Since Fred Hoiberg took over the program in 2011, Iowa State basketball has been in a golden era, likely the best in the school history. Not only have the Cyclones been routinely competitive at the top of the Big 12, but they’ve been big players nationally, earning six consecutive NCAA Tournament berths. This got us wondering....
Who can build the best team out of every player to play for Fred Hoiberg and Steve Prohm?
- Any player on any Iowa State men’s basketball roster beginning in the 2010-2011 season which dressed for a game can be selected. This means Marial Shayok and Michael Jacobsen ARE NOT eligible for selection.
- Players are assumed to be playing at their peak level in a Cyclone uniform. This means you would get super-senior Naz Mitrou-Long from last season. However, it also means that you get freshman Clayton Custer. Custer is obviously a very good player now for Loyola, but he only played at Iowa State during his freshman season, so that’s the Clayton Custer we get.
- Each participant will draft a starting lineup of five and three bench players.
BJSwanny: Georges Niang
While others may be more physically gifted, taking the school’s 2nd all-time leading scorer who was also the heart and soul of the roster for perhaps the best four year stretch in program history is a lock for the first pick. Building a roster around someone who you can hand the ball to when the going gets tough and count on to get a bucket when the team needs it most is a strong start no matter who it is. Having that building block be Georges Niang, one of the most universally loved Cyclones of all time, is just icing on the cake.
Levi Stevenson: Royce White
Royce White is probably the single most talented player to ever put on an ISU uniform. In his one season at Iowa State, this 6’8” tank led the team in scoring, assists, rebounds, blocks, and steals, and made it look easy. Outside of free throwing shooting, the only noticeable weakness in his game was the lack of an outside shot, though he technically did still shoot 33% on 12 attempts. Royce was the closest thing to Magic Johnson college basketball had seen for a long time, but Royce offered more power, in contrast to Magic’s finesse. Simply put, he’s the single most valuable player available in this draft.
Fitzy: Monte Morris
The not-so-secret ingredient for any team worth a darn in college basketball is having dynamite guard play. That’s why I went with the maddeningly consistent Monte Morris with my first pick. While Morris never had the top-tier athleticism as some of the other players in the Hoiberg/Prohm era, his ability to command the floor and distribute without turning the ball over was second to none. Monte’s senior season in Ames required him to shoulder more of the team’s scoring load thanks to the departure of Georges Niang, and he took the challenge head-on, recording a career high in points (16.4 per game) with even fewer turnovers than his junior season, despite a higher usage percentage. Morris is the only viable alternative to Jamaal Tinsley for being Iowa State’s best point guard of all time, and he’s the perfect player to anchor my team.
jakebrend32: DeAndre Kane
In 2014, Kane’s only season as a Cyclone, he brought toughness that has been unmatched in this era. However, he didn’t just bring toughness, he brought an all around skillset. Kane could shoot if he needed, he could use his power to get to the rim, and he can throw a lob that could be caught by a variety of guys on this team. Deandre Kane is the perfect guy to have at point guard spot on this team.
jakebrend32: Deonte Burton
Perhaps the most explosive player of this era, Deonte Burton at his best is nearly unstoppable. In his last 14 games as a Cyclone, he averaged 17.3 points per game, 5.3 rebounds, 1.3 blocks, and 1.8 steals. Despite being only 6’4 and playing the four, he ate big men alive with his quickness and explosiveness. When he is switched on to a guard, he uses his linebacker-like frame to over power them and get to the rim. When Burton is playing at his full potential, he is arguably the most talented player in this draft not named Royce White or Georges Niang.
Fitzy: Melvin Ejim
The funny thing about Melvin Ejim is that he won Big 12 Player of the Year his senior season, yet he STILL might be one of the most underrated Cyclones of all-time. At 6-foot-6 on a good day, Ejim was a beast on the boards, pulling in 7.8 per game over the course of his career. His 17.8 points per game his senior year capped off an impressive four year career, and he was Iowa State’s primary post defender during the Sweet Sixteen run in 2013-14. Adding Ejim to my team that already features Monte Morris opens up the possibility for an incredible pick & roll duo. Remember Ejim’s 48 points against TCU and how many of those points came via alley-oop? Now imagine senior-season Morris being the ball handler in those scenarios... Wow.
