‘Rookie’ Clyburn helping Cyclones with versatility

Iowa State’s Will Clyburn passes by a Drake Bulldog defender, pushing his way toward the basket. The Cyclones played at Wells Fargo Arena on Dec. 15 and beat their in-state rival, 86-77.

Alex Halsted

Will Clyburn doesn’t feel much like a rookie.

The senior guard doesn’t fit the bill, either. Clyburn is 22 years old; he has three collegiate seasons under his belt; and his 24-point, 10-rebound performance against No. 11 Kansas State on Saturday says otherwise.

In the Big 12, though, Clyburn is a newcomer playing in his first season after transferring from Utah in 2011 and sitting out last season. On Monday, he was named the conference’s Rookie of the Week for the second time this season.

“It’s just an award,” Clyburn said. “I know I’m going to hear a lot of jokes about it by the end of the day.”

Clyburn’s teammate and roommate Korie Lucious quickly chimed in.

“He hates being called ‘rookie,'” Lucious said.

Clyburn went 8-of-16 from the field Saturday in Iowa State’s upset victory and scored 17 of his 24 points in the second half to lift the Cyclones. While Clyburn — who is 6-foot-7 — starts at guard, he has more recently played all around the court.

In the win against Kansas State, Clyburn saw time at power forward and also brought the ball down court as point guard.

“Not many guys have the versatility to play four spots,” said ISU coach Fred Hoiberg. “Royce [White], I guess, had a little bit last year where he played all five of them.

“With Will able to take advantage of some mismatch situations when he’s at [point guard] by posting and going around some bigger guys at [power forward], that’s a pretty good luxury to have.”

Clyburn said playing both guard and forward is something he and Hoiberg have been working on all season even though he doesn’t much care where he plays on the court.

In 19 games so far this season, Clyburn is averaging 14.4 points and 7.6 rebounds per game and has scored in double figures in seven consecutive games, six of which have been against Big 12 opponents. He ranks seventh in the conference in scoring.

Clyburn said he approaches scoring differently depending on where he is located on the court.

“When [Hoiberg] does have me at [point guard], usually I’m looking to pass first,” Clyburn said. “When he has me at [power forward], I’m still looking to score the ball and crash the glass, but I’m trying to crash the glass [anywhere].”

Currently, Clyburn is second on the team in rebounding and five times has reached double figures. That, combined with a lot of scoring, is what his teammates have come to expect from the Big 12 rookie. 

“Will’s one of the most versatile players in the country, in this league,” Lucious said. “We know what he can do every night, crashing the glass and scoring points. So, there’s nothing less that we expect from him.

“20 [points] and 10 [rebounds] is expected from him, really.”

As for those many jokes Clyburn expected to hear? It took no less than a few minutes.

“I didn’t even know he got rookie of the week,” said guard Tyrus McGee as he looked toward Clyburn. “But good job, rookie.”