Our next player profile looks at the most tenured member on the Iowa State roster, Naz Mitrou-Long. 3sus proved himself mortal and underwent off-season hip surgery last summer and to say that we may have all overestimated just how quickly Mitrou-Long could recover from such an invasive and serious procedure would be an understatement.
As we now of course know, Mitrou-Long wasn't able to endure the pain and simply needed more time to make a full recovery, opting to shut it down after only 8 games. Mitrou-Long's absence from the line up spawned one of the great what ifs of modern Cyclone basketball; just how good could have the '15-'16 team been had he been healthy?
Step Into My Office: Naz Long 2015 Profile
Season At A Glance
It's probably unfair to compare Mitrou-Long's limited stats to his junior season, but we'll do it anyway.
And now for the advanced comparisons:
As you can see, Mitrou-Long simply wasn't right for what limited time we saw him this past year. He played more minutes out of necessity until Deonte Burton was eligible and was featured more offensively, but he just couldn't find that rhythm from distance and the grind eventually became too much for him to handle. His offensive rating was by far the lowest of his career as his turnover rate soared in the wrong direction and despite all this, his usage rate was higher than it's ever been.
Unfortunately, this was a trend that carried over from the last 11 games of the '14-'15 season where Mitrou-Long ended the year on a 16-52 (30.7%) outside shooting slump.
Truth be told, 3sus didn't get off to a terrible start to the year. In his first four games, he was shooting 44% (11-25) from deep while playing 29.5 minutes per game. In his last four games though, he fell into a 5-30 (16.7%) 3-point shooting funk while actually seeing his minutes increase to 33.7 per contest. He looked like a shell of the uber-confident player that we'd all grown accustomed to watching, bottoming out with a 3-13 performance against Iowa where he was 0-7 from outside and had 3 turnovers.
Still, Iowa State was 8-0 with Mitrou-Long in the line up and 15-12 with him sidelined. So yeah, a healthy Mitrou-Long would have greatly bolstered this year's team and I'd venture to guess that Iowa State would have won a few more games. But the Mitrou-Long that we saw over those last four games? I'm not so sure that particular version of himself would have made all that much difference.
While he's struggled through his injury, the fact of the matter is that Mitrou-Long is a clutch, long-range marksman with a career of big shots on his ledger. More importantly, however, he possesses the intangibles that every program looks for in its leader, which is exactly what he'll be this upcoming season.
Monte Morris may be the best talent on the roster and Matt Thomas made a monumental leap this past season, but Mitrou-Long is the driving force that will hold the locker room together. That type of value can be tough to define, but it's an intrinsic value nonetheless that's critical for every team.
That's all well and good, but if this back court is truly going to manifest into one of, if not the best in the country, it will depend on Mitrou-Long's health. There's no telling what type of player Steve Prohm will have at his disposal come next November and there's no guarantee that Mitrou-Long will ever be the player he once was, but simply having him on the floor has to count for something.
There were message board rumors that Mitrou-Long could have played toward the end of last season and not knowing the validity of those rumors, I would hope that Prohm opts to hold Mitrou-Long out of the Capital City League this summer as a precaution. There's simply nothing to be gained in playing in the exhibition league.
Assuming he makes a full recovery, a lot of Mitrou-Long's playing time could depend on just how good the rest of the roster around him performs. Donovan Jackson figures to see a lot of time in the backcourt spelling Monte Morris and Nick Weiler-Babb is another swingman that Prohm has at his diposal. Hell, even Jakolby Long could factor into the rotation. At the very least, Iowa State shouldn't need Mitrou-Long on the floor for 30 minutes a night.
Regardless, Mitrou-Long should and most likely will be a guaranteed starter, as he should be.