COMMENTARY: Possible factors for ISU men’s basketball


Photo: Shane Tully/ Iowa State Daily

Coach Fred Hoiberg talks to the team during a timeout at Hilton Colliseum on Nov. 4, 2012 in an exhibition game against Minnesota State.

Dean Berhow-Goll

After one exhibition game, it’s hard to get a handle on how this ISU men’s basketball team is going to play this season.

Much to the same tune as last year, they have a lot of learning to do. That can be expected when two of your main pieces haven’t played a game in front of a real crowd in more than a year and a half along with two freshmen who haven’t yet experienced the pressures of the Big 12.

Here are a few things you, as a fan, will want to keep an eye out for this season.

Big freshman contributions

For the first time under coach Fred Hoiberg, Iowa State has brought in freshmen that can contribute immediately to a good ISU team. Two years ago, the likes of Calvin Godfrey and Melvin Ejim were key parts of a six-man rotation that only won three games in the Big 12.

This time, the Cyclones have a chance to finish in the top half of the Big 12. With Sherron Dorsey-Walker announcing via Twitter that he would be redshirting his freshman year, that leaves Georges Niang and Naz Long spots to be the main contributors as freshmen. It’s unclear how much the two other freshmen, Nkeoweurem Okoro and Cameron Fowler, will play.

Niang brings the old-school post game to Iowa State from Tilton. Niang doesn’t bring the most athletic build, but what he does bring his footwork down low, a polished post game and that tremendous basketball IQ Hoiberg has raved about time and time again.

He also has the experience of playing against top talent that most freshmen don’t get a chance to see as he played at Tilton alongside the No. 1 recruit in the nation, Nerlens Noel.

Long is a player I expect to contribute more than he originally was expected to. As only a two-star prospect out of Canada, Long didn’t get a chance to showcase his talents as he was bouncing around prep schools, eventually ending up back at Mississauga.

Long brings a combo-guard style where he can play the one and two, which is what Hoiberg hoped Scott Christopherson and Chris Allen could do. Those two could certainly play shooting guard, but couldn’t distribute the way Hoiberg needed them to, which is why we saw the 6-foot-8, 270-pound “freight train” of a point guard in Royce White last year.

Long already showcased his ability to distribute and score, even if it was an exhibition game.

Living and dying from 3-point land

ISU fans experienced this last year. In games where they weren’t canning 3-pointers, they struggled. That could very well happen again this year.

Nearly every player that is expected to see significant playing time has the ability to shoot from behind the arc. Arguably the only player who won’t shoot outside is Percy Gibson.

In its first game, the team hit 15 of its 29 attempts for 3-point range. Four came from Korie Lucious, two from Niang and Long, and four more from Tyrus McGee, who was Sunday’s leading scorer.

If they don’t shoot well from beyond the arc, there is the possibility that scoring could be a challenge.

Will Clyburn is expected to step into the role of scorer since he finished with more than 17 points per game for Utah. But against Minnesota State, Clyburn was quiet, only scoring nine points.

The post game might be relied upon more heavily this season with Gibson and Niang emerging as scorers under the basket.

Spread scoring and transition offense

Much like last year, the wealth will most likely be spread out, giving an equal chance to each player to have his best game. It’s expected that Clyburn will fill the role of being a primary scorer, but don’t expect him to lead the box score every night.

McGee displayed the energy we saw last year, but in their exhibition game he seemed to lead at times making plays all over the floor, fighting for rebounds and even getting a block under the hoop while yelling a “Gimme that!”

McGee led with 16 points, but four others were in double figures. Expect whoever has the hot hand to be fed, which happens often in a quick-tempo transition offense.

Hoiberg has emphasized the transition offense time and time again. He believes he has the pieces to do so with a proven point guard in Lucious and the athleticism of Clyburn.

One thing Hoiberg has this season that he didn’t have last year was point guards — two of them.

Lucious and Long both displayed the ability to get up and down the floor in transition while handling pressure and distributing as they combined for 27 points and 11 assists.

Obviously Minnesota State doesn’t offer the likes of Pierre Jackon or Myck Kabongo, but at this point Hoiberg has to be pleased with what he’s seen from a freshman and a player who hasn’t played in a real game in a year and a half.

This ISU team has the ability to accomplish what it did last year. Much like that team, this one might take a little time to figure it out. But once it does, the fluidity of the Big 12 could yield a finish near the top to send it dancing in March.

Dean Berhow-Goll is a junior in pre-journalism from Ventura, Iowa.