I'm starting to see pumpkins everywhere, and you know what pumpkins always remind me of? Basketballs.
That's right, hoops season is just around the corner. Practice begins Oct. 16 in most places, which means it's time to start previewing the Big 12. Now, I haven't packed it in on the football season yet, by any means. But let's be honest: We all knew coming into 2009-2010 that football was just gonna be the appetizer. We're going to have a nationally ranked squad this year, and it's getting close enough to tipoff that I think the time has come to begin getting officially psyched up.
But to keep this on a semi-football-related plane, at least for the duration of the season, I will endeavor to keep these loosely linked to our football opponent of the week past. Which means it's time to venture up to Ames and see what Farmageddon on the hardwood might look like this year...
Normally these will publish at noon on Mondays, but as usual, the first one always is the most time-consuming because all the formatting has to be done from scratch. Anyhow, click the jump for the most comprehensive preview of the Cyclone hoopsters you'll find this side of Clone Chronicles.
44-51 (14-34) at Iowa State
McDermott's Cyclone teams consistently have ranked in the upper half of the Big 12 in scoring defense and in three-point shooting in his three seasons in Ames. In just three seasons, McDermott has coached four players who have earned all-conference recognition, including Craig Brackins, who was the first Cyclone since 2001 to earn first-team All-Big 12 honors, in 2009.
Bryan Petersen (30.1 minutes per game, 6.6 points per game, 3.7 rebounds per game)
- Wes Eikmeier (11.3 minutes per game, 0.8 point per game, 2.9 rebounds per game)
- Sean Haluska (15.7 minutes per game, 1.0 point per game, 2.5 rebounds per game)
- Cameron Lee (3.2 minutes per game, 0.7 point per game, 0.4 rebound per game)
- Clinton Mann (2.4 minutes per game, 0.4 point per game, 0.7 rebound per game)
- Alex Thompson (14.1 minutes per game, 2.6 points per game, 2.4 rebounds per game)
#1 Dominique Buckley
Buckley played in 25 games as a reserve point guard, averaging 1.3 points and 0.8 assists. He logged a career-high 19 minutes vs. Texas A&M, and tallied five points vs. SIU-Edwardsville and Colorado.
Buckley also handed out three assists vs. Iowa, Jacksonville State and SIU-Edwardsville.
#4 Charles Boozer
Boozer competed in 23 games, giving Iowa State a lift from the bench. He averaged 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds; shot 37.2 percent from the field, 29.6 percent from 3-point range and 75 percent from the free-throw line; tallied a career-high 11 points vs. Missouri; and grabbed a career-high seven rebounds while logging a career-high 19 minutes vs. Kansas State.
(And no, your eyes do not deceive you. Charles is Carlos Boozer's younger brother.)
#5 Lucca Staiger
Big 12 Rookie of the Week (12/15/08 and 01/12/09)
Staiger started 27 games last season, averaging 8.2 points and 2.2 rebounds. He was Iowa State's top long-range shooter, making a team-high 74 treys in 192 attempts. His 74 3-pointers rank seventh on ISU's single-season 3-pointers made list.
Staiger averaged 2.3 3-pointers made per game to rank sixth in the Big 12 and seventh on ISU's single-season list. He made a 3-pointer in 26 of 32 games and had 14 games with three or more treys.
Staiger had a streak of 16 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, tying for the third-longest stretch in school history. He scored 14 points behind a 4-of-8 effort from downtown vs. Oregon State and poured in a career-high 24 points on 8-of-11 shooting from 3-point range vs. Drake. His eight treys in that game tie for second on ISU's single-game record chart.
Staiger tied a Big 12 mark by making seven treys in the first half vs. Drake, tallied 15 points in his Big 12 debut at Texas, drilled six 3-pointers en route to 18 points vs. Nebraska, posted 14 points behind a 4-of-10 effort from long range at Oklahoma State, and was 5-of-9 from downtown and scored 17 points at Nebraska. His 74 treys already rank 18th in school history.
#10 Diante Garrett
World Vision Classic All-Tournament (2008)
Garrett was one of the Big 12's top playmakers, ranking third in the league and 36th nationally in assists. He totaled 161 assists to rank 14th on Iowa State's single-season assist chart.
One of two players to start all 32 games, Garrett was second on the team in scoring and averaged 3.3 rebounds. He led the team in steals with 30, shot 70.7 percent from the free-throw line, ranked 10th in the Big 12 in assist/turnover ratio, handed out five or more assists in 17 of 32 games, led or tied ISU in assists in 22 of 32 games, recorded two double-doubles and four double-digit assist games, and posted a career-high 26 points at Hawai'i, going 10-for-10 from the free-throw line and marking the 16th time in school history where a Cyclone was perfect from the charity stripe with at least 10 attempts.