Levi Stevenson: Lindell Wigginton
This explosive freshman guard is the perfect compliment to Royce White in a true lightning-thunder duo. As a 41% three point shooter, defenses could not afford to collapse down on White, lest they get burned from deep. If not waiting for kick-outs from Royce, Lindell can act as the primary ball handler, a versatile cutter, or as one of the two best isolation guards available in this draft.
BJ Swanny: Naz Mitrou-Long
While remembered as a flamethrower from deep capable of rattling of multiple 3s in a matter of minutes, the rest of 3sus’ game is often overlooked, like his ability to cut and finish at the rim or rebound extremely from the guard position. Mitrou-Long encapsulated the three-and-layup style of Hoiball, not just converting on 38% of his long-ball attempts on his career, but also 63% of his shots inside the arc as well, most of which came in the form of off-balance, contested lay ins. Tack that on to his vital role as a vocal leader on and off the court, and the near five rebounds a game he averaged as a senior, and the picture of Naz as more than just a shooter is clear.
BJ Swanny: Abdel Nader
It’s safe to say that Abdel Nader has become a better pro than he was in college, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t still damn good. With a big, bruising body, long wingspan, and NBA-level athleticism, Nader flashed the ability to be a disruptor on defense, averaging a steal and a block per game his senior year. While balanced scoring lineups allowed Nader to only score 12 points a game his senior year, he connected on 37% of 3-point attempts and was a terror heading downhill on offense in both the half court and fast break. Besides maybe Royce White, Nader has to be about the most physically gifted Cyclone of this generation.
Levi Stevenson: Matt Thomas
From a percentage and volume standpoint, Matt Thomas is one of the best shooters in school history. However, since we’re selecting these players at the peak of their playing career, Matt Thomas gives you much more than a catch and shoot three point threat. By the time his senior year rolled around, Thomas was not just a 45%+ three point shooter (his 46.8% mark in 2017 conference play is the highest of any player in this draft), but he had developed a pull-up mid range game, and was the team’s best on-ball defender.
Fitzy: Chris Babb
The second addition to my team’s guard court is the best perimeter defender ISU’s had in this decade - Chris Babb. At 6-foot-5, 225 pounds, Babb had the height and the weight to body up bigger guards, while still being quick enough laterally to stay in front of smaller opponents. During his senior season especially, Babb was a lock-down defender that often drastically decreased the effectiveness of the opposing team’s best guard. Had he not hurt his left leg at the end of the first half of Iowa State’s round of 32 game against Ohio State, the Cyclones likely would have made it to the Sweet Sixteen one year earlier during Fred Hoiberg’s coaching stint. I’ve said all of this and I still haven’t mentioned Babb’s shooting ability from outside, at a very respectable 38.2% his senior year. The best 3-and-D guard in the draft to go along with Monte Morris and Melvin Ejim? Yes, please.
jakebrend32: Dustin Hogue
If there is a more under appreciated player than Dustin Hogue, I would like to hear that argument. Hogue did everything for the team that doesn’t show up in the box score. Dustin wasn’t afraid to dive on the ground for a loose ball or kick a player in the chest (yes, actually.) Before Jameel McKay showed up in Ames, Hogue pulled down most of the rebounds. Hogue grabbed nearly 9 a game in his junior season before that total dropped to 5 in his senior season. Dustin also could score if needed, he scored 10.5 points a game in his career, and he can even knock down a three or two a game. Dustin’s defensive energy to go along with his solid offensive game will fit my team’s identity perfectly.
jakebrend32: Cameron Lard
After his first year playing in Ames, it is pretty clear that Lard is a future star. He scored 12.6 points per game while hauling in 8.2 rebounds and blocking 2.2 shots, all this while he was still figuring out the game at a division one level. Cam’s pure energy on the court feeds off on to everyone, although it can get him in trouble, it is still a positive. If Lard stays out of foul trouble, he alters the game on both ends of the floor and will fit perfectly n this “80s Pistons” team.
Fitzy: Tyrus McGee
When you think of the best pure shooters in Iowa State history, Tyrus McGee almost immediately comes to mind. In his final season in the cardinal and gold, McGee led the NCAA in 3-point percentage after hitting a 46.4% (!!!!!) clip on nearly six attempts per game. He had this uncanny ability to come off a screen at full speed, catch the ball, and rise and cash a shot that he had no business making. Even though McGee wasn’t a great defender, he always played at full speed and you could count on him being the first guy on the ground diving for a loose ball. His playing style was contagious, and his top-notch abilities on offense fit in perfectly with the rest of my team.
