Mar 4, 2023; Waco, Texas, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward Tre King (0) boxes out Baylor Bears guard Dale Bonner (3) on a free throw during the second half at Ferrell Center. Mandatory Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — 592.
That’s how many days unfolded between Tre King’s last basketball game for Eastern Kentucky and his first for Iowa State.
Now a mere 18 days separates the Cyclones’ sixth-year senior forward from his first and last full season in cardinal and gold — and to say he’s jazzed about the prospect would be the epitome of an understatement.
“I’m not gonna lie,” the 6-7, 230-pound King said on ISU’s recent media day. “I was just talking to my dad a couple weeks ago and I was like, ‘What do you think about it? I’ve been here almost as long as I was at EKU,’ so I think it’s just been very exciting. It’s just kind of a full-circle moment for me and I’m just happy that I can finish my last year as a Cyclone.”
King’s curtain-call campaign begins with the Cyclones’ Nov. 6 season-opener against Green Bay. And he’s not just excited to be playing from the jump after not being eligible until Dec. 18 because of NCAA transfer rules last season. He’s eager to showcase new facets of his high-flying, but tough-minded game early and often as ISU seeks to forge another strong finish in the Big 12 while setting its sights on a third straight NCAA Tournament trip since head coach T.J. Otzelberger took over the program in 2021.
“Last year I would like to say I was a force in the paint on offense and defense,” said King, who averaged a team-high 4.1 rebounds per game while mostly coming off the bench last season. “This year, me and coach T.J. and the rest (of the staff) have really talked about me becoming an efficient scorer. We’ve talked about me expanding and knocking down the 3 more consistently, and not only just hunting them, but just taking the good ones, because I still want to have good numbers, too. So I think that’s the biggest thing that we’ve been working on and that I’m most excited to show, that I can knock down the 3.”
That possibility should also excite ISU’s fans, who saw Otzelberger and his staff add a trio of skilled shooters in Keshon Gilbert, Curtis Jones and Jackson Paveletzke via the transfer portal in the offseason. The Cyclones were tied for 228th nationally last season in 3-point field goal percentage at 33.1 — a number that’s expected to climb dramatically in 2023-24.
“We certainly have more options,” said Otzelberger, whose team was picked by Big 12 coaches to finish seventh in the currently 14-team league. “More guys that can play the point guard position. More that can handle the basketball. Probably more guys who have shown (an ability) to make a shot from time to time, yet we’re still going to hang our hat on the defensive end of the floor. We’re gonna dictate. We’re gonna pressure the basketball. We’re gonna be on the glass. When it comes down to getting better offensively, oftentimes — especially here, we look at, ‘Well, if your team can make 10, 11 3’s a game, that’s great. I don’t know if that’s who we are as a team, but I do believe we can get to the foul line more than we have and that’s going to be important.”
King can provide major help in that area, as well. He led the team by shooting 77.1% from the stripe last season and along with fellow seniors Robert Jones and Hason Ward forms an experienced frontcourt that knows how to win and what Otzelberger demands of his players in terms of daily habits. Ward — who hails from Barbados — spent most of last summer apart from his teammates because of visa-related issues, so he, somewhat like King, couldn’t make much of an impact until later in the season.
“Now both of those guys are starting from the jump,” Otzelberger said. “That’s really exciting to have guys in their last year who really care about our team winning, and then their prospects after college. It’s gonna be fun.”
As previously noted, King wholeheartedly agrees. After all, there’s a full season of basketball to be played — and that’s something he absolutely does not take for granted.
“Just thinking about it, I get excited,” said King, who ranked third on the team in dunks last season with 12. “I get goosebumps.”