DISCLAIMER: This article was written before Talen declared for the draft, but we’ll still bring him into the office since he is still technically able to return to Iowa State.
To put a bow on this college basketball season, we’re resurrecting a once-dormant series of ours where we ask each returning Cyclone to “step into our office” to review the season that was, and take a shot at what next season could look like for them.
Today, wer’re talking about Talen Horton-Tucker. The prized freshman came in with high expectations, despite the fact that he was the third youngest player in college basketball. The 6’5 wing did a lot right and a lot wrong this season.
Season at a Glance
Talen Horton-Tucker was the third highest recruit in Iowa State history since 247sports.com started tracking recruiting, ranking behind only Craig Brackins and Lindell Wigginton, so it was safe to say he had high expectations coming into Ames.
Coming out of Simeon Career Academy High School in Chicago, he had measurables that scouts and coaches dream of. Standing at 6’4 and weighing in at 238 pounds, he had a body that allowed him to dominate right out of the gate. His stats at the end of the season were pretty impressive, especially considering it was just his freshman season.
Horton-Tucker started from day one and played alright before he got to Maui. Once Iowa State was in the Maui Invitational, the script flipped. He scored 16 points in a loss to Arizona, but showed off a variety of skills that showed his unreal potential. The next night in a dominant win over Illinois, he put on a show with a 26 point, 14 rebound, 6 assist performance. He looked great on offense and even better on defense, as his 7’1 wingspan and active hands led to a having 3 blocks against the Fighting Illini. In Hawaii, we saw the full potential of Talen Arson-Tucker.
We also saw how bad Talen could be while they were in Hawaii. Coming off a 26 point performance, he bounced back with a 1-11 shooting performance with just 4 points. If there was any two day stretch to describe Talen’s season, it would have to be that.
The rest of the non-conference was filled with some ups and downs, but he mainly just bullied the mid major schools and didn’t rely on his skill, just his physical nature.
That proved to be costly as he marched into Big 12 play. Horton-Tucker tried to just use brute physicality against players that were much bigger than the Eastern Illinois’ of the world. This didn’t work well at all, and he was forced to rely on his jump shot and his skills more. Those were both super inconsistent in January, and it resulted in some poor play.
In the first six conference games, Talen averaged just 5.6 points per game and could not find a rhythm. He had a few very bad games in that stretch which included inefficiency and lots of turnovers. We were fortunate that this stretch was just a funk, because he turned it on down the stretch.
Despite having a few off days. the rest of Talen’s Big 12 season was really good. Over the last 13 regular season games, THT averaged 12.7 points per game with some better efficiency. He got scorching hot in Manhattan that led to a huge win over K-State, where he went 6-9 from three.
THT was also on fire in the Big 12 Tournament quarterfinals against Baylor, where he dropped 21 points on 5-9 three point shooting. But the remainder of the season against K-State, Kansas, and Ohio State he struggled and as a result missed out on a lot of crunch time minutes.
We saw a little bit of everything in Horton-Tucker’s freshman year. He threw down some monster dunks, had some sweet blocks, and knocked down some huge shots. But he also took some dumb shots, made some terrible passes, and looked truly incompetent at points.
Over the course of the season, we still got one of the most talented players to ever put on the cardinal and gold.
2019-20 Season Outlook
While I was in the process of writing this article, Talen Horton-Tucker announced that he was declaring for the NBA Draft. However, he still has the chance to return to Iowa State after testing the waters, even though that scenario is unlikely. I didn’t want to waste the first half of this article by not pointing out what he can improve for next year, whether that’s in Ames or in the G-League.
The most important thing for Talen will be consistency. Some nights, he was the best player on the floor and other nights, he was the worst. That won’t fly at the next level. The easiest way to do this is just more practice. He came from AAU ball, which is high-level iso ball. Even if it’s fun to watch for high schoolers, it was infuriating when it happened this season. Talen’s best games this year were when he was aggressive in getting to the hoop and being unselfish. His worst games were when he would settle for bad jumpers.
The next part of his game he needs to improve is his three point shot. Don’t get me wrong, Horton-Tucker has beautiful jumper; but there’ s a catch. When he is straight up. His typical jumper where he sets his feet and has time to get off a clean release is really good, even if the numbers don’t exactly back it up. Nonetheless, his 30.8% three point field goal percentage as a small forward won’t get it done at the next level.
And overall, just polishing every facet game is necessary for him to be a successful basketball player. This guy will be 18 years old until December and has a ton of time to blossom into a star. Obviously, as a diehard Clones fan, I want Talen back in an Iowa State uniform next season, but even if this was the only season we got to see him play in Hilton, I’m thankful for it and I wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors.