Tamin Lipsey stands for a photo during Iowa State men’s basketball media day at Hilton Coliseum, Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2023.© Zach Boyden-Holmes/The Register / USA TODAY NETWORK
AMES — Tamin Lipsey focused on technique, not volume.
Iowa State’s point guard knew one area of his otherwise well-rounded game needed a lot of work, so the sophomore-to-be honed in on improving his jump shot in the offseason.
“It started really slow with just mechanics, balance, getting more arc on the shots,” the Ames native and Big 12 All-Freshman team honoree said during Tuesday’s media day gathering. “Super little things like that, just every day, just repetition, not a bunch of shots at first. Once you got those things down, it turned into hundreds of shots every day.”
Plenty of swishes, too — all of which bodes well for a Cyclone backcourt replete with sharpshooters plucked from the transfer portal.
Enter Keshon Gilbert from UNLV, Jackson Paveletzke of Wofford and Curtis Jones of Buffalo. All three possess plenty of experience handling the ball and all three are proficient at draining 3-point shots.
“There (are) exciting possibilities there,” said ISU head coach T.J. Otzelberger, who guided his team to consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances and a Sweet 16 trip in his first two seasons. “When you have multiple guys that (can) play the point guard position, that’s always a good spot to be in.”
Especially now that the 6-1, 200-pound Lipsey — already an elite finisher at the rim — can threaten opposing teams from the perimeter, as well.
“In the summer he was killin,’” 6-7 senior forward Tre King said. “He was shooting the mess out (of) the ball. I mean, every time he put it up it was basically good, and it just made me excited because I knew the work and I saw the work that he put in before, and I’ve seen days when he was frustrated, just from breaking down those (things) and trying new things. Just to see that it’s paying off for him — I’m happy for him and just excited to see how his shooting is gonna help us win games this year.”
Lipsey shot 48.1 percent from the field as a freshman, but struggled to hit from long range, connecting at a meager 20% clip. The Cyclones as a whole weren’t much better from the 3-point line, converting 33.1% of their shots beyond the arc, which ranked 228th nationally.
So Otzelberger and his staff pored over the portal to find skilled shooters — and found them in Gilbert, Paveletzke and Jones, who combined to shoot 37.3% from 3-point range last season.
“I love playing with these guys,” Jones said. “They’re smart players. They’re hard-working. I feel like that’s all you can ask for. Great teammates, as well, so I’m having a lot of fun.”
So is Lipsey, who is enjoying more freedom in the offense as Otzelberger explores an array of backcourt options, including allowing him to play off the ball at times.
“I’d say just the confidence, like, how I carry myself,” Lipsey said. “Last year, I sometimes was not confident in my shot or my ability to knock shots down, but that’s what I’ve been working on this whole summer and this whole offseason. So the confidence I have now is high and it’s gonna help me succeed.”
That, in turn, should help his team mirror or surpass the achievements of the past two seasons as long as the new pieces mesh well with a veteran frontcourt headlined by King, Robert Jones and Hason Ward.
“This is the first full season I’ve been able to play (at ISU),” said King, who became eligible in January last season after sitting out as a transfer from Eastern Kentucky. “Just thinking about it, I get excited, I get goosebumps.”
He’s not alone. Lipsey grew up idolizing former Cyclone greats such as Georges Niang and Monte Morris. That, he said, is when he fell in love with basketball. Now he’s one of the players wide-eyed young fans seek out for pictures and autographs — and he’ll be even more in demand if he begins knocking down 3-point shots at a high rate.
“Tamin’s a winner,” said Paveletzke, who shot 39.3% from long range last season. “That’s something I learned from day one. He wants to win every drill. He kind of does it all, man.”