Otzelberger not comparing team to last year as 2022-23 season begins


Jacob Rice

T.J. Otzelberger speaks at media day on Oct. 12

The time has officially come. It’s basketball season.

Iowa State men’s basketball will have both their season and home opener Monday against IUPUI.

While many may think that expectations are high after a sweet 16 appearance last season, head coach T.J. Otzelberger said that is not the case whatsoever.

“I’m really not interested in comparing this group to last year,” Otzelberger said. “To me, this is a totally new group, totally new variables…we’re gonna focus on what this team can be.”

The team had two scrimmage games to better prepare themselves for the season ahead, especially with so many newer players.

“Learned a lot in both,” Otzelberger said. “I think you’re trying a lot of different combinations to see who plays well together, what lineups, things you can do offensively and defensively.”

While the number one priority is to win Monday’s game, Otzelberger said his other focus is to keep moving forward with the team and the basketball program.

St. Bonaventure transfer, Osun Osunniyi, is in his fifth year in the college basketball program.

Osunniyi said his reasoning for coming back to basketball was to put himself in a better position to reach his goals and dreams of making it to the NBA.

“Sun’s [Osunniyi] been a huge bright spot for us,” Otzelberger said. “He’s a lot more gifted offensively than what I realized.”

Additionally, Otzelberger had nothing but highlights to say about the 6-foot-10 center.

“He’s got an unbelieve work ethic; he’s very coachable,” Otzelberger said. “He does whatever you ask of him.”

While nerves are there, Osunniyi could not be more excited to get the opportunity to experience the Hilton magic Monday night.

“Nerves on the good side; it’s a good thing to have nerves like that,” Osunniyi said.

As for his goals going into his first time at Hilton, Osunniyi wants to do whatever he can to help the team win, whether that be rebounding, blocking shots or defending.

While the team is filled with new players and veterans, age doesn’t matter for the Cyclones. Each player is willing to listen to one another and do whatever it takes to help the team out.

“No one has a huge ego,” Osunniyi said. “Everyone wants to win the game.”

One of those veterans, Aljaž Kunc, has been one to take on a leadership role. Kunc said he’s focused on helping the younger players adjust to Iowa State basketball.

“Obviously it’s going to take a little time to get adjusted, but I feel like we’re doing a pretty good job…we’re constantly improving, constantly getting better,” Kunc said.

So, what should fans expect Monday night?

“We’re gonna be a high-energy team, we’re gonna play defense…play hard for 40 minutes,” Osunniyi said.