Douglas: Prohm needs to develop lineups that benefit his team’s personnel

Redshirt junior Javan Johnson looks to pass to a teammate Dec. 2 against South Dakota State. 

Zane Douglas

If last season for the Iowa State men’s basketball team taught us anything, it’s that locking into a certain play style before figuring out how the team operates is not a good idea.

Head Coach Steve Prohm didn’t change much up last season when things weren’t working and that has to change this season or he won’t be able to avoid another lackluster season.

After two games, the Cyclones look to be headed in the same direction.

On a team like the Mike D’Antoni Houston Rockets, where the team was built to play small, shoot quick, efficient shots and be able to defend players taller than them, Iowa State’s current strategy would work great.

The problem is, the personnel on Iowa State doesn’t fit with that system.

At best, the Cyclones are an OK 3-point shooting team with length in the backcourt and three solid post presences.

Working with that is much easier than Prohm has made it look so far this season.

Darlinstone Dubar, Dudley Blackwell and Javan Johnson have good size for backcourt and wing players, but that size is eliminated when they’re played as a small-ball four.

The Cyclones have not yet played two of Solomon Young, George Conditt or Xavier Foster on the floor at the same time and it forces Dubar, Blackwell or Johnson to play a position that isn’t suited for them.

Small ball could work if any of those guys were good at defending bigs, but the size could be much better if it’s used as a mismatch.

Prohm has it down a little bit with Johnson. The Cyclones have used the Troy transfer as a backup point guard when he’s not playing power forward and while his ball handling and decision-making could use work, it has created mismatches that have led to good ball movement and high assist totals for Johnson.

The other side of the issue is that Iowa State has some really good talent down low.

Young has been one of Iowa State’s most consistent players dating back to last season and the redshirt senior carried the offense for Iowa State in the loss to South Dakota State.

But playing with only one big has made it so only Young has been able to contribute, with Conditt and Foster hanging back in the wings.

While Conditt’s play style might clutter the paint if he played with Young, Foster could complement Young’s game nicely.

Part of Foster’s allure out of high school was his ability to shoot threes, even as a 7-foot tall shot blocker.

On defense, Foster could give Iowa State a bigger presence down low and Young could match up on someone more suited for him. Offense is where it gets really interesting.

With Young playing as a post down low and Foster running pick and rolls, inside cuts and shooting from the outside, playing these two together could make for a solid offense without sacrificing space or defense.

This would allow Dubar and Johnson to play more on the outside and only Blackwell, who is probably the most suited for a small-ball power forward role, as someone who could play on the second unit with Conditt.

With Dubar and Blackwell looking like good rebounders, the Cyclones could become a physically imposing team who outrebounds opponents while still stretching the floor and operating on the outside.

It’s early, and the process shouldn’t come naturally in two games, but Prohm could be leading his team in the wrong direction and things should change before that happens.