really taken a step forward.”

Ward appeared in 23 games a season ago, and actually led the Cyclones in field goal percentage, although only on a 31-46 clip. If the off-season growth is substantial, look for Ward to make serious impact early on in the year.

“As you can just see, his body looks different,” Otzelberger said. “He’s moving different. He’s dunking. He’s catching lobs. He’s finishing plays at the rim. So that’s really stood out.”

Otzelberger mentioned the gains Tamin Lipsey made in the offseason from a shooting perspective, as well as the leadership growth from Tre King and Rob Jones.

“And for (Lipsey) having more guys out there that can put it on the floor and create an advantage allows him and puts him in more of a spot where he can catch a catch-and-shoot 3-point opportunity, that certainly helps,” Otzelberger said. “So multiple playmakers help (make) better space.”

Those offseason gains will be something Otzelberger looks for during the three-game slate the Cyclones have set for the Bahamas.

Iowa State will play on August 6, 7 and 9 during the trip with the first pair of games tipping off at noon CT and the finale tipping at 1:00 p.m. CT. All three games will be closed to the public.

“I’d say at the start of it, we had opportunity to take this trip as much as anything that’s you want that unity, that team building that chemistry, it’s really important, something we value a lot,” Otzelberger said. “To the point, it was also important that we had quality games, you know, a lot of times you go on trips, and, again, there’s still a lot of variables, you don’t know exactly what the teams are going to be that we’re going to play, but from what we understand, it should be some good competition, some games that’ll challenge us, which it helps guys, especially when you have as many new guys and freshmen as we do.”