Coach Steve Prohm talks about what he expects from Tyrese Haliburton.
Randy Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
AMES, Ia. — Iowa State’s basketball season begins Tuesday against Mississippi Valley State at 7 p.m. in Hilton Coliseum. In Game 2, Steve Prohm’s team jumps into a very good non-conference schedule — Nov. 9 at Oregon State in a 3:30 p.m. game that’s on the Pac-12 Network.
Here are 10 thoughts ahead of the Cyclones’ 2019-20 season:
1. From where does the scoring come?
Offsetting the departure of 2018-19’s backcourt of Marial Shayok, Talen Horton-Tucker, Lindell Wigginton and Nick Weiler-Babb won’t be a three-point swish — or even a slam dunk. A total of 210 of the team’s 294 3-pointers were made by players not returning from last season’s NCAA Tournament team. Players who combined to average 60.7 of last season’s team average of 76.9 are gone.
So where’s the scoring coming from? Tyrese Haliburton, Rasir Bolton and Prentiss Nixon are the main hopes.
“Our team this year has to find different ways to score,” Prohm said. “Can we score on the offensive glass? Can we score by turning people over? Can we score underneath (from) out of bounds?”
Great questions, each of them.
“Bolton can make a play,” Prohm said. “I know Prentiss can get a shot off. Haliburton can make a play for somebody else. Tre Jackson can make open shots. We can score inside with Solomon (Young), George (Conditt) and Mike (Jacobson). We’re going to run.”
How about this: Between 15 and 17 points a game for Haliburton and Bolton, 12 and 15 for Nixon and Jacobson, and 10 from the Young-Conditt combination, and a suitable contribution from the bench?
2. Are we over-anticipating Rasir Bolton’s contribution?
Sure, it’s possible. The Penn State transfer is a 36.1% 3-point shooter. He’s quick, he’s got major-conference starting experience, and just as important is that a true freshman won’t be forced into action before he’s ready.
“I like to play fast, and in transition,” Bolton said.
Unless Haliburton has a sudden shooting epiphany, Bolton must score better than the 11.6 points he averaged last season. “He’s been a double-figure scorer in the Big Ten as a freshman, so that says a lot,” Prohm said. “We need a guard that can score — we lost four guys that were double-figure scorers. We need one more scoring punch on the perimeter.”
3. Pressure is on the transfers to be good, immediately.
Assuming the starting lineup includes Haliburton, Bolton and Nixon — that means two-thirds of the primary shooting positions are players untested at Iowa State and within the Big 12.
Bolton started for a bad Penn State team before transferring after last season. Nixon was a defensive whiz previously at Colorado State. How their styles fit in with the up-and-down tempo of the Big 12 isn’t yet known.
I’m assuming both will transition without major hiccups, because Prohm is a guard-focused coach. However, people are right to wonder.
Haliburton will be the primary ball-handler. Nixon, who learned under defensive-minded Larry Eustachy at Colorado State, is expected to be the perimeter stopper. Bolton can do everything expected of a combo guard.
“He gives us another opportunity on the floor,” Prohm said of Bolton. “He can play some (point), and we can put Tyrese in a couple of different positions, offensively. He’ll be a good scoring punch. He can score from three, but he’s really good off the dribble. He can put pressure in the paint.”
4. Haliburton has to look to score more.
The important thing here is that he knows it.
If Iowa State is to finish in the Big 12’s upper half, the silky-smooth guard must not only facilitate from the point, but also get scoring opportunities for himself. Unless teammates score more prodigiously than I think they will, he has to become a person who looks for himself more.
“I’m definitely going to have to create shots, sometimes,” said Haliburton, a 43% 3-point shooter last season. “With all the talent we had last year, I was kind of an outlier. This year will be a bit different. If I have to go out there and get 30 … it’s all situational.”
5. There’s a quagmire of how to rotate the bigs.
That’s not been an Iowa State staple, but with Young, Jacobson and Conditt, it’s tough to keep two of them on the bench. Thus, the staff must figure out a workable combination.
Jacobson will start at the four position (with backup from Zion Griffin) after starting each game in the post last season. Young (rebounder) or Conditt (shot-blocker) will start in the post, and that begs the question:
Can the perimeter players shoot well enough to make this lineup plausible? I wouldn’t be shocked to see the 6-foot-5 Haliburton slide to the four-position at times on offense — if newcomer Tre Jackson becomes the scorer many believe he can become.
