Melvin Ejim quietly emerges for Cyclones
Sophomore Melvin Ejim is starting to live up to the promise he
showed when he started his career at Iowa State.
While his well-traveled teammates have grabbed the spotlight
this season, Ejim has quietly emerged as a key cog for the
Cyclones. The 6-foot-6 forward from Toronto has blossomed into a
steady swingman between star post player Royce White and Iowa
State’s trio of talented guards; Chris Allen, Scott Christopherson
and Chris Babb.
Ejim is averaging 8.9 points a game, ranks ninth in the Big 12
with 6.4 rebounds a game and is shooting a respectable 46.6 percent
from the floor. He’s also coming off one of his best games
statistically of the season, scoring 17 points with seven rebounds
and four assists in a 79-64 loss at No. 9 Baylor on Monday
Ejim and the Cyclones (18-8, 8-5 Big 12) will go for their
fourth win in six games when they host Oklahoma on Saturday.
”He’s been awesome for us. We don’t run a lot of offense
through him, but he still finds a way to be very productive,”
coach Fred Hoiberg said. ”The best thing he does is, Melvin
defends every night and he goes out there and does a great job on
Few that saw Ejim play early in his freshman season would be
surprised he’s making an impact for the Cyclones, who are currently
in decent shape for their first NCAA tournament bid in seven
Ejim started from opening night for a team that severely lacked
depth, scoring in double figures in each of his first six games.
But in Big 12 play, Ejim was seemingly nowhere to be found.
His shooting percentage dipped to 41.3 percent and his scoring
average fell by nearly five points in league games. It was a
surprising slump for a player who’d experienced immediate success,
and it served as a valuable lesson for how tough life is in the Big
”Freshman year is kind of a learning curve, especially when it
comes to the Big 12. It’s a whole different type of ballgame,”
Ejim said. ”I’ve been trying to become more consistent and just
trying to help the team win, do whatever I can, whether that means
being an offensive rebounder or score when I have the opportunity
Hoiberg stuck with Ejim despite his late-season slump, and he
and Christopherson were the only returning starters for 2011-12.
Ejim started this season slowly. But in a pleasantly ironic twist,
he’s been better this season in the Big 12 than he was in
”It was a great learning experience for him. It was a great
opportunity as a freshman to get as many minutes as he did, and I
think he could really tell how much he learned from last year,”
Ejim has scored at least 12 points in five of his last eight
games – strong numbers considering he’s hardly ever the top option
in Iowa State’s offensive sets and is playing just 23 minutes per
game. His point totals have slowly risen since early January and
his rebounding has remained solid.
Opponents ”bring a lot of attention to Royce and the guards, so
I just try to make myself available,” Ejim said. ”I just try to
pick my poison sometimes and see where I can be most
On a team with one of the nation’s most intriguing players in
White and three guards who can score from anywhere, Ejim is easy to
overlook. The Cyclones know they likely wouldn’t be pushing for a
bid to the NCAA tournament without him.
”He’s very versatile, and even as a defender he’s very
versatile. He can guard multiple people,” White said. ”Besides
myself, he’s probably the most versatile player that we’ve got in
terms of who he can guard and where he can play on the floor.”