Garrett dished out a career-high 11 assists vs. Loyola Marymount and Missouri, posted a double-double with 17 points and 10 assists against Oklahoma, notched 17 points vs. Texas Tech and made a career-high three treys vs. UW-Milwaukee, en route to 17 points. He currently ranks 18th on ISU's career assist chart.
#21 Craig Brackins
First Team All-Big 12 (2009)
Brackins recorded one of the greatest seasons in Iowa State history, earning first-team all-Big 12 and first-team all-District honors from the NABC, USBWA and Basketball Times. He was named honorable mention All-American by the AP, was the first Cyclone to earn first-team all-Big 12 honors since Curtis Stinson in 2006 and was named Big 12 Player of the Week three times.
Brackins averaged 20.2 points, ranking second in the Big 12 and 22nd nationally, and 9.5 rebounds to rank third in the Big 12 and 26th nationally. Along with Blake Griffin and Luke Harangody, he was one of three players in the country to rank in the top 30 nationally in both scoring and rebounding.
In Big 12 games, Brackins averaged a double-double, scoring 20 or more points in 11 of 16 conference games. He scored a league-high 348 points in Big 12 games, the 10th-best single-season scoring total in league history; posted 19 20-point games and three 30-point outings; tallied 12 20-point/10-rebound games; led ISU in scoring in 21 of the last 23 games and paced the Cyclones in rebounding in the final 18 games; tallied 15 double-doubles to rank fourth in the Big 12; and ended the season ranking in ISU's single season top 11 in four categories: field goals, points, rebounds and double-doubles.
Brackins is only the third player in school history to record 600 points and 300 rebounds in a season. His 645 points as a sophomore ranks second on ISU's class list behind Jeff Grayer, who tallied 684 points in his sophomore campaign. He became the 27th member of the 1,000-point club and just the fifth Cyclone in school history to record 1,000 points in their first two seasons.
Brackins scored 18 or more points in a half eight times and tallied a double-double by halftime three times. He scored a career-high 42 points vs. Kansas, making 11 of 19 shots from the floor, 3 of 5 from beyond the arc and 17 of 21 from the charity stripe. The 42 points tie for the sixth-best effort by a Big 12 player in league history and are the fourth-best scoring effort in ISU history. His 17 free throws made tie for third best in ISU history.
Brackins registered 38 points, including 23 in the second half, on 15-of-23 shooting from the floor at Houston. His 15 field goals made are tied for third-best all-time by a Big 12 player. He scored 32 points in an overtime victory at Northern Iowa and grabbed a career-high 17 boards vs. Jacksonville State.
#23 Jamie Vanderbeken
Kansas City Star's Big 12 All-Newcomer Team (2009)
Iowa State's top reserve in the post, averaging 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds in 31 games, Vanderbeken led ISU in 3-point percentage, making 35 of 86 shots from beyond the arc. He averaged 6.3 points in Big 12 play, was second on the team in blocks with 21, made 23 of his 35 treys in the last 14 games, had four games with three or more treys, tallied a double-double in his debut with 14 points and 10 boards vs. UC Davis, was 5 of 7 from the field and scored 12 points vs. Oklahoma, tallied 14 points at Kansas State, posted career highs in points and 3-pointers at Kansas, and was 4 of 5 from 3-point range en route to 12 points vs. Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship.
#41 Justin Hamilton
Hamilton had a solid freshman campaign, averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 rebounds. He started 18 games, played in 32 contests and led the Cyclones in field-goal percentage, hitting 57 of 100 shots from the floor. His 57-percent clip from the floor ranks 15th on Iowa State's single-season record chart and second on ISU's freshman list.
Hamilton tallied 17 blocks last season. In his first career start, he scored eight points and grabbed a career-high 12 boards in a win at Houston.
Hamilton posted a career-high 16 points vs. SIU-Edwardsville and scored 13 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field at Missouri. He recorded eight points and 10 rebounds at Texas, and posted a career-high three blocks vs. Colorado.
#11 Scott Christopherson
Christopherson sat out the 2008-09 season as a redshirt after transferring from Marquette, where he appeared in 18 games as a freshman, all as a reserve. He missed the first five games of the regular season after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee, but netted a career-high six points on 2-of-3 shooting from the floor vs. Savannah State.
Christopherson averaged 1.3 points and 0.7 rebounds per game at Marquette, and shot 42.1 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3-point range.
#34 L.A. Pomlee
Pomlee sat out the 2008-2009 season as a redshirt. He was ranked as the 38th-best power forward in the class of 2008 by Scout.com, was a first-team Class 4A all-state selection by both the Iowa Newspaper Association and The Des Moines Register as a senior, and also was a Quad City Times all-Metro pick.
