Hilton Magic Comes to Life11/7/2012
Last season Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg and the Cyclone men’s basketball team showed that the mythical “sophomore slump” was just that — a myth.
In Hoiberg’s first season, the Cyclones struggled, posting a 3-13 mark in Big 12 play. Year No. 2 was an altogether different story, however, as ISU turned the program around for a 23-11 overall record, which included an NCAA Tournament berth in which they advanced to the third round before being eliminated.
“It’s been a great year so far for our group. With the new NCAA rule change allowing us two hours on the court with the players, it’s been very productive,” Hoiberg said. “It was a great rule change. It allowed us to get some good instruction, especially with our five freshman.
“This fall has been phenomenal,” Hoiberg added. “This group has been working its tail off. A lot of them tasted success a year ago. The five seniors on this roster are guys that want to go out with a bang.”
The success left Cyclone Nation hungry for more this season, but getting back to the top will be no easy task, especially without the services of All-Big 12 forward Royce White. The 6’7” forward chose to forgo his junior and seniors years at Iowa State to enter the NBA draft where he was chosen as the 16th pick overall by the Houston Rockets.
Hoiberg says his returners have the talent to make another good run this season, but sometimes sheer talent doesn’t show in the win/loss column.
“This is a group that is going to be very easy to root for. It’s been as good a group as I’ve ever been around,” said Hoiberg. “How does that translate to wins and losses? I don’t know.”
Junior Melvin Ejim will step into the void left by White at the forward position after playing in 29 games last season, averaging 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game. Hoiberg will also be banking on senior Anthony Booker to fill some of the gap left by White as well. Booker averaged 6.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last year.
Ames native Bubu Palo began his career at ISU as a walk-on but played his way onto the team and is expected to be a major contributor in this, his junior year. The 6’1 First-Team Academic All Big-12 selection averaged 4.0 points and 1.5 assists per game last year after missing 13 games in his sophomore year due to a broken wrist.
Senior guard Tyrus McGee, Iowa State’s sixth man in 2011-12, should see more playing time this season. Many of his average 7.7 points per game came from outside the arc. His 39.4 percent shooting from three-point range ranks seventh-best all time at ISU. The 2011 junior college transfer was named Big 12 Rookie of the Week in January of last season.
The Cyclones open non-conference play this Friday, Nov. 9, against the Southern University Jaguars of the Southwestern Atlantic Conference. Home play continues on Monday, Nov. 12 against Alabama A&M.
Prior to Thanksgiving, the Cyclones host the Global Sports Classic Tournament — an eight team, two-weekend tourney featuring Campbell, North Carolina A&T, Jacksonville State, Northern Arizona, Oregon, Cincinnati, UNLV and Iowa State. Play will open on Nov. 18 against Campbell University, followed by a game against North Carolina A&T on Nov. 20. Iowa State travels to Las Vegas over the Thanksgiving weekend for the final two rounds. The ’Clones will face Cincinnati on Friday, Nov. 23, at the Thomas and Mack Center in Las Vegas and will then will play either Oregon or UNLV, depending on the outcome of each game. CV
Season tickets are still available for home games, with prices ranging from $150 to $350. Individual home game tickets range from $5 to $15 for non-conference games and $15 to $25 for Big 12 games. Special promotions and packages are available as well. For more information, visit www.cyclones.com or call 888-478-2925.