In just a few short months at the helm, one striking change has emerged as Iowa State transitions from the Mayor's Age to the Prohman Empire. ISU will seemingly have more action around the fall early signing period than in previous years.
A lot of this action can be attributed to having almost half (6/13) of their scholarships available, but given Steve Prohm's record of recruiting and developing talent, it would be reasonable to assume the Cyclones' time as "Transfer U" may be winding down.
That's not to say that Iowa State isn't going to look for talent wherever they can find it, but Coach Dreamy definitely left this program in a much better position than when he took over and drastically increased its national recruiting profile. If Coach Prohm can ride this crop of talent to another successful season and keep the Iowa State brand nationally relevant, then recruiting top high school talent, as opposed to transfers and junior college prospects, would figure to become more of the norm.
Let's take a look at where the Cyclones stand heading into the November 11th early signing date.
2016 Commitments Expected to Sign NLI's
Donovan Jackson | Jr. PG | 6'2" - 175 lbs | Iowa Western Community College (IA)
Solomon Young | Fr. F | 6'6" - 215 lbs | Sacramento, California
Emmanuel Malou | Jr. PF | 6'9" 210 lbs | Yuba College (CA)
Jakolby Long | Fr. SG | 6'4" 200 lbs | Mustang, Oklahoma
Cyclones Trying to Close in the Windy City
Coach Prohm has been hard at work in the Chicago-land area trying to reel in Top-100 guard prospects Charlie Moore and Zach Norvell in recent weeks. Although Norvell ultimately committed to Gonzaga, it's clear that an emphasis is being put on solidifying the future backcourt with another high school prospect.
While some would argue that already having both a point guard in this class would be detrimental to the Cyclones' case for Moore, you could also make a case that the other commitments have allowed the staff to put together an effective pitch for the highly touted Moore.
Allow me to explain.
There is a lot to be determined at the point guard position after the 2015-16 season. Jackson will be entering his senior season and Monte may or may not be entering the professional ranks. As a team, you are flirting with disaster if you don't have two natural players to run the point. We've been blessed the last couple years to have Monte Morris playing ungodly minutes and the unique Georges Niang to spell him when necessary. If Monte leaves, we'll be left with Jackson and a back up playing out of position.
For that reason, Charlie Moore would be a fantastic fit. Moore has taken official visits to Cal, Memphis and VCU, and if the Cyclones can secure a visit at some point, that would bode well for their chances.
While he doesn't quite have the size of Monte, I think he's got a little more wiggle to his game. He displays great court vision and ability to navigate traffic. It's hard to really compare him to an Iowa State player of recent memory, however, he reminds me a bit of former Baylor point guard, Pierre Jackson.
Moore has talked openly about his desire to take an official visit to Ames, but nothing has been worked out as of yet. With the early signing period coming so soon, it would very much work in Iowa State's favor if Moore decides to hold off on his commitment until the spring.
Three Things I Think
As we wrap up the fall recruiting period, irrespective of pending decisions, here's a few points I want to touch on in regards to how the last few months have gone for the Cyclones.
1. Retaining TJ Otzelberger was Huge
By no means am I trying to devalue what Prohm and the rest of the staff have done, but to successfully get through the coaching transition with so many roster spots available, TJ's continuity and familiarity with these recruits was paramount in putting together a solid first class. Otz doing Otz things allowed other coaches to focus on their target areas and open up recruiting pipelines that haven't been recently frequented by Iowa State.
Daniyal Robinson was able to open doors for Iowa State in Chicago by recruiting Top-100 guards Charlie Moore and Zach Norvell. Norvell's recruitment may pay dividends down the line, as Simeon is an extremely successful program that has turned out prospects like Jabari Parker and Derrick Rose.
Prohm and ISU assistant coach William Small have been able to tap recruiting lines in the southeast to try and reel in several Top-100 prospects. While ultimately unsuccessful this year, this opens up a whole new region for Iowa State recruiting as well.
2. Creation of Class/Talent/Positional Balance
Take a look at the updated scholarship chart below. If Prohm can secure a high school point guard prospect before the spring signing deadline (and assume no transfer/draft attrition), then you've got three seniors lined up from the 2016/17 season through the 2019/20 season. Not only that, but those seniors are a mix of guards and forwards, transfers and high school prospects.
What this balance does is allow you to focus more on positional recruiting and roster development than just recruiting to fill half of your roster and figuring out a system that gels with the talent you've acquired.
When you return a solid core of players every year and consistently retain and develop players in your program, you're recruiting to develop talent or take fliers on "one and done's" without leaving gaping holes in your projected starting lineup. This allows a program to develop depth and continuity in its system. Fred was almost always able to fill those gaps via transfers after swinging and missing on blue chippers, but you can't always trust that as a reliable option.
3. Don't Get Hung Up on Rankings
Malou and Jackson are highly rated junior college prospects, but priority rankings are almost always slanted toward top high school talent as opposed to JUCOs. Neither Solomon Young nor Jakolby Long are "Top-100" guys, but when you look at the roster for next year after the staff added Simeon Carter, Brady Ernst and the two JUCOs, it gets a little muddy as far as projecting playing time -- which is huge to a lot of the top guys.
Both Young and Long are great developmental prospects. They possess good positional size, they're quality defenders and they work hard on the basketball court. Let me give you a scenario by jumping ahead to the 2018-19 season and comparing these two players to recent Iowa State players whose size and style of play they remind me of.
I'll start with Jakolby Long. If he puts on a little weight, keeps working on that 3-pointer and continues to develop as a lockdown defender, I think you'll eventually see a player resembling Chris Babb. In his first year after his transfer season with the Cyclones, Babb put up a line of 7.8 points, 4.1 rebounds, 1.6 assists and a steal in 33 minutes per game. It's not unrealistic to see a starting shooting guard put up those numbers by year three.
I've already made the Young/Ejim comparisons before. Go back and watch that video and try to remember the Ejim we saw in his sophomore and junior years. 9.3 points and 6.6 rebounds sophomore year and 11.3 points and 9.3 rebounds his junior year are not completely unattainable numbers for a guy who works hard, rebounds and is frequently in the right place at the right time.
My point with all of this is that even though Young and Long are not "top guys," by watching the videos you can see their upside. If they develop on the same career arcs as those two great Cyclones, everyone will forget about their rankings coming out of high school. Let the coaching staff do their job and develop them before rushing to judgement.
My Worthless Wishes
I'd grade out the 2016 class to this point as a solid 'B+' on my scale that means absolutely nothing. The staff has done a fantastic job of plugging roster holes with talented prospects and finding guys that will fit Coach Prohm's system. Filling four out of six spots this early allows for a lot of flexibility going forward, as most of the "needs" have been met. If ISU is able to secure a high school point guard, like Moore, then I would gladly bump this up to the 'A' range.
I've said before that I wouldn't be surprised to see Jordan Ashton pick up a scholarship at some point this season and keep it going forward should Iowa State bank one for 2016. Especially if he ends up playing the role that has been discussed through the media day circuit this fall.
If that's how the last two scholarship positions are filled, then I don't think you could call this recruiting class anything but an unequivocal success.