Pomlee averaged 15.4 points and led the Mississippi Athletic Conference in both rebounding and field-goal percentage as a senior. His Central team went undefeated in the conference and 23-3 overall, and advanced to the state championship game, falling to Iowa City High 64-54 in the Class 4A state title game, in which he scored 14 points and grabbed 12 boards.
Pomlee missed his entire junior season after developing a blood clot in his leg, but was a third-team all-state selection in his sophomore campaign after averaging 14.2 points and 10.1 rebounds. He chose Iowa State over West Virginia and Wisconsin.
#2 Chris Colvin
One of the best guards in the Class of 2009, Colvin was ranked as the 99th-best player in the nation and the 15th-best point guard nationally in the Rivals.com rankings. Scout.com ranked him as the 10th-best point guard in 2009 and he was ranked at No. 77 in the ESPNU final ratings.
Colvin was named second-team Class 4A all-state a senior by the AP, and averaged 12.3 ppg and 6.2 assists on one of the best and most balanced prep teams in the nation. His Whitney Young team defeated Waukegan 69-66 in the state championship game to finish the season at 26-9 and win the 2009 Illinois Class 4A state title. He had seven points and a team-high six assists in the state championship game, and scored 14, 20, 12 and 17 points in the four previous postseason tournament games.
Colvin averaged 14.1 ppg as a junior, earning all-state honors, and started three years at Whitney Young. He was named as one of the best players at the 2008 Reebok All-American Camp and chose Iowa State over Baylor, Florida State, Illinois, Kentucky, Marquette, Providence, USC and Washington State.
#3 Marquis Gilstrap
Gilstrap emerged as one of the best junior college players in the nation in his one season at Gulf Coast, averaging 22.6 points and 10.1 rebounds for one of the biggest surprise teams in junior college. He earned honorable mention All- America honors by the NJCAA, was rated as the 26th-best player in the class of 2009 by ESPN.com, and ranked 10th nationally in scoring and 20th in the nation in rebounding in the final NJCAA statistical rankings.
Gilstrap shot 48.3 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from 3-point range and 74.8 percent from the free-throw line at Gulf Coast, was named Panhandle Conference Player of the Year and first-team team all-Panhandle Conference, and was a first-team All-FCCAA honoree. He led his team to a 24-9 overall record and a spot in the state final, where GCCC lost to No. 1-ranked Chipola JC 68-65 to miss out at a chance for the national tournament.
Gilstrap also scored 27 points to help his squad defeat No. 3 Miami Dade in the first round of the state playoffs, and averaged 24.6 points and 10.3 rebounds to earn FCCAA All-Tournament team honors. He had seven 30+ scoring games and participated in the 2009 NJCAA All-Star Basketball Classic.
#12 Alex Dorr
Dorr joins the Cyclones as a recruited walk-on. He averaged 20.2 points and 9.3 rebounds while earning Class 3A first-team all-state honors from both the Iowa Newspaper Association and The Des Moines Register as a senior.
Dorr led Norwalk to its first-ever state championship game in 2009. The team finished the season with a 24-3 record. He scored 23 points and grabbed nine boards vs. Dubuque Wahlert in the first round of the state tournament, and averaged 18.9 points and 11.2 rebounds as a junior, earning second-team all-state honors.
#15 Antwon Oliver
Oliver earned honorable mention all-state and third-team all-area honors as a senior, and developed into one of the best players in Wisconsin in his last year, leading his Horlick team to the Division 1 state championship game. He was ranked as the 13th-best player in the state of Wisconsin and averaged 16.3 points, 6.4 rebounds, 3.0 assists and hit 45 treys as a senior.
Horlick went 24-2 and lost in the state final to Madison Memorial, 56-41. Oliver led his team with 13 points in the state championship game and was invited to play in the 2009 Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association Boy's All-Star game. He averaged 12.5 points as a junior and 5.1 points as a sophomore.
#22 LaRon Dendy
Dendy played two years at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa, and was rated as the 57th-best player in the preseason 2008-09 Juco Junction rankings. He averaged 8.5 points and 6.3 rebounds as a freshman, earning honorable mention All-Region XI honors, but suffered a stress fracture in his sophomore season and saw limited action, averaging 8.1 points and 4.1 rebounds and shooting 63.3 percent from the field in nine games.
Ranked as one of the top post players in the Class of 2007, Dendy was rated as the 63rd-best player in the nation and the 17th-best power forward in the Rivals.com Class of 2007, and was the seventh-best player in the Southeast Region in 2007. He originally committed to Clemson, but opted to go to junior college.
#25 Bubu Palo
Palo is a recruited walk-on. He was the starting point guard on Ames' 2009 Class 4A state championship team, which finished the season with a perfect 26-0 mark.
