Hoiberg Looks To Keep Iowa State Rolling In 2012-13
2012-13 Iowa State MBB Prospectus
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg's experiment worked. Looking to add experienced players to his lineup quickly, Hoiberg brought in new talent via the transfer route. With the likes of Royce White, Chris Allen and Chris Babb, the Cyclones were one of the biggest surprises in all of college basketball in 2011-12.
Iowa State improved significantly in Hoiberg's second season. In fact, the Cyclones tied the Big 12 record for biggest turnaround in league history at +8.
Hoiberg successfully molded the group into a team which won 23 times and finished tied for third in the Big 12 at 12-6. Iowa State made its first NCAA Championship appearance since 2005, knocked off two top-10 teams at home for the first time since 1992 and appeared in the AP top-25 for the first time since 2005.
More importantly, Hoiberg brought back the 'Magic.' Hilton Coliseum was once again one of the toughest places to play in all of college basketball. The Cyclones finished 16-2 at home and won their last seven Big 12 games in Hilton Coliseum. Five times the Cyclones played in front of sold-out crowds and by the end of the year Iowa State ranked 24th nationally in attendance (13,015), averaging over 13,000 fans per game for just the second time since 1993.
What can Hoiberg, the 2012 Big 12 Co-Coach of the Year, do for an encore in 2013?
"As someone who grew up with a great passion for Cyclone athletics, it was an awesome year for the basketball program," Hoiberg said. "Our town shuts down on game nights, and it was great to give our fans an opportunity to watch us play on the national stage again and in the NCAA Tournament. We got to knock off the defending champs and had an opportunity to play against the eventual champions (Kentucky). It was a great opportunity for us, and our guys tasted that success and liked it. They're working extremely hard to get back there and earn another chance at it."
There are a lot of holes to fill with the departures of White, an All-American who was the 16th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, Allen, an honorable mention All-Big 12 pick, and Scott Christopherson, an All-Big 12 Third-Team selection who is the school's most accurate career 3-point shooter.
They were the top-three scorers on the team last season.
Despite the losses, however, the Cyclones have a lot to be excited about in 2012-13. Iowa State returns six players who played significant minutes a year ago, including starters Melvin Ejim and Babb.
The Cyclones, for the second year in a row, also will introduce a pair of "high level" transfers to their roster in Will Clyburn (Utah) and Korie Lucious (Michigan State). Both sat out last season and raised eyebrows as members of the scout team.
Hoiberg also brought in a highly-touted recruiting class which was ranked in the top-30 in a number of services.
The trademarks of a Hoiberg-coached team have become very evident in his first two years back in Ames. The Cyclones play fast, averaging 73.2 ppg to rank fourth in the Big 12 and 51st nationally last season. And for the second season in a row, the Cyclones broke the school record for 3-pointers made by burying 293.
Iowa State has ranked in the top-15 nationally and led the Big 12 in each of the last two seasons in 3-pointers made per game.
"Last year, we really played outside the box," Hoiberg said. "We tried to play to the strength of our team, which, a lot of times, was using Royce as a facilitator, and he was great at it. He drew in the defense and made great passes. He led the team in points, rebounds, blocks, assists and steals, so we obviously have a lot to replace in losing him. We're not going to do it with one guy, but I think, collectively, we've got a group with experience. We also have a great class coming who I think will make an immediate impact."
Iowa State returns three players in the backcourt with experience in Chris Babb (6-5, 225, Sr.), Tyrus McGee (6-2, 205, Sr.) and Bubu Palo (6-1, 175), and added a number of options with transfers and newcomers.
Iowa State will have to replace Christopherson and Allen, who both posted all-Big 12-caliber seasons in 2011-12. Christopherson averaged 12.6 points and led the Big 12 in free-throw percentage (90.3 pct.) and was second in the league in 3-point percentage (45.6 pct.). Allen poured in 12.2 ppg and led the team in 3-pointers with 76.
Despite the loss of Christopherson and Allen, Hoiberg believes the backcourt will still be strong.
"We still have a lot of talent in our guards," Hoiberg said. "We have depth at both the point- and two-guard spots."
