A Whirlwind Off-Season for the Iowa State Cyclones

Georges Niang capped off a stellar career with 30 points on better than 50% from the field against the Virginia Cavaliers. (Photo courtesy of iowastatedaily.com)

Steve Prohm’s first season with the Iowa State Cyclones ended with a relatively anticlimactic Sweet 16 loss to the top seeded team in the region, the Virginia Cavaliers. While making the Sweet 16 was an accomplishment, an 84-71 loss was a poor showing for a very talented team.  Iowa State dealt last off-season, with the loss of their coach lovingly nicknamed “The Mayor”, Fred Hoiberg. After a loss to UAB in the first round, Hoiberg jumped ship for a venture into the NBA with one of his former teams, the Chicago Bulls.

This season, the team is staring down another monumental overturn. The difference is roster overhaul is the topic as opposed to a coaching vacancy. Georges Niang decided to come back for his senior season, and ended up finishing as the top scorer in Cyclones’ NCAA Tournament history, as well as the second leading scorer in school history (2,228 career points). His presence on the court will be sorely missed by a team that has been extremely effective on offense during his tenure in Ames.  The team has averaged over 77 points per game every year that he has been there. There were other main scorers, but Niang has been top four on the team since his freshman year, and led the team in scoring his junior and senior year.

His departure is coupled with the exodus of Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay to graduation, as well as the transfers of Hallice Cooke and Jordan Ashton.  Nader and McKay were each double-digit contributors to the Cyclones powerful offense last year and were two of the team’s top three rebounders on the team. The transfers of Cooke, Ashton, and Brady Ernst are not seen as unexpected. They would not likely have seen many minutes due to the returnees for the upcoming season.

However, coming into the off-season, their transfers were not seen as completely certain because there were still major questions to be answered as to who would be coming back to play in Ames.  Recently, several of these matters were put to rest, but there is no shortage of drama for Prohm and company.

The NCAA’s decision on Naz Mitrou-Long and Monte Morris’ return are both huge pluses for the Cyclones. (Photo courtesy of zimbio.com)

Naz Mitrou-Long was granted a hardship waiver for next season.  He was recovering from hip surgery in the off-season.  Long attempted to play through the pain but saw it as best to end his year early in hopes of receiving an additional year of eligibility.  His presence was sorely missed by the team. Perhaps he could have been the difference in the sub-par performance against Virginia. Regardless, his veteran presence will be welcomed in the second act of Steve Prohm’s campaign. Additionally, Deonte Burton and Monte Morris have withdrawn their names from the NBA draft. Burton was a transfer from Marquette and a nice boost off the bench last season. Morris was one of the most dynamic players on the roster last year and will undoubtedly be the clubhouse leader with the announcement of his return. He averaged 13.8 points per game as well as 6.9 assists, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game. Morris is the most important returnee for the team.

This week, the frontcourt got better for Iowa State. They added Louisiana State transfer Merrill Holden. Holden averaged 8.1 points per game and 5 rebounds per contest last season. The graduate transfer is an excellent pick-up and immediately eligible to play for Prohm.  He adds to an Iowa State frontcourt that could have been depleted after their losses from the previous season.

The last remaining question involves the completion of the team’s recruiting class. With the transfers completed, the addition of Holden, and the return of Morris and Long the Cyclones have one open spot for a scholarship. There are four recruits coming in for sure (Jakolby Long, Cameron Lard, Solomon Young, and Donovan Jackson). The outstanding commitment is Emmanuel Malou. The junior college transfer from Yuba College is currently being looked at by pro teams, including the Celtics, and is taking a gander at his draft stock.  He would be another addition to what looks to be a young frontcourt, with the exception being Holden.

There was a lot up in the air at the beginning of this off-season for a team that has made some noise in the tournament recently. It seems as though most of the dust has settled, though. For the most part, the program appears to be intact and ready for another season and a new shot at being the first in over a decade to take the regular season Big 12 conference title from the Kansas Jayhawks.

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