Notebook: New Cyclones find their footing


Jacob Rice/Iowa State Daily

Iowa State guards Tyrese Hunter, Gabe Kalscheur and Izaiah Brockington help Aljaz Kunc off the floor during Iowa State’s 70-56 loss to the Miami Hurricanes in the Sweet 16 on March 25 in Chicago, Illinois.

Christian Royston

AMES — The Iowa State men’s basketball team arrived back in Ames just four weeks ago and has had its nose to the grindstone ever since.

After finishing 2-22 in the 2020-21 season, expectations were at an all-time low for the Cyclones. That didn’t discourage the team from mounting one of the greatest bounce-back years in college basketball history. 

After a historic end to an incredible season, the Cyclones’ journey wasn’t over yet. As they returned to the big stage of the NCAA tournament, one goal was in mind; keep winning.

They did just that.

A first-round win turned into another win, and eventually, they made an appearance in the Sweet 16 for the first time since the 2015-16 season. Although many teams would be satisfied with just making an appearance in the Sweet 16, the Cyclones knew they could achieve more.

“Seeing what we did with this program from a 2-22 season to making the Sweet 16; it was incredible,” Senior guard Gabe Kalscheur said. “But that just fuels me more. I believe that we could have made it to the Elite Eight; I think we should have made it to the Elite Eight and further as well. That’s what’s pushing me. I want to get back to the NCAA tournament.”

It may be hard to predict another run as magical as the last, but the Cyclones are content taking it day by day and getting better each practice. As the weeks roll by and the season inches closer, the Cyclones are back in action in Ames to put in the work that needs to be done.

For many players, the Ames heat is a nice welcome back. For others, it may be their first time stepping foot on Cyclone turf.

The landscape of Iowa State basketball changed from last season. Roster changes hit the Cyclones hard, and now it’s time for the incoming players to fill the holes that are left.

The Cyclones welcomed seven players in the offseason, including four transfer players and three freshmen. 

“It’s been a lot, but I’m loving it,” Freshman guard Tamin Lipsey said. “The first week or two is a big adjustment. The physicality and the speed and then just being off on your own; I don’t have my parents with me anymore.”

It’s tough for freshmen players, such as Lipsey, to adjust to the high-level play of collegiate basketball. And for many, it is the first time they’ve been away from home for an extended period of time.

Playing basketball at the collegiate level has its ups and downs and many new challenges, especially when it comes to playing in a conference as competitive as the Big 12.

“I think my experience helps a lot… Going into the Big 12 is no joke, day in and day out,” Kalscheur said. “The defense and the teams here, it’s really hard to get a bucket when you think a bucket can be easy because everyone plays phenomenal defense.”

For the freshmen and the transfers, this upcoming season will be the first taste they’ve had of Big 12 basketball. The teams in the conference play hard and aren’t easy to take down.

The physicality and speed of play are on another level, and it can be hard for players to find their footing. That’s where the returning players come in.

The returning players have been in the shoes of the incoming players. They know how they feel, and they also know what’s possible. 

Just last year, Kalscheur was new to the team. Now with one year of experience playing Big 12 basketball, he can help the new players ease the growing pains and guide them through the adjustment period.

“I think my experience can definitely help the incomers and the freshmen,” Kalscheur said. “I feel like I’ve been here, I’ve been my part and I’m going to continue to do my part.”

With players needing to step up and fill roles, making the most out of the practices leading up to the season is very important. It may seem in the distant future, but getting quality reps in earlier than later will be the key to success.

So far, the practices have been a good chance for players to get acquainted with the pace of play expected in Big 12 play. 

“They’ve been teaching me a lot, just about the college game and how to adjust to it,” Lipsey said. “I’m sure they’re going to teach me throughout the whole year.”

Not only are the practices a good chance to get the new players involved, but the upperclassmen have been making sure that the incoming players feel at home in Ames.

Kalscheur mentioned how the team has been hanging out outside the gym, playing cards, or having movie nights. Those team-building activities are helping make the team feel like a family.

The work at strengthening the atmosphere off the court is starting to show in the gym as well. 

“I see a great bond already,” Lipsey said. “We’re only in the fourth week, and we’re already like we’ve been together for years.”

They may just be four weeks into practice, but it’s never too early to look toward the future. Expectations are high for the Cyclones after how they performed last season.

The bar has been raised, and although a few key contributors left after last season, new players will need to step up if the team wants to meet those expectations. It may be a tall task, but this team has shown they aren’t scared of a challenge.

“Our principles and what we’re doing this summer and what we’re doing right now is going to prepare us for that time,” Kalscheur said.