Iowa State’s Talen Horton-Tucker predicts better things to come during his rookie season
Randy Peterson, firstname.lastname@example.org
AMES, Ia. — Talen Horton-Tucker moving to the point?
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm suggested Thursday something intriguing like that could happen at times during Saturday’s 11 a.m. game against Kansas State at Hilton Coliseum.
Using his talented freshman wing player in such a way would free up Lindell Wigginton and Nick Weiler-Babb to do their perimeter things, instead of worrying about being playmakers on every possession. It could also provide Big 12 Conference scoring leader Marial Shayok and Tyrese Haliburton more open shooting looks, because opponents must be wary of Horton-Tucker’s aggressiveness when driving to the basket.
It would be a different approach to the four perimeter-player offense Prohm has used while coaching his 21st-ranked team to records of 12-3 overall and 2-1 in the league.
“Talen can really impact our team, and not score,” Prohm said. “He’s such a facilitator. He’s nine assistants and one turnover (in three Big 12 games). He had five assists and no turnovers against Kansas.
“He’s at the top. The ball’s in his hands a lot. We just have to get him to move it a little quicker — be more efficient with it. He can create offense. He’s a really good creator for us.”
Horton-Tucker to the point against the Wildcats (11-4, 1-2) sounds fascinating.
Remember, back in the 2011-12 season, when Fred Hoiberg used Royce White in a similar role? Remember how well it worked during the superstar’s one-and-done season that included knocking off defending champion Connecticut in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament before losing to eventual champion Kentucky?
The 6-foot-8, 270-pound White handled the ball for a lineup that included Scott Christopherson, Chris Allen, Melvin Ejim and Chris Babb. He averaged 13.4 points and five assists for a team that had records of 12-6 in the Big 12 and 23-11 overall.
He was an unstoppable truck when driving to the hoop. He was a better passer than a distance shooter. He saw things on the court that others didn’t see.
“We don’t have anybody who plays like him, obviously,” UConn coach Jim Calhoun said the day before White & Co. beat his Huskies. “He’s 6-8, 270-pound big, and he’s very athletic. He has a great feel for the game. Any guy who has put up the numbers he’s put up — offensively, rebounding, but particularly assist-wise …
“He’s a terrific, terrific passer.”
And now there’s buzz that something similar could happen with the 6-4, 233-pound Horton-Tucker.
“I like that more,” Horton-Tucker said before practice Thursday. “It takes more pressure off me, scoring-wise. Me being able to do that can help us.”
He has averaged just four points in three conference games after averaging 14.8 against non-league opponents. He’s made just five of his 18 shots against Big 12 competition, including two of nine from 3-point range.
“I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better,” said Horton-Tucker, who made three of his five field-goal attempts against Baylor. “I’m just going through a little rough shooting part right now — going through freshman things.
“I’ll just keep playing my game.”
Wigginton could benefit from the role change, too. He’s been in the sixth-man situation since missing 10 games while recovering from a strained left foot. He’s just a couple 3-point baskets from matching his 40 percent three-point shooting of a season ago. He’s assist-to-turnover ratio (10 assists to six mistakes) isn’t the best yet — although it’s just a four-game sampling since he’s been back on the floor.
“It’s just the way things are going,” he said. “With time, I’ll get my rhythm back.”
Not only did he miss the 10 games, but he also now lives outside the starting lineup — albeit possibly temporarily.
“Definitely an adjustment,” he said. “I haven’t really come off the bench in my career. Whatever the coaches’ gameplan is, I’ll be fine with it.”
As will Horton-Tucker.
Iowa State columnist Randy Peterson has been with the Register for parts of five decades. Randy writes opinion and analysis of Iowa State football and basketball. You can reach Randy at email@example.com or on Twitter at @RandyPete.
Source: Des Moines Register