Fred Hoiberg has one incoming high school recruit for the 2014-15 season. Not “only” one.
To say “only” is to imply that Iowa State may perhaps be in the midst of a struggle on the recruiting front. The truth is that Ames is not Tucson, Arizona. It’s not Louisville, Kentucky. You’re not going to see four or five or six guys sit in their high school gyms surrounded by friends and family and don a Cyclones cap.
But be certain about two things: First, it’s not for lack of effort on the part of assistant coach and lead recruiter Matt Abdelmassih, who was more anguished than anyone over Rashad Vaughn’s decision to spurn Iowa State for UNLV last month. And second, if Hoiberg and Abelmassih aren’t filling roster spots with 17- or 18-year-olds out of high school, you better believe they will find another way. We’ll get to that in a little bit.
So, one is fine — and he has a name, I promise. Clay Custer — a 6-0, 180 lb. point guard out of Overland Park, Kansas — is your shiny new face for 2014-15. It’s been nearly a year and a half since he made his commitment, and he will join sophomores-to-be Monté Morris and Matt Thomas and junior-to-be Naz Long in a talented young backcourt that will prioritize shooting, high assist-to-turnover ratios and pesky defense — staples of guard play under Hoiberg.
Custer received offers from Houston, San Francisco and Big 12 foes Kansas State and Oklahoma State. He’s a bit more of a slasher than Thomas but not overly creative off the dribble. If you juxtapose the two jumpshots, they’re eerily similar (take a look if you’d like). With DeAndre Kane’s departure, the domino effect will almost certainly allow Custer to fill the reserve point guard role that once belonged to Morris before he was inserted into the starting lineup midseason.
If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a million times: Iowa State University is Division I basketball’s haven for transfers seeking more minutes, more publicity or a second chance. Call it what you wish — right, wrong or a recruiting cop out — but you can’t say it’s not working for Hoiberg. There’s a list of guys that began with Royce White and most recently ended with DeAndre Kane, and the strategy has resurrected the Iowa State basketball program, plain and simple.
McKay comes to Iowa State by way of Indian Hills Community College and Marquette University (where he did not see the floor). He’s a 6-8, 205 lb. combo forward (aren’t they all?) who averaged 16 points and nine rebounds in his final season at Indian Hills. Already enrolled, McKay has been attending classes and practicing with the team this semester but will not be eligible to suit up until spring semester of 2015 — just in time for Big 12 play. The above video for McKay is a mighty impressive collection of highlights. Have a look.
With McKay, Georges Niang, Dustin Hogue, Daniel Edozie and hopefully an improved Percy Gibson, Northern Illinois transfer Abdel Nader will round out what has been talked about as potentially the best frontcourt in the Big 12 entering next season. If you want a body type and style of play comparison, look no further than Melvin Ejim. Nader could improve his perimeter game but otherwise mirrors Ejim’s versatility, quickness and transition game. He led a dreadful NIU team in scoring in his first two years and arrives at Iowa State looking to do much of the same in his final two.
My favorite excerpt from one of Nader’s scouting reports is the following, under Weaknesses: “Nader’s versatility is a benefit but at the same time he does not project to any one position…”
Sound familiar? Forwards have made a living in Hoiberg’s offense by not projecting to any one position, allowing for an inverted style of play that exposes mismatches with opposing defenses. He’s a perfect fit for the Cyclones and should be an immediate contributor in all facets.
So, what does it all mean? What does the 2014-15 Iowa State basketball blueprint look like with the aforementioned pieces in place? If you’ll allow me to play head coach for just a minute, here’s what I think you can expect to see:
The three 2013-14 starters not named Ejim or Kane should remain in place, with Morris occupying a true point guard role that we’ve really only seen from Diante Garrett and Korie Lucious over the past seven years. With the depth expected at the forward position — especially the second half of the season when McKay becomes eligible — look for Nader to join Niang and Hogue in the starting five. Barring injuries, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which McKay starts next season, but he will likely do so in 2015-16 with Hogue’s departure. The tossup remains whether Thomas or Long starts at the second guard spot with Morris. I’m inclined to say Thomas, allowing Long to fill a Tyrus McGee-esque “bench spark” role that, well, let’s just say Oklahoma State has not grown particularly fond of watching.
This then leaves a bench rotation including Long, McKay, Custer, Edozie, Gibson and Sherron Dorsey-Walker — four of which I think could end up with consistent reserve minutes — allowing Hoiberg to comfortably go at least nine deep for the first time during his tenure.