Jameel McKay makes strong comeback from suspension in Texas win

Jameel McKay salutes the audience after being suspended for two games. McKay would go on to play for 22 minutes, contributing to the Cyclones’ 85-75 win over Texas. 

Ryan Young

After nearly 10 days of uncertainty, ISU forward Jameel McKay left the floor of Hilton Coliseum on Saturday night with a big smile on his face.

Things were back to normal.

No. 14 Iowa State (18-7, 7-5 Big 12) beat No. 24 Texas (16-9, 7-5 Big 12), 85-75, recovering from last Wednesday’s overtime loss to Texas Tech. For McKay, though, it was more than just a conference game against a tough opponent.

It was his first chance back from his two-game suspension, and he didn’t let it slip.

“I think today was probably my best game since non-conference [play], honestly,” McKay said. “I played well.”

McKay finished with eight points on the night, going 3-of-4 from the field. He also pulled down seven rebounds and recorded four blocks, tying his season-high and giving him 41 total blocks on the year.

ISU coach Steve Prohm thought McKay played a great game, saying that he was focused and played with energy. 

“His attitude was terrific [tonight],” Prohm said. “We can’t be special without him, and that’s what I told him in the locker room after the game. That’s what we need. That’s the Jameel McKay we need going forward the rest of the season.”

McKay was suspended less than 24 hours before Iowa State’s game against Oklahoma State on Feb. 6 and did not travel with the team to Oklahoma State or to Texas Tech that next Wednesday.

McKay said the suspension was a result of something that happened in practice and was a non-legal issue.

“It was just something that me and coach had to deal with,” McKay said. “It’s not legal or something that’s supposedly big. It’s just a little something I would deserve to be suspended for.”

During the two games that he missed, McKay said that he couldn’t stand to watch the games, saying that it was too hard to follow.

He even turned off the notifications on his ESPN app on his phone so he wouldn’t be able to follow the game.

“It was miserable,” McKay said. “I think the biggest thing from being suspended, I learned that you can’t take anything for granted. That was my first time ever dealing with something like that. I honestly couldn’t even watch the second half of either game, just because I know I’m supposed to be out there and I’m letting my teammates down.”

Even though the suspension hurt the team in the last two days, it hasn’t hurt McKay’s relationship with Prohm. 

“It’s probably as good as it’s been,” McKay said. “We’ve been texting every day. He’s a good dude, and I’m happy he’s my coach. I don’t think we ever really had a bad relationship. I just think our communication lacked, but right now it’s good and that’s all I could think about.“

Looking back on it now, McKay said he’s happy with how things turned out. While he knows he still needs to work his way back into the swing of things to catch back up, McKay said it will benefit him and the team. 

“I think it made me a better person, and a better player,” McKay said. “I think the suspension could have helped my career last longer because I learned from it.

“I think that me being suspended those games will help us in the long run, I can tell you that. I think it was more of a positive than a negative.”