Familiar face welcomes Cyclones to NCAA tournament


Photo: Jonathan Krueger/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State’s Korie Lucious and former teammate, Iona’s Tavon Sledge, hug each other at the University of Dayton Arena during the practice sessions on March 21, 2013. 

Alex Halsted

DAYTON, Ohio — As Iowa State neared the entrance to its locker room at University of Dayton Arena in preparation for the NCAA tournament on Thursday, March 21, 2013, a familiar face stood next door.

Standing outside of Iona’s locker room, which stands mere feet away from Iowa State’s, was Tavon Sledge. After spending last season with the Cyclones, Sledge now plays for the Gaels.

No former teammate or coach passed Sledge without a hug, handshake or words of encouragement. As ISU coach Fred Hoiberg neared he smiled, hugged Sledge and told the guard he was proud of what he did this season with Iona.

“It’s kind of like a dream come true to see your friends again that you haven’t seen for a long time,” Sledge said.

When the NCAA tournament bracket was announced, Iona was placed as a No. 15 seed against No. 2-seeded Ohio State in Dayton, Ohio, while Iowa State was put as a No. 10 seed at the same regional site.

That set up the reunion between Sledge and his former teammates after nearly a year. While it was known the team would see Sledge, nobody knew the locker rooms would be just feet apart.

“His hotel is two minutes away from ours or something like that [also],” said ISU guard Korie Lucious. “It was going to be crazy, we knew we were going to run into him and see him again.”

Sledge said he still keeps in touch with former teammates and added that many players on the team called to congratulate him after Iona made the tournament.

After appearing in eight games for the Cyclones last season, averaging one point per game, Sledge averaged 24.9 minutes and 5.6 points per game this season for the Gaels.

That helped push Iona to the NCAA tournament, and while Sledge will play in his first tournament game after watching last season, he’s gotten plenty of advice from his former teammates.

“They told me to keep my composure, run the team and when I have opportunities to take them,” Sledge said. “I look up to them, they have been doing this for many years. It means a lot for them to show support and everything.”