Levi Stevenson: Will Clyburn
This ultra-smooth scoring senior could literally do it all on the offensive end of the floor. His game spanned from a better-than-think post game all the way out beyond the three point line. Outside of Georges Niang and Lindell Wigginton, Clyburn is arguably the most naturally gifted scorer in this draft, and would thrive in a system where Royce White and Lindell Wigginton can draw most of the defensive attention. His defense did tend to be up and down, but at 6’7” he can match up well with either wing or smaller post players .
BJ Swanny: Diante Garrett
About the most underrated or forgotten Cyclone of the Hoiberg/Prohm revival is Diante Garrett, who managed to average 17 points and 6 assists in his first and final campaign under Fred Hoiberg. A long, quick point guard, Garrett could routinely get to the rim and create for others, and proved in his senior season that he was enough of an outside threat to play off the ball. While never able to showcase his abilities in the NCAA Tournament, he still managed to rise above the stench of the McDermott years and bounce around the NBA for several seasons. Paired with the rest of Team BJSwanny, having a run and gun PG like Diante allows the team to run early and run often.
BJ Swanny: Jameel McKay
Speaking of running the floor, a name synonymous with the full court rim run: Jameel McKay. Racking up 11 points and 9 rebounds per contest his senior year at Iowa State, McKay adds the most to a team through his athleticism and speed, allowing for easy baskets off turnovers, rebounds, or any kind of fast break. A strong weakside defender, McKay also could routinely step over and protect the rim and provide a back end stop gap, allowing for wings and guards to gamble on steals.
Levi Stevenson: Solomon Young
Given the other four starters in this lineup, Solomon Young grades out as the second-best complimentary piece at the 5 in this draft after Jameel McKay. Solomon is built like a tank and can be a useful rebounder and post defender. Given the scoring talents of White, Wigginton, Thomas, and Clyburn, any scoring Solomon gave on offense would be a cherry on top. Heck, he doesn’t even have to shoulder a huge rebounding load, as Royce, Will, and Lindell were/are all good rebounders for their position. All he has to do is be ready to throw down a few lobs and clean up a few misses here and there.
Fitzy: Jamie Vanderbeken
This pick might come as a surprise to some people, but don’t judge a book by its cover. Look at the rest of my team so far... Morris, McGee, Babb, Ejim. You know what all four of those guys could do? Shoot it from outside. You know who the best-shooting 5-man is in this draft? Yep, it’s Jamie Vanderbeken. Adding Vanderbeken’s career 42.4% 3-point shooting to my lineup makes it so all five of my starters can knock it down when open. Even though Vanderbeken wasn’t as good on defense as some of the other bigs in this draft, at 6-foot-11, he was the second-tallest individual available to draft, and being surrounded by other plus defenders like Morris, Babb, and Ejim would take the load off of JVB to be a difference-maker inside. Instead, he’ll get to focus on roaming around the 3-point arc and bombing away with the rest of my team on offense.
jakebrend32: Korie Lucious
Another one year player who shined during the Hoiberg era. Lucious was one of the best passers we have seen over the last 8 years. To go along with his passing ability, his athleticism gives him the ability to get to the rim and make a difference on the defensive end. Lucious joining Deandre Kane in the backcourt will make for a skilled and tough set of guards.
jakebrend32: Scott Christopherson
In his senior season, Christopherson shot a scorching 45.6% from three point range. No matter what you get from him on the defensive end, the constant threat from deep is worth it. Coming off of the bench, Christopherson will be a guy who hits big shots and plays with energy on defense, he is the perfect guy for this team that is lacking some consistent shooting.
Fitzy: Bryce Dejean-Jones
With my first bench pick, I took care of one of the biggest weaknesses of my starting five: pure athleticism. Even though BDJ’s lone season in a Cyclone uniform featured ups and downs, his athletic ability was undeniable. At 6-foot-6, Dejean-Jones’ length allows for some versatility on defense, and his slashing ability helped him shoot 54.8% from the field at Iowa State thanks to getting to the rim early and often. A welcome addition to my team’s roster!