Palo started his last two seasons at point guard, averaged 9.1 points as a senior to earn second-team All-CIML honors, had a 3.34 assist/turnover ratio and shot 52.0 percent from the field. He scored 11 points in Ames' state championship game win over Linn-Mar and was an honorable mention all-conference pick as a junior.
My thanks to the Iowa State sports information department for the photos and most of the information for the bios.
It's possible that my judgment has been colored by staring at these stats and bios for too long, but at least on paper, the Cyclones appear to have a much improved team. Thanks largely to the return of future NBA player Craig Brackins, Iowa State returns 77.9 percent of its scoring and 72.5 percent of its rebounding from a team that set school marks for 3-pointers made (236) and fewest turnovers (12.1 per game) in a season.
There were few notable departures, as most of the graduated seniors were little-used reserves. The biggest loss is starting wing Bryan Petersen, although there is reason to believe there will be little drop-off at that position. Also gone from last year's team is Sean Haluska, who chipped in quite a few minutes off the bench.
But the Cyclones return their other four starters, and add some significant pieces to challenge them for playing time. In the frontcourt, I expect Diante Garrett to retain his starting spot and continue growing as one of the premier point guards in the league, but Chris Colvin will push him to the max. Colvin is one of the most highly touted recruits Iowa State has signed (other than Brackins, of course) and turned down programs such as Marquette and USC to go to Ames. He could be the latest in a long line of talented Chicago point guards who have made in impact in the Big 12.
All Lucca Staiger did was come in and set a bunch of Iowa State records shooting the three-ball. Pretty impressive, considering he battled a lingering injury for at least part of the season. He will be complemented by Scott Christopherson, a transfer from Marquette who sat out last year per NCAA rules. The guard spots are bolstered by sophomore Dominique Buckley and veteran journeyman Charles Boozer.
Antwon Oliver is a promising prospect fresh out of high school, but will have a tough time finding minutes in such a deep, experienced backfield. Look for him to redshirt, along with preferred walk-ons Bubu Palo and Alex Dorr.
The frontcourt begins and ends with Brackins. One of the best players in the Big 12, he needs no introduction to the rest of the conference, but what he does need is help, especially with Petersen leaving. Well, help is on the way in the form of Marquis Gilstrap, a Top-50 juco player who has just one season to make an impact. At 6-6 and 210, Gilstrap has good size to hold down the 3 spot. Another exciting player for Cyclone fans to watch is juco transfer LaRon Dendy, a former Clemson commit who was in the Rivals Top 75 for 2007.
Justin Hamilton and Jamie Vanderbeken will man the post. Hamilton is considered the returning starter, but Vanderbeken pulled a few starts as well. It's really irrelevant, as both will rotate a lot in the paint in order to spell each other. Vanderbeken has an added dimension in that he is an excellent 3-point shooter, a talent that makes it hard for teams to pack it in against him and Brackins.
A wild-card player is L.A. Pomlee, who redshirted last season. He has a pretty good pedigree, given that he was a Scout Top 50 player and passed up a chance to play for Bob Huggins at West Virginia. Pomlee might make his biggest impact as a 4 whenever the Cyclones go with a small lineup, a formation that usually sees Brackins rotate into the post.
So, what we have here is a team with one of the best players in the conference, four returning starters and several more experienced veterans, and it loses very few impact players, but adds one of the best prep players in the country, as well as two talented juco players and a Big East transfer. That sounds like a recipe for dramatic improvement, which Greg McDermott better deliver, or the pressure might start to turn up on him. It's Year 4, and Iowa State needs to show some serious signs of breaking out of the basement now that the administration has built him a new practice facility.
But this year will be the most stacked the Big 12 ever has been, and the Cyclones still have a major weakness in their frontcourt: Other than Brackins, they don't have any truly athletic posts. When you look at a team like Kansas or Texas, you see multiple big, athletic matchup nightmares. Iowa State doesn't really have more than one or two of those guys. Hamilton and Vanderbeken are traditional centers who aren't nearly as talented as Cole Aldrich. The season could swing on whether Gilstrap can overcome past injuries and step up to be the third scoring threat the Clones need to keep defenses honest and free up Brackins to do some serious damage.
Projected Starting Lineup
|Diante Garrett||Lucca Staiger||Marquis Gilstrap||Craig Brackins||Justin Hamilton|
Projected Top Reserves
|Chris Colvin||Scott Christopherson||LaRon Dendy||L.A. Pomlee||Jamie Vanderbeken|
The Final Verdict
Although ISU has a pretty good backcourt, I think they're going to resemble the 2008-2009 Wildcats in a lot of ways when they hit the meat of league play. They'll be improved, but with Kansas, Kansas State and Missouri to contend with in the North, breaking into the top half of the conference might be too much to ask. An NIT berth would be a solid season for this squad, although it seems like a lame ending for a great player such as Brackins.
Predicted finish: 9th
Best-case scenario: 7th