Sunday's NCAA tournament loss to Ohio State will take some time to get over. If you're like me, you'll probably spend the next few days watching highlights of the game or re-watching the last five minutes, searching for where things went wrong, wishing for a different result. It's going to sting for some time but such is the nature of having a rooting interest; things aren't always going to go your way.
In spite of that painful feeling, it's an appropriate time to reflect back on an uncharacteristic group of seniors, who's style of play and unique bond came to define the last two years of Iowa State basketball. The Transfer Experiment, as we all called it at the time was a resounding success no matter how you spin it and Chris Babb, Anthony Booker, Will Clyburn, Korie Lucious, and Tyrus McGee, along with Chris Allen and Royce White, all will hold a special place in the hearts of Cyclone basketball fans for years to come.
As you probably know, none of those seven young men began their careers in Ames, but in need of a second chance, they all put their faith in a young coach who'd never manned the sidelines in a game at any level because they believed in him and they believed in what he could do for their development as basketball players. The gamble worked out for everyone.
Watching an accomplished group of seniors don the Cardinal and Gold for the last time is always tough, but it will be especially tough to say good bye to this group. After all, the five seniors on this year's team were at the forefront of the resurgence of Cyclone basketball on a national stage after six years of futility. It may have not always been pretty and at times, the chemistry did seem to be off, but there's no question that this group of seniors were "true Cyclones".
"Black Lit" as we came to call him on WRNL came to ISU from Southern Illinois. Over his two years, he earned a reputation as a sound post defender and solid rebounder that had the ability to step out and knock down a three. Booker didn't have the senior season he had hoped for and his frustration was both visible in his play and his Twitter account, but he played very well down the stretch, giving a great effort off the bench and stabilizing Iowa State's interior.
The talented Clyburn began his collegiate career at Marshalltown Community College and was a recruiting target of Greg McDermott's, but in our former coach's infinite wisdom, he decided DeMarcus Phillips was a better fit and Clyburn reluctantly took his game to Utah where he put up impressive numbers for the Utes. The ouster of Utah coach Jim Boylen, however, led to Clyburn opting to transfer and Fred Hoiberg was quick to swoop in and bring Clyburn to Ames. In his one season in Ames, Clyburn led the Cyclones in scoring and was voted as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year by the league's coaches. He put together an impressive dunk-reel and turned in a few memorable performances along the way. He'll likely get a shot at the next level as some scouts feel he could be a second-round draft pick.
Korie and the Iowa State fan base got off to a rocky start and he was a frequent target for criticism in non-conference play, but to his credit, Lucious became the floor general we all hoped he'd be over the course of Big 12 play and nearly led ISU to a Sweet 16 berth as he paced the scoring against Ohio State with 19 points on 5-7 3-point shooting. Lucious finished 3rd in the conference in assists and while not known as a shooter, he became one of ISU's more reliable outside threats down the stretch.
We'll all miss the Stringtown references and "Mc3". I know I'll remember McGee as one of the more clutch players to come through Hilton Coliseum and one of the best pure shooters in Cyclone history. He was named the Big 12's 6th Man of the Year and very well may have been the best 6th man in the country this season. His prolific shooting may have earned him a shot at a career in professional basketball. He has unlimited range and can create his own shot. That type of skillset at least could get him a look from an NBA scout or two.
Of all these seniors, Babb is by far the guy I'm going to miss the most, which makes the way his career ended all the more disheartening. For a guy like Babb, who I believe was the consumate "glue guy" these last two years, he deserved to go out on his terms. Unfortunately, a turned ankle kept him out of the second half of the loss to Ohio State and you have to wonder how that game would have turned out if Babb had been able to go. Iowa State is going to sorely miss his outstanding defense and his all-around clutch play. He'll always be remembered for his dagger 3's against Kansas in 2012 and against Oklahoma in the 2013 Big 12 tournament, but I'll always remember him for a brief conversation he and I had before he'd ever played a game in a Cyclone uniform. I went to watch a Capitol City League game a few years ago and Babb showed up by himself and sat down near me and saw that I was wearing Iowa State gear and asked me what I thought of Hoiberg and the team. I told him we fans were pretty excited and looking forward to the coming years. Babb kind of got a serious look and said he couldn't wait to hit the floor and help get Iowa State back to the NCAA tournament. He then thanked me for the support and got up and went on his way. Three years later, I want to thank him for how he represented Iowa State and helping to bring the "Magic" back to Hilton Coliseum.
WRNL wishes this group of seniors (Austin McBeth as well) the best of luck and we're really going to miss watching this group. Thank you again for all you did for Iowa State. Go Cyclones!