Conference Rank: #9 Big 12 Conference
2008-09: 15-17, 4-12
2008-09 postseason: none
Coach: Greg McDermott (44-51 at Iowa State, 265-178 overall)
Iowa State, or perhaps most of the state of Iowa, breathed a sigh of relief when big man Craig Brackins opted to return back to school. Last year’s team was built around him and this one will be too. The difference is Coach Greg McDermott finally has some talented players returning and this is suddenly a Cyclones team that could make a little noise in the Big 12. At the least, they will be much better than 4-12.
Key Losses: G Sean Haluksa, G Bryan Petersen, F Alex Thompson
Most of the players who will be asked to contribute this year at least have some experience playing college basketball. Junior college transfers LaRon Dendy and Marquis Gilstrap will both be asked to contribute immediately. In fact, Gilstrap could be the starting small forward from day one. Redshirt freshman L.A. Pomlee and Alex Dorr will provide even more depth at the forward spots. Scott Christopherson, a transfer from Marquette, might emerge as the outside shooting threat this team needs. He did not play much with the Golden Eagles, but he has potential. The key freshman for this class is point guard Chris Colvin. It is unlikely that he will start, but he is a great pick up for the Cyclones and should see major minutes this season.
The starting point guard spot is Diante Garrett’s. The 6-4 junior dished out 5.0 assists per game last year and started every single game. He is not much of a shooter, but he is a good scorer who will use his size and speed to get to the basket. Now that he is an upperclassman, Garrett needs to turn into the leader of this group. Most of the outside shooting came from Lucca Staiger. At times he was very inconsistent, but he still hit 38.5 percent of his attempts from beyond the arc and averaged 8.2 points per game. The backcourt is going to have to be more productive this season if Iowa State has postseason hopes and most of pressure will fall on the shoulders of Garrett and Staiger.
The frontcourt certainly does not lack in experience. Center Justin Hamilton started 18 games last year and Jamie Vanderbeken, who only earned one start, averaged over 15 minutes per game. By the numbers Vanderbeken was the slightly more productive player of the two last season, but Hamilton is more of a physical player under the basket. Add Dendy to the mix and the frontcourt is an experienced group who can at least hit the glass and clog the paint. If somebody, most likely Vanderbeken, can emerge as a more consistent scorer in the paint it would go a long way in helping create space for Brackins to do his thing.
Who to Watch:
And it will be Brackins once again who carries this team. As a sophomore last year the 6-10 Palmdale, California product averaged an impressive 20.2 points and 9.5 rebounds. What makes those numbers even more extraordinary is the fact that the opposition always knew that Brackins was going to get the ball and do a majority of the scoring. But they still could not stop him. His ability to score with his back to the basket or step away and hit the occasional three-pointer makes him a dynamic scorer and it will be hard to stop him again in 2009-2010.
But this team could be really good if Brackins gets more help from his teammates. If Staiger can consistently hit the long ball and Garrett can do a better job taking care of the ball, the Cyclones will be playing important games in March. But Brackins needs help up front too and the Gilstrap and Dendy better be ready to contribute. This group might not be ready for the NCAA tournament after winning just four conference games last year, but they should be an NIT team.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NIT
Projected Starting Five:
Diante Garrett, Junior, Guard, 9.8 points per game
Lucca Staiger, Junior, Guard, 8.2 points per game
Marquis Gilstrap, Senior, Forward, DNP last season
Craig Brackins, Junior, Forward, 20.2 points per game
Justin Hamilton, Sophomore, Center, 4.2 points per game