Forgive me, I was only attending this event as a fan and didn't know I'd be writing this until it was established I was the only WRNL writer in attendance, so details may be little sketchy.
4:30 p.m.: My wife and I arrive in Marshalltown an hour & a half before tip. Mainly because we locked up a babysitter early and figured we could tool around town and maybe get a bite to eat before the game. We decide first to find the high school just so we know where we're heading and... wow! There's a line of 90% Cyclone fans probably 100 people deep already outside the doors waiting. This would be the theme for the day, when the gym finally filled it was easily 75%+ Cyclones.
4:40 p.m.: We're at half-court, front row. Yeah, that's right, I sprung for $100 "VIP" tickets and walking by all those suckers in line made it all worthwhile. Now, we wait. My entire goal at this point is to get Georges Niang to sign my Fred Hoiberg autographed basketball. Fred & Georges - it will be amazing - it will go in a place of honor in my home (or wherever the wife will let me put it).
5:00 p.m.: The "All-Stars" come out and start warming up, and boy do they need it. A lot of gray hair on that team, but most have played college ball somewhere. They're headlined by Jake Sullivan of ISU fame. Jake's a little pudgy compared to 15 years ago, but in much better shape than me, so I'll give him a break. I call out to him when he's near us and get him to sign my ball. Jake, Fred & Georges... that'll be real nice. He's a great guy, and seemed genuinely happy to sign and chat a couple seconds with us. As he walks away my wife says something fantastic: "Hey, it says here Marcus Fizer is coaching the Senior team." I know my mission.
5:30 p.m.: Matt Thomas and Naz Long are apparently in the gym; you can tell by the huge line forming wherever they stand for autographs. I think they probably ended up signing more things than the seniors. People love them some Matt & Naz. I ponder if a "3sus" autograph belongs on my suddenly ISU legend-themed basketball, look at the line of 50+ and decide against it.
5:35 p.m.: Marcus Fizer & the seniors hit the court. People seem surprised that Fizer is there, so I take the opportunity to sneak over and get a signature. Marcus is still a mountain of a man, but really nice. The guy in front of me holds up the Fizer Sports Illustrated cover & asks "how long has it been since you signed one of these?" Marcus replies, "oh, a few hours." Nice.
6:00 p.m.: It becomes obvious, despite their appearance on the program, that Jameel McKay & Abdel Nader are no-shows. No one will remember Abdel's absence, but this will go down as another poor image move for McKay - it's not fair, but that's the way it is. Lots of little kids with McKay tshirts got burned. Seniors will roll with: Cyclone legend Georges Niang, Panther seniors Paul Jesperson, Matt Bohannon & Wes Washpun and Hawkeye guard Anthony Clemmons. No subs.
Jake Sullivan opened by missing his first 4 from deep and had an all-around rough start to the first half. Most of the All-Stars were noticeably winded, as tends to happen when you have to compete with kids in their early 20s. But Sullivan put on an absolute show in the 2nd half. On four consecutive possessions, he killed Anthony Clemmons by making two 3-pointers and two long twos over Clemmons' out-stretched arms. Sullivan was pumped and talking trash the whole way down the court. Niang jumped into the fray and began talking back at Sullivan, Clemmons just rolled his eyes at the back and forth. A couple possessions later, Sullivan found himself wide-open about 4-5 feet behind the 3-point line, and for a little showmanship, beckoned to Niang to come out and try and stop him. Niang eagerly obliged and was treated to another falling away, deep 3 right in his face. Jake still has a little magic in him.
Wes Washpun is incredible. I forgive him for beating ISU, for choking a little in the tournament, and for everything wrong he's ever done He's absolutely amazing. He mercilessly murdered the rim on at least a dozen occasions. Imagine every awesome dunk McKay or Nader or Rahshon Clark put down over the years for ISU, and now package that in a 6'1" point guard's body. He reverse dunked, he windmilled, he caught lobs that seemed impossibly high, and on one occasion he dunked so hard the rim ended up cocked sideways and put the crowd in a stunned silence for a few seconds (thankfully the rim bounced back when Niang gave it a tug). He did everything with a huge shit-eating grin on his face, reminiscent of Niang, and quickly turned himself into the crowd favorite. He took the last shot of the night, an attempted under-the-leg reverse dunk that barely missed and I swear his chin was even with the rim at the peak of his flight. Great stuff, Wes.
Paul Jesperson & Matt Bohannon did nothing but can every 3-pointer they attempted. How UNI ever lost a game with those two and Washpun, I'll never know - they can stroke it from deep. Bohannon especially, I'm not sure he ever missed. Wasn't it reported he tore an LCL or something in the Texas A&M game? He didn't look gimpy at all, so that may have been a very unfortunately timed false alarm. Jesperson showed some inside strength (admittedly against YMCA competition) and while I didn't keep track, he may have been the scoring leader... Between him and Niang anyway.
Anthony Clemmons had a rough go of it in the 1st half, he looked hesitant, missed some 3's badly and passed out of a couple would-be dunks for some reason. A couple times he walked a little stiff like he may have some lingering injury. He came out much faster in the second half and scored at will when he drove to the hoop. He had the embarrassing 3-4 mins against Sullivan, but otherwise played a good game. He seemed to really be having fun with the others by the end of the game, he just took a while to warm up.
Georges Niang could be damn Globetrotter. The entertainment value he brought to the game was tremendous. He had the refs rolling in laughter, and the gym was small enough that most of the fans could hear his trash-talking as he picked mock fights with whoever came his way. Georges was also likely the leading scorer, cashing 3-pointers and various "Niang moves" around the basket. He had a lot of energy and tried to press most of the game as best he could to get more points on the board. He even dunked on consecutive possessions and absolutely shocked the crowd by putting down a reverse dunk near the end of the game. The crowd ended up being 70-80% Cyclone fans and we basically worshipped at the alter of Georges for 2 hours. Oh, and Niang won the opening tip - which has to be a first.
Doug Diers, one of the All-Stars, who apparently runs a basketball shooting camp in Pella, Iowa, also had a fun move in the second half. He went for an alley-oop dunk that missed as it caroomed of the rim. Doug hung on the rim with one hand, grabbed the rebound down around his hip with the other, and wind-milled it back in. Not exactly a "legal" move, but a pretty impressive feat of strength and body control.
Aaron Thomas, son of the late Ed Thomas of Aplington-Parkersburg fame, was also included on the All-Star squad. Aaron seemed to be a popular personality on the floor as Niang, Washpun and Jesperson all chatted him up at length during various play stoppages. He held his own on the court despite a tamer basketball resume than most everyone else. I believe a percentage of the proceeds also went to the Ed Thomas foundation.
In the end the Seniors bested the All-Stars 154-100 in an entertaining and amusing game.
We ended up hanging around for the biggest clusterfuck of the night - the autograph session. No one really knew where to go and our magic "VIP" tags didn't initially seem to help at all. Eventually though, after a 30 min wait, we were ushered to near the front of the line and the signing began in earnest. All the seniors were there for autographs and pictures and were amazingly polite and accommodating of all requests. I left the gym with my cherished Niang autograph and even got a picture with both him and Fizer. We were able to leave about 7:45, and based on the line I'm sure the seniors signed for several more hours.
And here she is in all her glory:
#2 (Niang), #4 (Hoiberg), #6 (Fizer) & #8 (Sullivan) on Iowa State's All-Time Career Scoring List.