Iowa State basketball: Who’s on the ultimate Cyclone hoops squad?

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Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton, a projected lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. lists his favorite moments from Oshkosh North’s 2018 championship season.

Oshkosh Northwestern

This month was scheduled to be NBA Draft heavy. With individual workouts, meetings with teams and the combine in Chicago, there is always a flurry of activity in May for draft hopefuls such as potential top-five pick and former Iowa State star Tyrese Haliburton.

Instead, though, the draft is postponed indefinitely while meetings and workouts are confined to the digital space as the COVID-19 pandemic has brought the sports world to a standstill.

So we decided to have our own draft, with a twist. 

Our three ISU reporters — the Tribune’s Travis Hines and the Des Moines Register’s Randy Peterson and Tommy Birch — held a five-round draft to pick the ultimate Cyclone men’s hoops team.

It was a snake draft, with Randy getting the first pick. Any Cyclone who finished his career at ISU was eligible to be picked. So, for instance, Royce White was available while Wes Johnson (who transferred to Syracuse before becoming a lottery pick) wasn’t.

The idea was to construct the best team to defeat the other two in a seven-game series.

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Take a peek at the rosters and decide who you think would be the ultimate Cyclone team.

Team Randy

PG Monte Morris

SG Tyrus McGee

SF Jeff Grayer

PF Talen Horton-Tucker

C Kelvin Cato

Coach: Fred Hoiberg

I got the first and 13th pick. I got high-end quality with both, and, by the way, a guy named Fred Hoiberg to coach them. I’ll put my overall No. 1 Monte Morris and the 13th selection, intimidating Kelvin Cato, up against Team Tommy and Team Travis anytime.

Team Randy wins a seven-game playoff series against either of them, 4 to 3.

How wrong can you go, when you’ve got a surgeon like Morris running the offense at point guard? The best facilitator in school history, and one of the best college basketball has seen, Monte averaged 10.1 points during a marvelous four-year career. He averaged 5.5 assists against just 1.2 turnovers a game.

He played under two coaches, Hoiberg and Steve Prohm. The current Denver Nugget played on teams that went 100-40 overall and 45-27 in the Big 12. He played in four NCAA Tournaments, including a pair of Sweet 16s.

Look up in a few years when attending a home ISU basketball game. You’ll see his number hanging in the rafters.

Hines picked a run-and-gun team. Birch’s team is brash. My team is both.

Many of you likely don’t recall Cato, but not much got past his 6-foot-11 by 255-pound frame during two seasons in the mid-1990s. He averaged 10.5 points, and an impressive 3.4 blocks during his 58-game career.

There’s a reason opponents made just 40.7 and 42.0 percent of their two-point shots when Cato owned the lane.

Who wins the Royce White vs. Cato battle under the basket? How about Georges Niang going at a guy whose 10-season NBA career included stops at Portland, Houston, Orlando, Detroit and the Knicks?

I was mildly surprised Jeff Grayer was on the board when I was on the 12-second clock again. The school’s career scoring leader was mine. A 52.6 percent shooter who averaged 20.0 points in four seasons was exactly what this team needed. Talk about someone whose game would translate from when he played in the 1980s to now.

It really was a surprise when one of the school’s best 3-point shooters was around with the 12th pick. No way you can let a guy like Tyrus McGee go by. Whatever deficiencies he had on the defense end — and he had more than a few — he made up with his 46.4 percent three-point shooting.

And just think if he played more during his two-season career. A not-so-secret weapon off the bench, McGee played on teams that included White, Scott Christopherson, Chris Allen, Melvin Ejim, Chris Babb, Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious and Niang. There weren’t a lot of available minutes on that team.

One-and-done Talen Horton-Tucker is on Team Randy, too. A Lakers pick in the last NBA draft, we saw his NBA potential very early during his only Iowa State season. It was evident he was destined for the NBA after just a month of games.

And with Hoiberg as the coach?

Good luck beating us.

