An unlikely destination: Austin McBeth goes from field to hardwood


Austin McBeth cheers on his teammates during the game against Oklahoma on Saturday, Feb. 18, at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones are now 19-8 after defeating the Sooners.

Isaac Hunt


The band starts to play Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part 2” while the ISU men’s basketball team huddles up to make a  game plan.

No. 12 intently listens to the chatter in the huddle as the student section screams: “Hey! Go State!” After the timeout, he goes back to the bench, where he has made his home in Hilton Coliseum during the past three years.

Austin McBeth is known by many as an ISU basketball player. His journey to Iowa State and, specifically the basketball team, is a unique one.

Early life

Growing up, Austin didn’t know his father, who left while the future Division I athlete was only 1 year old.

Andrea McBeth was on her own to raise her two sons, Cameron and Austin, and she took that challenge head-on.

“The fact that my mom is a sports nut, she acted as a father figure in that role,” Austin said. “I think that she did a phenomenal job of filling that role as a parent that supported her child that was all about sports.

“I don’t think I missed a whole lot not having my dad there so much physically as I did emotionally.”

Austin discovered pain when other friends shared athletic moments with their fathers. He said it was difficult to experience, but his mother did everything his friends’ fathers did.

“I’m kind of a tomboy,” Andrea said. “Not that you can take a male role, but I was into sports so that kind of helped.”

The closeness Austin has to his mother has grown and continues to grow. He credits his experience with her more than he credits anything else in life.

“She was the one standing under the basket rebounding for me when I wanted to shoot at 6 a.m. or midnight,” Austin said. “She would drive thousands of miles all summer long just so I could go to a camp here or a tournament there.”

“There isn’t enough room in a paper for me to explain the impact my mom has had on me in a positive way.”

Multisport athlete

Austin was a multisport athlete at WACO High School, where he made the All-State selection for football, basketball, and track.

In football, he excelled at both quarterback and safety. He helped lead his team to a 42-4 record in his four years.

In that time, Austin scored 23 touchdowns on offense and five on special teams. He was also second in the state on defense with 10 interceptions his senior season.

Obviously an athletic talent, most would figure he would be the focal point of the offense. And most would figure wrong.

“We tried to do a little [passing],” said Chad Edeker, Austin’s football coach. “But I’m more conservative by nature. Darrell Royal made the comment: ‘When you throw the ball, three things can happen; two out of the three are bad.’”

The future Cyclone had some trouble getting over the offensive strategy of not passing often.

“It was a pride issue,” Austin said. “Me thinking that I was God’s gift to football [in] high school. I mean I’d have games where I would throw the ball 10 times and have 220-some yards and three touchdowns.”

Fall passed after a loss in the quarterfinals. It was time to trade in the cleats for sneakers and play the sport Austin grew to love most: basketball.

Austin led his team in scoring his senior season, averaging 13.2 points per game. Austin played for the winningest coach in Iowa high school basketball history, Bob Hilmer.

“He was a good point guard, but he was also a good off-guard,” Hilmer said. “Sometimes I think he may have been a better off-guard, but it’s hard to tell. He made things happen at point guard.”

Austin helped his basketball team reach the semifinals in basketball for the first time in school history.

Austin was also a state champion in the 110 high hurdles and the shuttle hurdle relays his senior year.

None of his high school coaches were surprised Austin made it to the Division I level. This included Shannon Rugg, who coached him as an assistant in football and basketball and was his head track coach.

“He knew what his goal was all along,” Rugg said. “He had a lot of things planned out and followed them. It got him where he wanted to go.” 

Excursion at Iowa Western

Austin began his next step at the junior college, Iowa Western, in Council Bluffs, Iowa, where he played football.

Originally, he went to NIACC, where he was going to play basketball and football. Before his arrival, however, both coaches that recruited him had left.

One was Scott Strohmeier, who left for Iowa Western with Austin not far behind.

The Reivers are champions in football this year but were at the beginning of their dynasty with Austin. 

Posting just a 5-4 record, Austin threw for eight touchdowns in seven games.

His travel to Ames began with Iowa Western recruiting a new quarterback.

“The quarterback that came in is now at an SEC team,” Austin said. “One of the coaches told me to leave while I had the chance and that’s what got me to Iowa State.”

Transfer to Ames

“Since he was in high school, that’s all he talked about was going D-I,” Rugg said. “Football, basketball, it didn’t matter. He was going to get there.”

Austin had made it all the way  from Class A high school, to junior college and, finally, to  Division I football.

“It takes perseverance,” Edeker said. “You have to be willing to continue to work and work and work. Austin had to go to junior college and get seen that way. He worked hard at everything he did and he always wanted to do more.”

But getting there was only half the battle, making an impact would take a little more work.

“I came in thinking I had a legitimate chance to play,” Austin said. “As the season went on and things developed the way they did, it looked as though I would just be a scout team quarterback.”

Austin didn’t have a problem with being a practice player, but he was weighing whether or not it was worth it to go through the rigorous schedule without having an opportunity to see the field.

During the offseason, Austin was shooting hoops with some friends who asked him why he wasn’t playing basketball.

After contacting Jeff Rutter, ISU director of basketball operations, and receiving a polite turndown, Austin went home for Winter Break. While he was home, Scott Christopherson got injured in a game at Virginia.

This event triggered the most intense day of Austin McBeth’s life.

“I was back home when they called me and said they’d like for me to come up tomorrow morning and work out,” Austin said. “So I drove up the next morning and worked out, and [ISU coach Fred] Hoiberg said he wanted me to be on the team along with another guy I played football with, Drew Mitchell.”

“We had a game that night against Northern Illinois at 6 p.m. I went from being an ISU football player, to being an ISU basketball player, to getting on the court at Hilton. Those 24 hours were probably the craziest 24 hours of my life.”

Austin had landed a spot on a Division I basketball team.

A coach on the court

A “team chemist,” a term explained by’s Bill Simmons, is someone who helps balance the teams’ players, helps morale and also knows the handshakes and chest bumps of each different player.

“I consider myself a coach on the court,” Austin said. “The guys come to me when they don’t know a play or when they do a technique wrong.”

“Sometimes I will take them aside and Hoiberg will say: ‘You got them McBeth, you know what to do.’ I guess I’d say I’m not filling the role on the court as much as I thought, but I have definitely found a good niche in being a team leader and being a player/coach.”

The only personal goal Austin has this season is to score one point. He has yet to do so, and it might not happen.

“I’m a point guard and very coach-minded,” Austin said. “I approach it no differently whether it’s the last 30 seconds or if I were a starter. I’m going to approach every single play with the mindset that I want to distribute the ball and take care of it.”

Scoring isn’t his No. 1 priority on the floor; helping the team is.

“He’s always been [unselfish],” Andrea said. “It’s a quarterback mentality. It’s all about helping other people. It’s not about him.”

Coaching in the future

The future could hold many things for Austin, but his goal and desire is in coaching.

“I think he has the knowledge and the experience,” Hilmer said. “He’s played on a successful team and he’s getting a lot of coaching experience where he is.”

He might not get the start he expects, but if he has proven anything, it is that when Austin sets his mind on a goal, he will stop at nothing to get there.

“I want to be a coach,” Austin said. 

“That’s where my heart is.”