Babb, a senior from Arlington, Texas, started all 34 games for the Cyclones last year while emerging as one of the better defenders in the league. Babb drew the assignment of guarding the opposing team's top scorer and did a fabulous job.
The big guard can also shoot, drilling 64 3-pointers, the 14th-best single-season total in school history. He tied the school record for 3-point percentage in a game by going 5-of-5 from beyond the arc vs. Western Carolina and poured in a career-high 26 points vs. Rice behind a 7-of-11 effort from downtown.
He finished his first season at Iowa State averaging 7.8 points and 4.1 rebounds and Hoiberg knows he has an all-around player in Babb.
"I think Chris is the most underrated defensive player in the nation," Hoiberg said. "He did a great job against the highest scorers in our league last year. He made it very difficult for them to score and made them take tough shots. He can shoot, and he's a guy that we will lean on a lot this year. Not only on defense, but we'll expect him to make shots as well."
McGee was an excellent junior college transfer last season, filling the sixth-man role for the Cyclones. A native of Stringtown, Okla., McGee provided Iowa State with energy and spark from off the bench. He led the team in charges drawn and floor burns and will contend for one of the starting spots at guard.
McGee, who averaged just 19.9 minutes per game a year ago, proved he could score in bunches. He averaged 7.7 points and made 39.4 percent (50-127 3FG) of his shots from downtown, making a 3-pointer in 26-of-34 games.
"Tyrus is a guy that just goes out there and plays all out," Hoiberg said. "He leaves it all out there on the floor, and that's what I love about him. He won games for us last year just by hustling with his desire to go and get loose balls. He's got a great shooting stroke. I'm excited about Tyrus' senior season."
One of the biggest additions to the Cyclones will be senior Korie Lucious (5-11, 175, Sr.), who sat out last season after transferring from Michigan State. Hoiberg was forced to play a little unconventional last year due to the lack of a true point guard. Well, that won't be the case with Lucious in the mix this season.
Lucious is a true point guard and will likely be the Cyclones' starter at that spot. Lucious handed out 239 assists and scored 439 points in his 2 1/2-year career with the Spartans. He's a quick, excellent ball-handler who will lead the Cyclone attack.
A native of Milwaukee, Wis., Lucious has been known for his late-game heroics. He made the buzzer-beating 3-pointer to beat Maryland and help Michigan State advance to the Sweet Sixteen in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.
Hoiberg feels Lucious can be an impact player.
"We will play a little more traditional this year, now that we have a pure point guard like Korie with us," Hoiberg said. "He's extremely fast with the ball and very quick. He brings in great experience, having played in two Final Fours. He's a guy that, I think, will be a very exciting player to watch."
Palo, a redshirt junior from Ames, Iowa, played significant minutes for Iowa State last season, averaging 4.0 points and 1.5 rebounds. A former walk-on, Palo was placed on scholarship at the beginning of the second semester last year.
Palo was a key player in the rotation until fracturing his wrist in the final non-conference game. He sat out until late in the season, but was back to help Iowa State during its NCAA Championship run.
Palo brings energy and has proved to be one of the better former walk-ons in Iowa State history.
"Bubu was huge for us in the NCAA Tournament," Hoiberg said. "He's a guy that is always in the right spots. He's a guy that calms us down at times when we need it. He's rock solid. He has been working really hard on his offensive game trying to make a big jump in his production next year. I expect him to have a very solid junior season."
Three freshmen Sherron Dorsey-Walker (6-4, 175, Fr.), Naz Long (6-4, 195, Fr.) and Kerwin Okoro (6-5, 220, Fr.) will look for playing time in 2012-13.
Dorsey-Walker, a native of Detroit, Mich., is an outstanding shooter who was ranked as the 125th-best player in the nation by Rivals.com. Long, who hails from Mississauga, Ontario, is a point guard who was one of the best players from Canada. Okoro comes from the Bronx, N.Y., and has a chance to be one of Iowa State's top defenders.
"Sherron has great length who can really score the basketball," Hoiberg said. "Naz will be a great teammate. He has really worked on his shot and played extremely well in our workouts so far. I think he's got a shot to come in and earn some playing time."
