Merely a few weeks ago, Iowa State basketball was at a crossroads. The Cyclone program had lost its favorite son in Fred Hoiberg, but losses were mounting elsewhere as well . You see, while the Hoiberg Crisis was reaching its apex, the lifeblood of the program came to a screeching halt as recruitment became a near impossibility, or so it would seem.
The assistant coaches tried to carry on business as usual, but Hoiberg's flirtations and eventual commitment to the Chicago Bulls effectively killed Iowa State's recruiting for a little more than a month. Truth be told, the annual rumors surrounding Hoiberg and the NBA may have done more damage over the last few years than we could ever possibly know about, but this latest saga absolutely put Iowa State's chances with any of its recent targets in a perilous position.
It's anyone's guess as to whether Cheick Diallo would have actually signed with Iowa State, but he did mention that one of the reasons he didn't become a Cyclone was because Hoiberg told him he couldn't say for sure that he would be his coach. Excuse me for being presumptuous, but I'm going to guess that Diallo wasn't the only recruit Hoiberg shared those candid thoughts with.
Michigan graduate transfer, Max Bielfeldt, was another guy that was thought to be a Cyclone lean and as a post player, would have been a great addition to next year's team, but he also indicated that he was intently watching the Hoiberg news and ultimately ended up committing to Indiana.
Losing Hoiberg obviously wasn't ideal, but if it was going to happen, it's probably for the best that it happened when it did. Steve Prohm has enough challenges that he's going to face taking over in Ames, but chief among them might be replacing a loaded senior class that will see Georges Niang, Naz Long, Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader exhaust their eligibility after this upcoming season, and there's no time to waste.
Sustaining the success of the Hoiberg era was the top priority for Jamie Pollard in his search and that is undoubtedly the biggest question Cyclone fans have going forward. With that said, it's easy to see why the 2016 class is arguably the most important class for the Cyclone program this century and that brings us to the crux of the piece; recruiting and more specifically, recruiting to Ames.
As coaching searches often do, talking points aplenty emerged with every rumor and perhaps one of the more entertaining for me personally to dive into wasn't simply recruiting, but instead recruiting to Iowa State.
A perceived northern outpost located in a state that is often short on talent in a more southern centric conference, the "Ames conundrum" caused everyone from the average message board fan to the national basketball beat writers to question just how Prohm would be able to get talent to Iowa State.
(*All info courtesy of Rivals.com. Lists only include high school and junior college signees and do NOT include transfers. Not all players that signed with these schools made it to campus. The Rivals database goes back to 2002, and 2010 is significant because that is the year Fred Hoiberg took over in Ames. I'm also only including up to the 2015 class).
|Team||4&5 Star Recruits Since '02||4&5 Star Recruits Since '10|
So there weren't too many surprises here. Kansas and Texas are clearly laying waste to the rest of the conference when it comes to recruiting and Oklahoma State has always been able to attract talent. Baylor's recruiting has surged under Scott Drew and well, the rest of the results kind of speak for themselves, though I was surprised to see West Virginia's totals so low, though their recruiting appears to have picked up since Bob Huggins took over.
As for Iowa State, they were only able to sign seven 4-star or better athletes between the '02-'09 classes, but under Hoiberg, the Cyclones landed five such players in Georges Niang (#69), Matt Thomas (#54), Monte Morris (#96), Clayton Custer (#92) and most recently, Nick Noskowiak in a five-year span (Noskowiak signed when Hoiberg was still coach).
The complete list of 4-star or better prospects to sign with Iowa State during that time is here:
|Laron Dendy||2009||4-star (JUCO)|
*Chiriaev never made it to Iowa State, but did commit to the Cyclones
And for the hell of it, just in case you wanted to know how the Hawkeyes have been doing in recruiting during this same timespan. Well, let's just say it hasn't been good.
|Team||4&5 Star Recruits Since '02||4&5 Star Recruits Since '10|
Not only has Iowa State been kicking Iowa's ass on the court (won 5 of the last 6 in the series), but it would appear that the Cyclones have been laying a (very relative) beat down off it as well.
So what does this data tell us? If anything, it underscores the need to continue to supplement the high school recruiting with transfers and JUCO prospects, but also suggests that it's critically important for Prohm and staff to address the strategy of pursuing high school talent going forward. If Iowa State is ever going to truly challenge Kansas annually, there has to be a premium placed on being able to more consistently get top 100 talent to Ames
One criticism of Hoiberg's recruiting philosophy was that he spent too much time "chasing whales" like Rashad Vaughn and Cheick Diallo and not enough time going after the middle-of-the-pack top 100 prospects like Niang and Morris. Then again, that's all part of the game and if you have any type of in with an elite talent, you have to pursue that prospect to the very end.
As mentioned, Prohm and staff will have their hands full for the 2016 class and beyond and replacing the type of firepower Iowa State will lose after this season won't be easy. Prohm was clearly able to develop and coach athletes while at Murray State, but at the Big 12 level, Prohm will also need to show that he can attract talent to Ames as coaching and development only go so far.
Prohm and Iowa State have already lost precious time and it might be a little late in the game to land any transfers that would have to sit a year, but the July evaluation period is just around the corner and the staff will need to work overtime to get back in the game, so to speak.
So where does Ames fit into all of this? Truth be told, I'm not sure.
Iowa State doesn't have the pedigree of Kansas or the proximity to talent like Texas, but what if Prohm can show that he will continue to play an exciting brand of basketball in a raucous home-court environment? Is that enough to sway a few kids here and there?
And how about the all important NBA question? Perhaps the best thing that can happen on the recruiting front is for Monte Morris to explode as a junior, declare for the draft and be selected next June. That will have given Prohm three different point guards that he can claim (in some fashion) to have helped guide to the ultimate prize.
The point I'm trying to make is that I'm not sure Ames itself matters at all. Elite talent will always flock to the blue blood programs, but Prohm has things he can sell. And while some may say that Iowa State could be teetering on the edge of sinking back to the doldrums of the McDermott era, there's also that chance that Prohm might be able continue what Hoiberg started or (gulp), even build on that foundation.
Regardless, the next year is going to be full of intrigue, curiosity and certainly won't be lacking when it comes to talking points on the recruiting trail. Stay tuned.