Think back for a minute, Cyclone fans...
Only four months ago, the future of Iowa State basketball was looking bleak. Rumors of the golden boy, Fred Hoiberg, leaving for bigger opportunities in the NBA were looking less like rumors and more like truth every day. After weeks of speculation, denial, acceptance - just about every non-happy emotion there is - we got the official news that no one wanted to hear.
On June 2, 2015, it was announced that the Mayor was leaving Iowa State to coach the Chicago Bulls.
Seeing the man that was seemingly the embodiment of all things ISU sit next to Bulls GM Gar Forman at the introductory press conference in Chicago just felt wrong. Hoiberg was supposed to be the one that took the basketball team at Iowa State to the greatest heights in program history. He was our savior, not Chicago's.
Despite a disappointing opening round loss to UAB in the 2015 NCAA Tournament, the Cyclones had been trending upward every year during the Hoiberg era. The 2015-16 season was going to be the redemption tour for the mayor and his band of brothers from Ames, Iowa. Instead, ISU was forced to look in a different direction.
Once Hoiberg was gone, athletic director Jamie Pollard began looking for a replacement coach. The man who ultimately ended up getting the job was Steve Prohm.
Pollard cited Prohm's up-tempo coaching style, sideline demeanor and vision for the program as the reasons that he and ISU president Steven Leath chose Prohm over the other candidates who interviewed for the position. However, no matter how much Pollard, Leath, or Prohm himself talked the talk, most Cyclone fans found it hard to believe that the former Murray State head coach could ever fill the massive void Hoiberg's departure had left behind.
The good news was Prohm would be inheriting a team loaded with talent that returned most of the pieces that helped win the program's second consecutive Big 12 Tournament title in March. The bad news was most of that talent would be gone the following year. Immediate success would be likely no matter what, but the future was one huge question mark.
In the 2016-17 season, Naz Long, Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader and Georges Niang will have used all their eligibility. There's also a good chance that star junior point guard, Monte Morris, could leave early to enter his name into the NBA Draft pool. That means Prohm and his newly-assembled staff would have to go out and tear it up on the recruiting trail between the time of his hiring and the start of next season if the were to keep the program's momentum riding high.
Good news... So far, they've done just that - and the 2015 season hasn't even started yet.
The first class of 2016 recruit to pledge his allegiance to Prohm and the Cyclones was 6-foot-1 point guard Donovan Jackson, who committed on August 30. Jackson averaged 13.6 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game at Iowa Western Community College last season. He will be able to come in next year and backup Morris, or even step into a starting role immediately should Morris make the jump to the NBA.
Next up came 6-foot-6, 220 pound Solomon Young out of Sacramento, California. Young announced his decision to attend ISU on August 31, just one day after Jackson's commitment. If you take a look at Young's highlight reel, you'll see a bulldog-like tough mentality and a guy that plays with a high motor on both ends of the floor.
And last but not least, the latest class of 2016 pledge for Coach Prohm came from Emmanuel Malou, a skilled 6-foot-9 forward out of Yuba College in Calfornia. Malou chose Iowa State earlier today over the likes of Kansas, Arizona, Arizona State, Oregon, Oklahoma State, Marquette, West Virginia and more. Cyclone fans quickly took to Twitter to retweet and favorite the big man's unnoficial announcement.
Basketball has taken me to many different states in America, I'm happy to say that my next home will be Iowa State. pic.twitter.com/8vApIa7ZCF— Emmanuel Malou (@EmmanuelMalou) September 18, 2015
The ISU fan base was divided when Prohm became the new head coach. Many fans believed assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger was the right guy for the job, and he'd be the guy most capable of picking up where Hoiberg left off. Fortunately, Otz was kept on staff, and the combined effort of Prohm, Otz and the rest of the coaches on the recruiting trail has been excellent so far.
Crazy what a few months will do, isn't it?
Iowa State basketball will always hold a special place in the hearts of Cyclone fans. If you haven't already, it's time to open up your heart to what Coach Prohm is building within the walls of the Sukup practice facility and Hilton Coliseum. He's never going to be Fred Hoiberg, but he doesn't have to be to find success at ISU.
In fact, he could end up finding even more success than the Mayor did... Time will tell.
It won't be long before McKay, Morris, Niang and Long are sprinting up and down the court again. A year later, it'll be Jackson, Young and Malou. The Cyclone gladiators, battling it out in the Prohman Coliseum.
All aboard the hype chariot.
Special thanks to graphikdeCYner for another amazing image!