"Kerwin is a guy that can really defend," Hoiberg added. "He's got great size at the wing position. He'll have a chance to play for us just because of his toughness and his ability to get to the rim."
The obvious loss to Iowa State's frontcourt is the departure of All-American Royce White. White, who led Iowa State in scoring (13.4), rebounding (9.3), assists (5.0), steals (1.1) and blocks (0.9), turned professional after his stellar sophomore season.
Replacing White's production is nearly impossible. However, the Cyclones do return Melvin Ejim (6-6, 220, Jr.) at a wing and power forwards Anthony Booker (6-9, 250, Sr.) and Percy Gibson (6-9, 245, So.). Plus, the Cyclones will gladly welcome wing Will Clyburn (6-7, 205, Sr.), one of the top transfers in college basketball, and rookie Georges Niang (6-7, 235, Fr.).
Ejim once again quietly put up solid numbers in his sophomore campaign last year, averaging 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds in 29 starts. He will definitely be one of Iowa State's top forwards.
The Toronto, Ontario native has 59 career starts, scored 643 points and grabbed 440 rebounds in his two-year Iowa State career. Ejim came on strong late in the season in 2011-12, averaging 11.0 points and 7.1 rebounds in Big 12 play to help him earn All-Big 12 Honorable Mention accolades.
"Melvin runs the floor better than anybody," Hoiberg said. "He's the ultimate 'team' guy, and I think he will emerge as one on the team leaders this year. He had a great opportunity playing for the Nigerian National team this year, and that will help him next year."
Booker and Gibson came off the bench last season and both showed glimpses of outstanding play. One will likely emerge as the starter at power forward.
Booker didn't start a game, but was one of the first post reserves last year after transferring from Southern Illinois. He averaged 3.5 points and 2.9 rebounds.
An extremely athletic post with outstanding jumping ability, Booker also proved he had a touch from the outside, making 16-of-38 shots from 3-point range (42.1 pct.).
"Booker is very skilled," Hoiberg said. "He's got a great body and is a physical defender. He's going to be our best low-post defender, so I expect a big year out of Anthony."
Gibson was a surprise last year for the Cyclones, giving quality minutes from off the bench. The lefty only averaged 10.7 minutes per game, but posted 4.8 points and 2.0 rebounds in his limited time.
He also led the team in field goal percentage, making 65.6 percent (59-90 FG) of his shots from the floor. Gibson has excellent moves in the post. His improvements in rebounding and defense will dictate how many minutes he gets next year.
"Percy can flat out score the basketball," said Hoiberg. "He's got great hands and great touch. His left hand makes him extremely difficult to stop on the block. He went right at some of the best players in the country last year like Anthony Davis."
One of Iowa State's starting slots will almost certainly go to Clyburn, a transfer from Utah. The athletic wing who hails from Detroit, Mich., was one of the best players in the Mountain West in 2011, earning Second-Team All-Mountain West honors and First-Team NABC All-District 17 accolades.
The versatile Clyburn was outstanding in his one year at Utah, averaging 17.1 points and 7.8 rebounds, ranking third in the Mountain West in both scoring and rebounding. He also shot the ball well, drilling 40.3 percent (62-154 3FG) of his shots from 3-point range.
Hoiberg is hoping Clyburn can make the same immediate impact as a transfer that White did last season.
"Will has an opportunity to be a special player," Hoiberg said. "He's long, athletic, and he can really put the ball in the basket. The sky is the limit for Will."
Niang, a true freshman from Methuen, Mass., is considered the prize of Iowa State's 2012 recruiting class. Niang played on one of the best prep school teams in the nation last year at The Tilton School, finishing his career as the school's all-time leading scorer (2,372).
Niang, who was the 2012 NEPSAC Class AA Player of the Year, has great footwork and a wide variety of post moves. He was a virtual unknown nationally until he blew up on the AAU scene last summer. He ended the season ranked as the 56th-best player nationally by ESPNU.
"Georges has as good of footwork as you'll see," Hoiberg said. "He's a throwback player. He's been playing against Nerlens Noel (Kentucky) his entire life. He's been scoring over bigger, longer guys for the last five or six years of his life. He has a tremendous understanding of the game and he will definitely see the court this year."