Levi Stevenson: Donovan Jackson
On a team full of scorers, Donovan Jackson’s role as a 3-and-D guy is fairly straightforward. At his best, Jackson is a tenacious on-ball defender, and a streaky, but lethal shooter. His only offensive requirement on this team is to sit behind the perimeter and wait for a kick-out. A nice bonus his ability to create his own perimeter shot if the offense does begin to break down. His experience as a primary ball-handler also allows him to sub in for any guard in the lineup.
BJ Swanny: Chris Allen
A member of the OG Transfer U class, Allen was a pivotal piece surrounding Royce White and provided scoring from all levels, scoring 12 points a game while shooting 37% from deep. And even though everyone remembers Royce White dunking all over Andre Drummond and Anthony Davis, where’s the love for Chris Allen’s punchout over the Brow? With a starting 5 set, having Allen as an additional ball handler who can create his own shot off the bench also provides the flexibility to go with a small ball lineup than can tear up the nets of Garrett, Allen, Naz, Nader and Niang.
BJ Swanny: Anthony Booker
If the criteria is “best season in a Cyclone uniform”, Booker’s junior season definitely earns that designation. While his stats weren’t flashy (3.5 points, 3 rebounds), Booker was a solid outside threat his first year at Iowa State, making 42% of his 3 point attempts who fits the “banger” mold off the bench if a match-up were to get too physical for McKay, or if either big were to land in foul trouble.
Levi Stevenson: Darion “Jake” Anderson
As a grad transfer in Fred’s very first season, “Jake” is an often forgotten player in this golden era of Cyclone basketball. However, that’s exactly what makes him one of the steals of this draft. In his only season at Iowa State, Anderson proved to be the do-everything guy that every coach wishes they had. He was an excellent rebounder at 19% on the defensive end, a 35% three point shooter, a plus defender, and an excellent senior leader that made every hustle play. He’s just about the ultimate college bench player. Essentially, he was Dustin Hogue before Dustin Hogue was Dustin Hogue.
Fitzy: Nick Weiler-Babb
Nick Weiler-Babb is a massive value pick this late in the draft. Even though his most recent season was cut down by injuries, Weiler-Babb’s production and potential were apparent during the meat of ISU’s schedule. He was a triple-double threat from the point guard position and would be able to run the offense for my team should Morris ever get in foul trouble. Another lengthy guard, Weiler-Babb provides my team with more versatility and would be able to thrive as one of the first couple players off the bench.
jakebrend32: Zoran Talley
Talley had a rough start to the beginning of his Iowa State career, battling injuries he didn’t get the chance to find his place in the rotation. Once Talley got healthy, he was one of the most steady pieces in the Cyclone offense. He has length that can be really good off of the bench for defense and he is a really good passer for his size. His outside shot could use some work but since he is coming off of the bench with a smaller role, it shouldn’t be too much of a liability.
jakebrend32: Terrence Lewis
A very raw player, Terrence Lewis saw an increase in minutes at the end of his freshman season. He only shot 28.8% from three on the season, but he is a much better shooter than the numbers show. He has the potential to hit some shots off of the bench, IF he is confident.
Fitzy: Daniel Edozie
Taking Edozie here addressed the final apparent weakness of my team, which was post defense. As the “big man off the bench,” Edozie would bring the size and tough-guy mentality to bang with anyone down low. He’s the only player on my entire team that isn’t capable of knocking down a 3-point shot - but Edozie knew that he didn’t need to do that while he was in Ames. He always had a fantastic attitude and was a fan-favorite as the “Nigerian Nightmare.” Sign me up!
Levi Stevenson: GEORGIOS TSALMPOURIS
You may be wondering why I decided to go with Georios Tsalmpouris with my last pick. Then, you’ll look at the fact that he’s 7’1” with a decent handle that shot 50% FROM THREE
on four attempts and wonder why he wasn’t taken first overall.
BJ Swanny: Bubu Palo
This pick sort of goes against the rules of basing player’s performance in a hypothetical matchup on their best season at Iowa State. For Bubu though, he never had a true full season at Iowa State to judge off of. However, a Cap City MVP, multiple D-League triple-doubles, and an extended professional career indicate that Bubu could ball more than your normal everyday walk on. Like a lot more.
