Tamin Lipsey’s rest and rehab is vitally important as ISU seeks to build off Sweet 16 appearance

Mar 16, 2024; Kansas City, MO, USA; Iowa State Cyclones guard Tamin Lipsey (3) shoots the ball around Houston Cougars guard Mylik Wilson (8) during the second half at T-Mobile Center. Mandatory Credit: William Purnell-USA TODAY Sports 

Tamin Lipsey doesn’t just play through pain. He leans into it.

 Iowa State’s star sophomore point guard played hurt the final nine weeks of last season, guiding his team to its second NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 appearance in three years.

 Now Lipsey must rest and recuperate. Lipsey underwent shoulder surgery after the season ended and won’t be able to fully participate in the team’s arduous summer workouts, which begin June 8. He will, however, happily help ISU’s incoming transfers acclimate to head coach T.J. Otzelberger’s demanding habit-based regimen, because that’s what creates a tight-knit team capable of deep runs in March.

 “He’s built that since day one, just being a connected group that has so much trust in one another,” Lipsey said before the Cyclones’ Sweet 16 loss to Illinois in Boston. “When you trust someone with your life, basically, you can go a long way. We do so much as a team on and off the court to build connectedness, it makes it easier to win games in crunch time. In March, we just come together when (some other) teams seem to fall apart.”

 Lipsey, an Ames native, plays so hard it can be difficult for the coaches to fully ascertain how healthy he is. So rest is both welcomed and required.

 “He lays it on the line every night and some time off is never a bad thing,” Otzelberger said earlier this month at a Tailgate Tour stop. “It would probably be a time when he needed that rest even if he didn’t have the injury.”

 The same goes for the rest of the team, Otzelberger said.

 “I think each guy needs to know what that means for them,” he said. “Whether it’s time away completely, whether it’s non-contact things, whether it’s focusing on their strength and conditioning piece — I think for each guy it could be something a little bit different, but it is important to get out of our gym, to go see your family and to be away from it because it does start again soon.”

 ISU returns its top four scorers from last season in Keshon Gilbert, Lipsey, Curtis Jones and Milan Momcilovic, but must replace the leadership and production of the front-court trio of Robert Jones, Tre King and Hason Ward. Otzelberger and his staff addressed that need by attracting big and skilled transfers such as 6-11 Dishon Jackson (Charlotte), 6-10 Brandton Chatfield (Seattle) and 6-8 Joshua Jefferson (St. Mary’s). Add in 6-5 guard Nate Heise (Northern Iowa), and 7-1 J.T. Rock — who redshirted last season — and it’s easy to see why the Cyclones are expected to be highly-ranked in the preseason.

 “We’ve got more depth than we’ve had,” Otzelberger said recently. “We’ve got experience. We’ve got the ability to play two bigs, or to play four guards. We’ve got a lot of options.”

 But only if Lipsey can stay relatively healthy. Undergoing shoulder surgery should reinvigorate him once the recovery period ends at some point this summer. Then the grind begins anew.

 “What I ask of him is (to be) a great communicator, the best he can be in terms of letting us know how he’s feeling,” Otzelberger said. “But I still think there’s something for the truly elite competitors, as he is, that there’s a mental aspect to this that can overcome a lot. I think he’s done a really good job mentally. His mental toughness, his intelligence, his way to just kind of take everything as it comes and still be at his best — I think that’s a gift that he has that we’ll continue to lean into.”