Key Departures: Jalen C-Lands (–>Kansas); Rasir Bolton (–>Gonzaga); Solomon Young (Grad); Tyler Harris (–>Memphis); Darlinstone Dubar (–>Hofstra)
New In Town: Gabe Kalscheur (<–Minnesota); Izaiah Brockington (<–Penn St); Tristan Enaruna (<–Kansas) Caleb Grill (<–UNLV); Robert Jones (<–Denver); Aljaz Kunc (<–Wash St); Tyrese Hunter (#36)
State of the Program:
I hate to absolutely bury someone but it would be a dereliction of duty if I did not point out that Steve Prohm inherited a red hot program when he arrived to replace Fred Hoiberg 6 years ago and has now left it a complete dumpster fire. His exit comes after a pathetic 2-22 record including an 0-18 record in Big 12 play, quite possibly the worst regular season performance I have ever seen from a high major program. That mess is what TJ Otzelberger gets to inherit, which ironically is very similar to what the aforementioned Fred Hoiberg inherited in his return to college basketball at Nebraska. Otzelberger comes to Iowa St as a young emerging HC after short, successful stints at both S. Dakota St and UNLV. He will attempt to resurrect this program from the cellar of the Big 12 and in year 1 will be relying virtually solely on transfers. He will get a few pieces back, including Javan Johnson (SR) and Tre Jackson (JR). This roster turnover, that is almost inevitable following a coaching change, presents Otzelberger with an extremely difficult task, but also a long leash as the expectations are very low.
Leading the transfer party is G Gabe Kalscheur (SR), who comes to the program from Minnesota after averaging 10 ppg and shot 35% from 3. His numbers consistently got worse YOY despite him coming in as a FR and starting all 88 games he played in. His Freshman season he shot 41% from 3, last season he was down to 24%. The Cyclones will hope Gabe can channel his former stroke, and if he does he’ll be one of the better players on this roster. Also coming in from the Big Ten is G Izaiah Brockington (SR), who averaged 12 ppg for Penn St a year ago. He doesn’t shoot it very well but he’s an electric athlete that excels in transition, and he should have a shot to start in the backcourt. Kansas transfer wing Tristan Enaruna (JR) comes in as a former top-100 recruit that wasn’t able to break through the deep Kansas roster and establish any meaningful role. He has potential as a 3 and D type of player, and could even play a stretch 4 role as his 6’9” frame and shooting stroke make him a prime candidate. G Caleb Grill (JR) is following his coach from UNLV back to Ames where he began his career after starting every game a season ago. Grill is a developing shooter and if he can continue to improve, went from 25% to 34%, then he will certainly earn playing time. His athleticism will be the one thing that could hold him back behind the other guys fighting for backcourt minutes. 6’10” big man Robert Jones (JR) will battle returners George Conditt IV (SR) and Xavier Foster (R-FR) for time at the 5. Jones averaged 9 and 5 over 2 seasons with Denver, starting 37 games. He may have a tough time breaking through this season as he is the smallest of the trio, and Foster was a top-100 recruit who is a very promising 7 footer. Another guy who will compete for big minutes as a stretch 4 is Washington St transfer Aljaz Kunc (SR). Kunc improved slowly each year and last season had a couple breakout games that flashed some promise. He is a good not great shooter but can be a really good rebounder when he’s locked in. His development, focus, and effort will determine just how much of a role he will earn. The final newcomer in this big class is the lone Freshman PG Tyrese Hunter (#36). Hunter is a very freakish athlete that excels when attacking the basket, and has potential as an elite two-way guard similar to the likes of Davion Mitchell. He will have to continue to develop his jump shot but he is already good enough to battle returner Tre Jackson and transfer Caleb Grill for the starting PG spot.
Turmoil and turnover are the key factors in what I expect to be another season at the basement of the Big 12 for the Cyclones. They have some interesting pieces coming in but none of them look ready to become a star that can lead this team out of the cellar. Otzelberger’s real challenge is going to be managing all of these personalities and trying to establish the culture that he wants. How he’s able to recruit in the year’s coming to establish some stability is going to be key, especially in this era of immediate transfer eligibility. It will be hard to hold onto guys that emerge as potential leaders when you’re not winning as they can transfer immediately to a contender. Of all of the rebuilds in the country this is likely the most difficult, and Otzelberger will be reliant upon a group of misfits making it all the more difficult. What he at least knows is this group should be full of guys also trying to prove themselves as stars in their own right, an energy he will hope to channel in order to get this program in a more competitive state. It’s only up from 0-18.