Over the next few weeks, we'll be taking a look at each returning player on Iowa State's roster, breaking down their '14-'15 campaign, talking about what they need to work on most in the off season and discussing what their potential prospects hold for the future.
We'll start at the end of the bench and work our way right to the top, but for today, the focus is on Georgios Tsalmpouris.
Season At A Glance
In a program defined by unconventional recruiting methods, Tsalmpouris' signing is easily the most outside-the-box recruit of the Fred Hoiberg era. Tsalmpouris was nowhere on any recruiting guru's radar and The Mayor himself didn't even know much about the Greek big man, having offered him a scholarship without ever having seen him play in person or even meeting him face-to-face.
Tsalmpouris signed in May, but didn't arrive in Ames until late August, which inevitably set the tone for a season that always looked like a growing year. Reportedly at 7'1" 217-pounds when he signed, everyone knew Tsalmpouris had to get stronger if he wanted to play.
We rarely got to see Tsalmpouris as he only appeared in 8 games and undoubtedly, it was because he simply wasn't physically ready. Cyclones.com officially lists Tsalmpouris at 227-pounds currently, but that is still nowhere near a comfortable playing weight, which I'm sure the staff would prefer to be much closer to the 245-pound range.
In limited action, Tsalmpouris showed flashes of a promising skill set which could make him a valuable asset going forward. Granted we're talking about a whopping 35 minutes of game action, but still, how often do you see 7'1" guys firing threes from outside and looking fluid and natural in doing so?
Tsalmpouris knocked down 2 of those 4 three-point attempts, but his most noteworthy shot of the year was a running skyhook he connected on in garbage time of a blowout home win against Texas Tech (pictured above).
Perhaps the most noteworthy thing we learned about Tsalmpouris (aside from the fact that he needs to really pack on some weight) is that unlike most American 7-footers, he's not a stiff. He looks, moves and plays like a European, with finesse and free-flowing offensive purpose.
Off Season Homework
I really don't know what Tsalmpouris' summer plans are. I imagine he'll probably return home to spend some time in Greece once the spring semester culminates, but from a development stand point, he would be best served setting up shop in the Sukup Basketball Complex, working on his craft, hammering protein shakes by the dozen and hitting the weights.
As far as contemporaries go, Tsalmpouris could spend some time in the film room watching a guy like Jamie Vanderbeken, who at 6'11" found a niche in the Iowa State program as a smooth-shooting big man.
*Queue obligatory completely legit and in no way bullshit game-winning 3 against Creighton.
Selfishly, as a Capitol City League fanboy, I'd love the opportunity to get to watch him play more in person, but we'll find out whether or not that is in the cards. Regardless of where Tsalmpouris chooses to spend his summer though, his top priority has to be getting stronger.
There isn't a fiber in my being that believes that Tsalmpouris will be in Ames for four years. The reality of the situation is that as he matures and he grows into his body, he's leaving money on the table every second he spends in Story County.
Could Tsalmpouris eventually become an NBA-level prospect? Absolutely, but we're light years away from that conversation. For now, he's an intriguing Euro talent that has a profitable future ahead of him should he return to Greece.
To be perfectly honest, it wouldn't surprise me if Tsalmpouris returned home this summer and never made his way back to Ames. That being said, if he does decide to give it the ol' college try for another year, he'll need to have a frank conversation with Fred Hoiberg about how real his chances are of seeing playing time.
Between Georges Niang, Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader, there's an established core of front court guys in front of Tsalmpouris on the depth chart. Darien Williams will join the rotation as well, creating even more of a log jam in the post. Add Chieck Diallo to that mix or a high impact junior college or graduate transfer type and Tsalmpouris could quickly find himself as the odd man out.
Tsalmpouris' best bet for playing time is going to be forcing Hoiberg's hand by simply showing that he's ready to contribute at this level and if that is going to truly become a reality, he has to commit to staying in Ames for most of this summer.
One advantage Tsalmpouris has at his disposal though, is that he doesn't have to adhere to the same timelines traditional college players have to observe. He can wait and see how Iowa State's roster shapes up and if in May he doesn't like where things are going, he's got a guaranteed paycheck waiting back home in Greece.
Obviously we all want Tsalmpouris to stay and continue to develop, but the big Greek also has a future to think about. If he stays, he's going to have to make tremendous strides this summer if he wants to crack the rotation next season. Hoiberg has yet to employ anything more than an 8-man rotation and that's going to be awfully tough for Tsalmpouris to find his way into.
Clayton Custer Abdel Nader