– Randy Peterson

Team Tommy

PG Jamaal Tinsley

SG Naz Mitrou-Long

SF Georges Niang

PF Marcus Fizer

C Zaid Abdul-Aziz

Coach: Larry Eustachy

My last pick in our draft may have been the most important.

After selecting my five-man roster, I needed the perfect person to run the team. My roster was formed full of strength, size and toughness. Who better to lead a team like that than Larry Eustachy?

Eustachy, who preached toughness to his teams would love coaching a roster that includes size of Zaid Abdul-Aziz, the toughness of Marcus Fizer, the tenacity of Jamaal Tinsey, the versatility of Georges Niang and the sweet shooting with Naz Mitrou-Long.

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No one ever wanted to face one of Eustachy’s tough teams. But with all those other dynamics mixed in? Watch out.

The most impressive part of this team: They’ve won against anyone and everywhere.

Tinsley won at Allen Fieldhouse, Fizer took Iowa State to the Elite Eight, Niang and Mitrou-Long spearheaded perhaps the most successful run in program history and Abdul-Aziz’s jersey hangs in the rafters of Hilton Coliseum. Even Eustachy won over 100 games before his abrupt departure at Iowa State.

Good luck attacking the hoop with the 6-foot-9 Abdul-Aziz in the lane.

Try stopping Fizer who averaged 22.8 points per game during his final season.

You wouldn’t find more of a mismatch nightmare in Niang.

Don’t even think about trying to slow down Tinsley who could weave his way through any sort of traffic to find an open man.

And when the game is on the line, you always knew you could count on Mitrou-Long to hit a big basket, especially if we’re playing Oklahoma State.

The five represent three different areas of ISU basketball but could there be a better locker room? Niang and Mitrou-Long were the perfect two to bring a team together. The two already teamed up to bring together perhaps the most successful ISU squads in school history.

After winning at Phog, Tinsley once famously called it ‘just another gym.’

This isn’t just another team. This is the best Cyclone team you’ll find.

– Tommy Birch

Team Travis

PG Tyrese Haliburton

SG Jeff Hornacek

SF Fred Hoiberg

PF Barry Stevens

C Royce White

Coach: Johnny Orr

This squad is scoring 120 every night out. We might give up 105, but we’re scoring 120.

There’s simply no way of stopping this team offensively. We’ve got five players who legitimately could play point guard. It’s an extremely skilled group. We put Royce White at center, surround him with four guys that can shoot it at a high level and put points on the board.

Barry Stevens is going to fill it up, you guys.

There’s no way to defend it with the space we’d create and five players who all have extremely high basketball IQ. I’ve got two NBA coaches on the floor, after all, in Fred Hoiberg and Jeff Hornacek. Those two have some game, too, if you’ll remember. Hoiberg led the NBA in 3-point shooting percentage in his final season while Hornacek was an All-Star, 20-point scorer and 40 percent career 3-point shooter in the League.

The shooting on this team is obvious, but the passing would be elite, too. White was one of the most creative passers I’ve ever seen while Hornacek was ISU’s all-time assist leader until Monte Morris recently surpassed him. Tyrese Haliburton is a wildly gifted passer, too.

This team might not be the strongest defensively, but, at minimum, we’re capable of switching one-through-four, and here’s guessing I could switch one-through-five in a pinch with what a physical presence White is at his size and with his agility and quickness. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts here, is what I’m saying.

And with Johnny Orr as our coach, there’s no doubt we’re going to get up and down, playing at a blazing pace while we hoist 3s and put the scoreboard to work.

There’s no way any other team is going to be able to keep up with us.

– Travis Hines

All-Time Cyclones Hoops Draft

1. Monte Morris

2. Jamaal Tinsley

3. Royce White

4. Tyrese Haliburton

5. Georges Niang

6. Jeff Grayer

7. Talen Horton-Tucker

8. Marcus Fizer

9. Jeff Hornacek

10. Fred Hoiberg

11. Naz Mitrou-Long

12. Tyrus McGee

13. Kelvin Cato

14. Zaid Abdul-Aziz

15. Barry Stevens

Source: Des Moines Register