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Men’s basketball end of season awards

Keshon+Gilbert+dribbles+the+ball+during+the+NCAA+Tournament+Sweet+16+round+against+Illinois+at+TD+Garden+in+Boston%2C+Massachusetts+on+Mar.+28%2C+2023.
Tyler Coe
Keshon Gilbert dribbles the ball during the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 round against Illinois at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on Mar. 28, 2023.

Most valuable player

Christian Royston: Milan Momcilovic

When I think of who is the MVP of the season, I think of the player who leaves the biggest hole when he does not show up. Based on how the Cyclones ended the season, Momcilovic’s impact cannot be understated.

When Momcilovic is hitting his shots, the Cyclones are arguably one of the best teams in the nation. When he has an off night, the Cyclones have an off night.

Throughout the season, Momcilovic hit clutch shots over and over again. He sent Houston home with a loss and nearly pulled off a miracle upset on the road against Baylor. Momcilovic also more than earned the Big 12 All-Tournament Team selection by destroying every team in his way.

For a freshman, Momcilovic did everything he could do to be labeled as a star. Given all that, the future is bright for the MVP.

Logan Shanks: Tamin Lipsey

There is a reason the sophomore guard was trusted to play over 30 minutes a game this season. When he was on the court, both the offense and defense were at their best for Iowa State.

Outside of his 12.4 points per game, 4.6 rebounds per game and 4.9 assists per game, Lipsey was constantly looking to get the ball back in his hands on the other end. The Ames native averaged 2.7 steals per game, fueling the Cyclone offense with his pesky pokes on the defensive side.

Lipsey also took a major jump in the 3-point shooting category, an area he lacked in during his freshman season, which was a major detriment to the team. He went from 5-for-25 from 3-point land in his freshman season to 45-for-115 this season and became a threat from deep as the season went on.

The floor general, the leader, whatever you want to call him, Lipsey is the reason for this team’s success.

Most improved player

Royston: Curtis Jones

At the start of the season, I was wary of the amount of playing time Curtis Jones was getting. He was defensively sound, but it took forever for him to find his shot.

When Curtis Jones did get going, he was unstoppable. He lit up every game and was the reliable sixth man the Cyclones needed. His biggest games always came on the biggest stages as well.

Curtis Jones filled in well for Lipsey on the road against TCU, as he almost broke the record for steals in a game. He also lit up Illinois for 26 points in an effort to keep Iowa State’s season alive.

Curtis Jones’ efforts at the end of the season were nearly enough to earn him the Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year honor, but he turned it on a little too late. His improvement cannot be overlooked though.

Shanks: Robert Jones

The amount of growth Robert Jones took from when he first stepped on campus at Iowa State to his final game against Illinois is one of the biggest jumps I have seen from a player in three seasons.

Robert Jones capped off his time with the Cyclones averaging 7.7 points per game on 59.4% shooting from the field and 4.2 rebounds per game, all of which were career highs. During his 22.6 minutes per game on the court, he played smart and kept the mistakes to a minimum.

Once again, he was thrown into the starting lineup after an injury to Hason Ward early in the season. He started every game from then on, and with his leadership and energetic attitude, he played a big role in keeping things consistent down the stretch.

Newcomer of the year

Royston: Keshon Gilbert

It is rare that a player adapts to the Big 12’s pace of play and intensity right away. However, Gilbert did just that.

Gilbert was not just a key piece of Iowa State’s success; he was a star. At the end of the season, he led the Cyclones in scoring, as he found his way to the rim time after time. Gilbert’s creativity and ability to knock down clutch shots made him look like a veteran in the league.

Gilbert made the Big 12 Newcomer team and was a Second-Team All-Big 12 selection. It was clear every game how much the Cyclones relied on him, as the team struggled when he was off. The way Gilbert adapted to the highest level of play makes him an easy pick for newcomer of the year.

Shanks: Milan Momcilovic

Momcilovic had an impressive start to his collegiate career, and he will only get better from here. While he had a rough stretch towards the end of the regular season and a silent performance against Illinois, the future is bright and the ceiling is unmatched.

Throughout the year, Momcilovic improved defensively to match Otzelberger’s style of play and became less of a liability when defending inside. Along with that, Momcilovic’s confidence grew as the season went on, showing off his sharpshooting skills from behind the arc.

While the season may not have ended well for the young forward, he was one of the sole reasons the Cyclones saw success in the Big 12 Tournament. Momcilovic finished with the 17th most 3-pointers in the Big 12 (61), and I expect to see that number climb next season and for however long he stays with the Cyclones.

Most surprising player

Royston: Curtis Jones

I know I had Curtis Jones as my most improved player, but he also surprised me every single game. The way that he locked in on defense was something I have never seen before.

With how much the Cyclones hung their hat on defense, it was surprising to see how well Curtis Jones bought into that. He was always playing with extra effort and clung to his man across the court. Along with that, he showed how pesky his hands can be by being a turnover machine similar to Lipsey.

There was a reason that Curtis Jones’ minutes never took a hit. His defense made him a valuable piece of the team even when his shots were not falling. Even with his defense, he was also clutch at times, which again showed how surprising he ended up being.

Shanks: Hason Ward

When I saw that Ward was in the starting lineup at the beginning of the season, I was a bit surprised. Based on the little time we saw from him last season, I did not see a ton of potential for the veteran forward.

When he came back from his injury, I saw just how big of an impact Ward makes for the Cyclones. Opposing teams would constantly have to be on the lookout for a pass above the rim to Ward, which they often failed to stop.

Ward really came along as a necessary rotational player for the Cyclones. Especially toward the end of the season, he became more focused on the defensive glass and was a major offensive threat in the postseason.

Most exciting to watch

Royston: Hason Ward

There is nothing better than a dunk, in my opinion. With that being said, Ward was exciting every time he touched the court. Or the rim.

Ward was a lob threat throughout the season, and his dunks pushed the Cyclones to a Big 12 Championship win. With his athleticism, length and hops, Ward was shattering boards nearly every game.

The improvement that Ward showed from last season to this season was immense. He was playing with more fire and more effort, which was evident every time he was on the court. Given that, he more than deserves to be named most exciting to watch.

Shanks: Keshon Gilbert

From the moment he laced up for his first game, Gilbert asserted himself as a player who was going to work his way to the hoop and try to make a play on every possession. Whether it was with his quick feet off the ball or his saucy handles, Gilbert found his way to the basket and quickly became one of the most fun players to watch.

A couple of times in the postseason, I witnessed players from the opposing teams try to challenge him and get him riled up. This fueled Gilbert, as he put his head down and went to work.

Gilbert constantly showed his ability to go on scoring runs by himself throughout the season, whether it was with a drive inside or a crowd-erupting shot from outside. It is safe to say I am excited for what he has in store for the Cyclones next season.

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    Jeffrey Slobe | Apr 3, 2024 at 10:03 pm

    NEXT YEAR IS GONNA BE A BIG 12 CHMPS BIG12 TOURN. CHAMPS, N NCCA CHAMPS.. A TRIPLE CROWN TEAM

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