While taking in the second round of Capital City League action on Wednesday night, I realized something; the way I view these players and how I "grade" their development has changed. On the surface, that may sound narcissistic or come off as pretentious, especially coming from a lowly blogger like myself, but I don't think I'm alone in this feeling.
After four years, Fred Hoiberg has not only elevated the status of the Iowa State program, he's made the Cyclones a perennial player on the national level. The NCAA tournament isn't merely a goal for this program, it's a minimum expectation.
That's why I've enjoyed these first two nights of summer league ball so much. A few short years ago, I came to these games hoping to be surprised. Now, I come expecting to be satisfied. Hoiberg has taken Iowa State far beyond the place where we hope to stumble across a Wesley Johnson, but instead, the players that are now entering this program come in with widely acknowledged talent and ability. People are showing up to these CCL games to confirm what they already believe...this team is going to be very good.
Notes and Takeaways
Game 1 saw Clayton Custer and Abdel Nader of Capital Orthopedics outlast a strong effort from Sherron Dorsey-Walker and Dustin Hogue and their Coca-Cola Bottling Company of Atlantic team, 123-116.
- On Sunday night, Custer failed to knock down a 3-pointer. On Wednesday, he silenced some premature doubts about his shooting ability, hitting 7-12 from deep en route to scoring 33 points. Custer also dished out 9 assists on the night. He hit shots from outside both in transition and in the half court set. It was the type of confident stroke that you want to see out of a guy who's going to be battling for minutes in the back court. That being said, Custer was a little loose with the ball and did have his pocket picked a few times. I was surprised to see that he only had 4 turnovers because I expected the number to be higher. Without looking at the box score, a buddy that I watched the games with suspected that Custer had 30 points, but noted that it was an "ugly 30". Harsh, but if Custer is going to see serious time as a freshman, especially as the back up point guard, there can't be any doubts about his ability to tote the rock. Something to keep an eye on going forward.
- Abdel Nader grew as a player during his transfer year. Seeing what he did at Northern Illinois, it was easy to be underwhelmed, but Nader has the look of a guy that's going to be an impact player over the next two years. Physically, he's going to be able to hold his own with most guys in the post and I'm blown away by his explosiveness. From a skill standpoint, his offensive game is polished and he's really capable of doing a lot of things with the basketball in his hands. He's a surprisingly adequate ball handler with what appears to be above average vision. He can attack off the dribble and his outside shot looked simple and pure as he hit 6-10 from deep, scoring 31 points on the night. I've been very impressed out of what I've seen from Nader after two outings.
- On the losing side, Dustin Hogue tallied 33 points and 9 rebounds and showed some visible frustration. Partially with the officiating and partially because he should have got the damn ball on every possession. He was a perfect 14-14 from inside the arc and he simply could not be stopped in the post. Had he been given the chances, he could have easily gone for 50. A very strong night for the Hogue.
- While Hogue failed to hit 50, his running mate, Dorsey-Walker, did hit that clip. The rising redshirt sophomore scored 51 points on 20-33 shooting (7-16 from 3PT). This was an easy-going 51 for Dorsey-Walker in that I don't think a soul in the gym thought he scored that many points. We saw SDW put up some lofty numbers last summer that yielded minimal playing time, but I continue to stick by my assertion that this guy can contribute in a big way this year (and he'll likely have to early).
In game 2, Walnut Creek YMCA dominated ADIO Chiropractic, 127-104. For the second straight game, both Monte Morris and Matt Thomas did not play for ADIO Chiropractic. Morris is playing with the U.S.A. under-20 team in France and Thomas is likely taking a little time off from the public spotlight after his arrest last weekend. This game did feature the Cyclone debut of Oregon State transfer Hallice Cooke.
- Speaking of Cooke, let's start with him. He came to Ames with the reputation of a dynamic shooter and boys and girls, he did not disappoint. The official stat sheet says Cooke shot 10-18, but I don't believe it. I honestly don't remember him missing a shot. He hit 7-13 from 3-point range and scored 29 points. He also dished out 8 assists and grabbed 8 rebounds. He's every bit of 6'3" and looked like a natural combo guard, comfortable both with the ball in his hands and getting looks coming off screens. Between Cooke, Dorsey-Walker, Thomas and Naz Long, there's going to be some serious competition for minutes in the back court in 2015-2016.
- The literal highlight of the night was Jameel McKay. He had a pretty spectacular put-back dunk on Sunday, but didn't get many other chances to rattle the rim in his CCL debut. That changed on Wednesday. McKay threw down EH-VREE-THANG. I almost feel guilty for only having words to share about some of these dunks. If there's video, we'll find it, but good lord, this man is a
I did not stick around for the final game of the evening, but Renaissance Granite and Quartz, led by Georges Niang and walk-on, Kourtlin Jackson, brought home a 119-104 victory over Phoenix Renewable Resources, who was without Naz Long, who was resting a sore groin.
- According to the box score, Niang scored 45 points and shot 17-30 from the floor (4-13 from deep) and grabbed 12 rebounds.
- Jackson chipped in with 24 points.
- On the losing side, Daniel Edozie had 20 points and 14 rebounds.