6. This team’s identity had better include defense
So many what-ifs about where the scoring comes from — and remember, the Cyclones led the Big 12 in this department last season — means this team had better be able to defend. Haliburton averaged 1.5 steals a game last season, while Nixon averaged the same during his final season at Colorado State.
“The biggest thing he needs to do is be an elite defender,” Prohm said of Nixon. “He’s got to be our toughest guy.”
Nixon drew 55 offensive fouls in 2017-18, the last time he played. Eustachy typically assigned him to the opponent’s best perimeter player.
The Cyclones must improve from their mid-Big 12 standing in field-goal defense, three-point defense and defensive rebounding in order to prove wrong the coaches who picked them for a seventh-place Big 12 finish.
7. Here’s the thinking behind Mike Jacobson’s position switch.
After playing almost exclusively in the post last season, the 6-foot-9 senior is moving to the wing. The hope is to provide mismatches against less-agile power forwards, both in long-range shooting and drives to the basket.
“It’s all about matchups and how they guard us,” he said. “I can post guys up, drive them and shoot the three.”
Keep an eye on that three-point. A 34-percent shooter last season from distance, Jacobson can be a perimeter force. Opponents must respect him if he’s shooting at a decent percentage, which could neatly open things for Young and Conditt in the middle.
8. Newcomers Tre Jackson and Caleb Grill will make first-year impact.
A combo guard from Maize, Kansas, Grill averaged 18.4 points while making 35 percent of his three-point shots as a high school senior. Eventually, he could help fill the team’s long-range accurate shooting necessity.
“He’s obviously a great athlete — he played four sports in high school,” Prohm said. “As a freshman, he has a chance to come in and help us. He can make shots. He’s versatile on the perimeter.”
Jackson, a 6-1 rookie who’s primarily a point guard, averaged 20 points while playing at Blythewood High School in Columbia, South Carolina, last season. He’s another scoring option — once he gets the feel of big-time ball.
“He’s done a good job — he can defend the ball, he competes, he’s tough and he can really make shots,” Prohm said. “But he needs to slow down, and he needs to take care of the ball better. I like to play him at the 2, as well, so he doesn’t always have to be the constant decision-maker.”
9. Finally, Solomon Young is healthy again. And that’s big for Iowa State.
Broken hand as a freshman. Torn meniscus the next season. Groin injury and shoulder surgery as a junior.
“Everything happens for a reason. It happened, and I’m here now,” Young said recently.
Iowa State needs all the healthy Solo, as they call him, as it can get after an impressive sophomore season in which he averaged 7.2 points and 5.9 rebounds.
He’s more rebounder than shot-blocker. At 6-8 and 242 pounds, the redshirt junior is as athletically rugged under the hoop as anyone — when he’s healthy.
“This year, you’ll see me getting the ball a lot more,” Young said. “Being here four years, I’ll play more of a leadership role than in the past.
“I’m a competitor. I love the sport and I love the game. What I’ve been through has been both frustrating and motivating for me.”
10. About that non-conference schedule …
It’s one of the better ones in recent program history.
After playing at Oregon State, there’s the prestigious Battle 4 Atlantis, with a first-round date on Nov. 27 against Michigan. Iowa State’s opponent after that will be either 11th-ranked North Carolina or Alabama. The lower bracket consists of No. 7 Gonzaga, Southern Mississippi, 13th-ranked Seton Hall and No. 14 Oregon.
Additionally, the Cyclones host Seton Hall in the Big 12/Big East scheduling alliance and host Big Ten Iowa before opening Big 12 play on Jan. 4 at TCU.
DraftKings.com predicts 19½ wins for Iowa State and Michigan, 16 for Iowa and 13 for Seton Hall, for what it’s worth.
It’s an ambitious offering for a team with at least two newcomers in significant starting roles. It’s also a good prelude to the Big 12’s round-robin scheduling grind.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been writing for the Des Moines Register for parts of five decades. Reach him at email@example.com, 515-284-8132, and on Twitter at @RandyPete. No one covers the Cyclones like the Register. Subscribe today at Des Moines Register.com/Deal to make sure you never miss a moment.
Source: Des Moines Register