Transfers to fuel Cyclones in 2011-12
AMES, Iowa (AP)
Iowa State is set to pose a fascinating question to the rest of college basketball.
Can a team made up almost entirely of transfers win anything?
Their starting backcourt features players from Marquette, Michigan State and Penn State, and their top post player, Big 12 preseason newcomer of the year Royce White, was once a Golden Gopher.
This is all part of a grand experiment by second-year coach Fred Hoiberg, who is as homegrown as they come.
Hoiberg has adopted an unorthodox rebuilding strategy the league will be keeping a close eye on as he welcomes guards Chris Allen and Chris Babb and forwards White and Anthony Booker, who all sat out last year. Iowa State, which finished 16-16 in 2010-11, opens against Lehigh on Nov. 12.
''I can't even explain to you how excited I am to get this season under way,'' Hoiberg said. ''There's been a lot of excitement about this team, with getting the four guys that sat out, getting those guys eligible. Very excited to have those guys on board.''
On paper, Iowa State's got enough talent to make a serious move in the Big 12.
The three-man backcourt is made up of players who've already proven themselves on the major college level.
Allen, the former Spartan, has played in as many NCAA tournament games as Iowa State has in nearly 20 years - and he's got something to prove both to his new team and NBA scouts in his final college season.
Babb, who averaged 9.3 points a game for Penn State in 2009-10, is also expected to start. Junior college star Tyrus McGee, who hit nearly 50 percent of his 3-point shots a year ago, should be the first guard off the bench.
The ringleader will be senior Scott Christopherson, who transferred from Marquette to play for former coach Greg McDermott and averaged a career-high 13.7 points a game in 2010-11.
The Cyclones have a lot to sort out with all the new faces
''I talk to our guys all the time, just about having that chemistry,'' Hoiberg said. ''It doesn't matter how talented you are. If you don't have chemistry, you're not going to achieve your goals. I understand where certain people have questions about this team. I still have questions about this team.''
White has already been hailed as the Big 12's best newcomer by the league's coaches without ever playing a game in college. The 6-foot-8, 270-pound White, who spent a lost season at Minnesota, is one of the strongest players the program's ever had, and Hoiberg said he's never seen someone as big as White pass as well as he can.
Melvin Ejim, who along with Christopherson is the only starter back from last year's team, must figure out how to thrive once league play begins. Ejim's Big 12 slump was symptomatic of Iowa State's struggles as the depth-challenged Cyclones stumbled to a 3-13 mark.
White and Ejim should have help from freshman Percy Gibson and Booker, who transferred from Southern Illinois.
''We will get up and down. We'll take a lot of threes again this year. But we will have more options on the block,'' Hoiberg said. ''We'll have some options this year.''
Iowa State was picked to finish eighth in the 10-team Big 12 this season, an understandable slot for a team few can put their fingers on.
The Cyclones could finish first and they could finish last, though somewhere in the middle seems about right.
Either way, Iowa State figures to be one of the league's most interesting teams.
''I'm excited about the expectations. We had zero expectations last season,'' Hoiberg said. ''Expectations are high, and that's what we want. We want to be in a position where we're competing for a Big 12 championship.''