Douglas: Rasir Bolton will be the key for Iowa State next season

Sophomore Rasir Bolton attempts a shot against No.1 Baylor on Jan.29.

Zane Douglas

The season came and went quickly for Iowa State men’s basketball and the recent news of coronavirus and social distancing have made the end of the college basketball season seem like a distant memory.

In the past week, Iowa State has lost three regular rotation pieces to the transfer portal in Zion Griffin, Caleb Grill and Terrence Lewis.

The Cyclones may be losing their best player as well, with Tyrese Haliburton getting ready to decide if he’ll enter the draft or not.

There are a ton of negatives to sift through with the team’s most recent season, but many of them are not the fault of Iowa State as injuries piled up.

One positive for the Cyclones was newly acquired guard Rasir Bolton who was tasked with carrying a bigger load when Haliburton’s season ended prematurely.

Bolton had some rough games down the stretch, but within those games, Bolton showed that he was something that the Cyclones needed without Haliburton.

Bolton has established himself as a floor general.

Looking at Bolton’s stat line isn’t enough to determine what he brings to the table for Iowa State.

Statistically, Bolton was one of the better players for Iowa State over the course of the season and that includes the inconsistency of his shooting percentage on a given night.

14.7 points is a solid clip, but shooting 40.4 percent overall and 33.6 percent from three takes away from that number and highlights some inefficiency.

During his time as the primary ball handler, Bolton used facilitating more and made some solid passes on drives to the rim instead of attempting to finish. It resulted in some solid assist numbers and good looks for teammates down the stretch.

The offense often became stagnant for Iowa State with many players standing around on the three-point line or waiting for Bolton, Haliburton or Prentiss Nixon to do something.

Haliburton combated this by involving teammates and forcing them to move while Nixon had trouble sharing the ball and was caught in a ton of poor shot attempts.

So what about Bolton?

The sophomore wasn’t as good as Haliburton, but he was able to keep the offense moving by directing traffic around the court. Bolton could be seen telling teammates where to go, asking for screens and controlling the tempo of the offense in a half-court setting.

Like air traffic control, Bolton seems to task himself with getting the team moving and getting them in the right positions. The end results don’t always show themselves, but Bolton helps keep the offense moving when he’s on the floor.

Bolton has some issues that he needs to fix, which I’ll get to, but the sophomore has given the Cyclones at least some reason to feel comfortable about how well the team’s offense could run next season.

Bolton couples this with a high shot IQ. Although he occasionally gets stuck going downhill and will try to finish through traffic or over taller defenders, Bolton will almost never take an inefficient shot from mid-range.

As analytics have evolved over the years, shot selection has become a key issue. Bolton has no problem in this area. A high volume of Bolton’s shots are threes or come from in the paint.

Not everything is so good for the sophomore from Petersburg, Virginia.

Bolton’s defense can leave something to be desired occasionally as his lateral quickness isn’t as high as it should be for someone of his athleticism. He’s often beaten on the drive which can also be attributed to his tendency to bite on pump fakes.

He has quick hands and is able to stay with offensive players if he gets in the right positions, so he’s somewhat average overall as a defensive player.

Something else that he’ll need to work on as he continues to be a main part of the team next season is his off-hand handles and finishing ability.

Bolton rarely uses his left hand when he’s making a dribble move or when he’s finishing. He goes right on the drive way more than he goes left and even when he goes left it usually ends in a right handed finger roll, or a right-handed floater.

This is one of the big reasons for his shooting percentage being lower despite taking shots in high percentage areas. With scoring and driving being such a big part of his game, Bolton will need to work on trusting his left hand more if he wants to evolve into a top tier scoring option.

For now, Bolton is adding a ton of value to the Cyclones on the court whether it’s included in the box score or it isn’t. Whether he can take the next step remains to be seen.