Basketball moves ahead

Curtis Powers

It kind of feels like 2006 all over again for the Iowa State men’s basketball program. There’s a new coach, lots of new players and hope for the upcoming season.

It has been a very encouraging summer in my mind. Fred Hoiberg hired former Charlotte coach Bobby Lutz as an assistant in mid-June, filling in the experience gap for the coaching staff.

Iowa State was able to sign some high school players, as well as transfers a few of who may be able to play next year.

Jake Anderson, a guard who transferred from Northern Illinois, will definitely play this season. He is taking advantage of an NCAA rule allowing players that graduate with a year of eligibility left to transfer to another school.

Anderson is a nice addition to a backcourt that returns Diante Garrett and Scott Christopherson from a year ago. Other players expected to contribute in the backcourt this year are junior college newcomer DeMarcus Phillips and redshirt freshman Bubu Palo.

The other guy who’s a transfer from Minnesota that may be eligible this season is forward Royce White. Iowa State’s signing of White is a big deal.

He is the most talented guy we’ve signed since Craig Brackins. He could easily be a one and done kind of guy. In fact, we beat out Kentucky and Baylor for him.

However, he does come with a little baggage. He transferred from Minnesota due to some off the court issues, and thus, never played for them.

But from the sound of things, Coach Hoiberg and folks around the Athletic Department did their homework and think it will work. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt on this one.

As a big believer in giving people a second chance, I think this is a good deal on the whole. Especially if Mr. White can gain eligibility for the upcoming season. It could be the difference between the Big 12 cellar and the National Invitational Tournament.

Though knowing Iowa State’s luck with the NCAA, I would not count on it.

Other transfers who will sit out this season include guard Chris Babb, Penn State, and forward Anthony Booker, Southern Illinois. Both of these guys are will be impact players next season.

There will be four incoming freshmen this year. They are all forwards, and all of them will have an opportunity to play right away. They are Melvin Ejim, Calvin Godfrey, Eric McKnight and Jordan Railey.

Of that group, Ejim is the one most ready to play. He’s a 6-foot-6-inch forward from the same prep school as Craig Brackins.

The other three will likely be guys in need of some time to develop into Big 12 players, though the jury’s still out on Calvin Godfrey — he’s a bit of a wild card in my mind. That being said, all of these guys will probably play significant minutes due to the lack of depth.

Considering all of the above, here is who I think will be the Cyclone starting lineup this November: Garrett, Anderson, Christopherson, Ejim and Vanderbeken.

It’s a pretty small lineup, but you have to put your best players on the court. I think those guys are your best five right now though that could change especially if White can somehow beat the Cyclone curse and become eligible.

Off the bench, I think we will see Phillips, Palo, Godfrey, McKnight, and Railey in that order. Currently, that is all of the eligible players Iowa State has heading into the season.

That’s a bit scary after what happened last season when ISU went down to only seven scholarship players. Hopefully, Iowa State can avoid injuries and random departures back to Germany this year. We will have to wait and see.

Despite the lack of depth and experience on this year’s team, I am fairly optimistic heading into this season. Mostly this is due to the departure of so many good players on other teams.

From what I can tell, the only Big 12 teams that return significant talent from last year are Kansas State, Colorado and Texas Tech. Most other schools have lost some or most of their key players from last year.

So it looks to be a year of transition in the Big 12, but that doesn’t guarantee great success for the Cyclones. It certainly doesn’t hurt either.

While the schedule hasn’t been released yet, I’m going to give you my best guess at how we’re going to do this year with the assumption Royce White is not eligible.

Depending on how many non-conference games we play, I think we’ll probably win 10 games, and lose five or six. In conference, I think we’ll probably win five games and lose 11. That would put us at 15-16 (5-11).

If White plays, I think we will go 18-13 (7-9), meaning we’d win another non-conference game and two more Big 12 games. My thinking is Iowa State will get better as the season progresses.

On the whole, I think this coming season will be a fun one. While I don’t think our record will change much, I do think how we play will — as in beating a top 25 team.