G: Diante Garrett
G: Naz Mitrou-Long
G: Abdel Nader
F: Georges Niang
F: Jameel McKay
B1: Chris Allen
B2: Anthony Booker
B3: Bubu Palo
Don’t think too hard about this one. How many other teams will have a player with his jersey in the rafters? How many other teams have 4 former/current NBA players? Sure, others may have a more specialized or deep bench, or are relying on the potential of a player’s future greatest season, but they don’t have the pure pedigree of Team BJSwanny.
Chest-puffing aside, this team could match-up or create mismatches with any team you throw out there. Neither Lard, Young nor Vanderbeken could keep up with a fast breaking McKay, and Georges Niang would cause any defense in the nation to over-help and create open shots for Naz, Allen, and Nader. Hoiball was trademarked by teams that fly up and down the court, create mismatches, and launch 3s. This team wasn’t just built in that image, it was built using the exact players who created it.
Plus, when it really came down to it, and you’re tied with a minute to go, how can you pick against a team with Georges and 3sus? Impossible, I say.
G: Lindell Wigginton
G: Matt Thomas
G: Will Clyburn
F: Royce White
F: Solomon Young
B1: Donovan Jackson
B2: Darion “Jake” Anderson
B3: Georgios Tsalmpouris
From top to bottom, no team in this draft has more versatility and scoring resiliency (finding ways to score when other methods aren’t working). Lindell, Matt, Will, Royce, and Donovan Jackson are all proven scorers and led the team in scoring or 3PT% at least once. Lindell Wigginton did both as a freshman. The offense will have at least three capable shooters on the floor at all times, but nearly everybody is perfectly capable of getting buckets other ways when the outside shots aren’t falling. Simply put, this offense’s points per possession numbers will be ridiculous.
On defense, Royce White, Matt Thomas, and Donovan Jackson provide three stellar individual defensive matchup options, with Lindell and Solomon both proving to be above average defenders. Clyburn and Anderson are also versatile defenders that can guard one through four.
What about rebounding you ask? Lindell, Will, Royce, Solomon, and Jake are all good or great rebounders for their position. In the end though, none of this means anything when Georgios Tsalmpouris steps on the floor and cans 50% of his threes from here until the end of time.
G: Monte Morris
G: Tyrus McGee
G: Chris Babb
F: Melvin Ejim
F: Jamie Vanderbeken
B1: Bryce Dejean-Jones
B2: Nick Weiler-Babb
B3: Daniel Edozie
Other teams might have more pure talent or athleticism, but none would be harder to guard than my team thanks to a starting five full of players who can shoot 3-pointers. Spacing the floor and implementing a deadly pick & roll / pick & pop offense with Monte Morris at the point and shooters around the perimeter would give any opposing coach nightmares. While guys like Tyrus McGee and Jamie Vanderbeken might not be great defenders, their deficiencies are able to be masked thanks to contributions from Morris, Chris Babb, and Melvin Ejim.
Even though we drafted these teams with the thought of every player playing at their “peak level,” my starting five especially features guys who were smart and consistent every time they set foot on the court. You know why Loyola-Chicago just made it to the Final Four? They have a bunch of guys who are smart and consistent every time they set foot on the court. My team is the Iowa State version of that, and that’s why I picked the best TEAM in this draft.
G: Deandre Kane
G: Korie Lucious
G: Deonte Burton
F: Dustin Hogue
F: Cameron Lard
B1: Scott Christopherson
B2: Zoran Talley
B3: Terrence Lewis
There are certainly more skilled teams that were drafted, but is there a team that is tougher or grittier than this one? I think it would be easy to make the case that this team is clearly the most physically imposing team. This team will bully everyone all the way from the perimeter into the rim. The will and drive of Deandre Kane is something that is unmatched by any player in this draft. The pure athleticism and power of Deonte Burton and Cameron Lard is elite. The all around toughness of Korie Lucious and Dustin Hogue is something that will cause turnovers and create offense. Everyone on this roster except for Cameron Lard has the capability of knocking down a three ball, and all five starters are elite at rebounding for their respective positions. Not to mention, Kane, Lucious, and Burton are all great passers at the guard spots. This team may not win off of basketball skill, but they have the best chance of causing other teams to beat themselves.
Who drafted the best team?
This poll is closed