To put a bow on this college basketball season, we’re once again diving into a classic series of ours where we ask each returning Cyclone to “step into my office” to review the season that was, and take a shot at what next season could look like.
In this edition of “step into my office” we welcome in Aljaz Kunc, the Slovenian transfer who recently announced that he’ll return for a super senior season.
Aljaz Kunc tells me that he will use his additional year of eligibility and return to Iowa State next season.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 2, 2022
Was a key piece on a team that reached the Sweet 16.
First of all, welcome back! We really didn’t know what we’d get from Jaz this year after an injury plagued last season at Washington State before transferring. In fact, he only attempted 5 field goals in his first 3 games as a Cyclone. That all changed with an offensive explosion against Grambling State, going 7-7 from the field and 5-5 from 3 for 21 points, showcasing some of the stretch big skills we hoped for. Jaz became a fan favorite in Brooklyn with a viral spin move that served as a dagger in the Memphis win.
Once we got into Big 12 play, Jaz hit a slump that saw his role reduced as Iowa State struggled to score. A late season move to the starting lineup against Kansas State seemed to get his confidence back and unlock Iowa State’s best offensive lineup.
Equipped with a 3 point shot and some clutch free throw shooting, Jaz fully realized his role in the postseason. Against Wisconsin in a hostile environment, he was the player to slow down Brad Davison. He was the player willing to take charges. He was the guy making maybe the best defensive play of the season.
Don’t you ever question the value of Aljaz Kunc pic.twitter.com/BGJpaxS2tr— OutCYde the Lines (@OutCYdeTheLine) March 21, 2022
What we’ve learned is that Jaz is not a player who’s stats tell his whole story. Nonetheless, he finished the year averaging 6 points and 4 rebounds per game on 42% from the field. What’s encouraging are the percentages. Despite some streaky shooting, he ended up at 39% from 3 for the season and 71% from the free throw line. I know this guy can shoot the basketball. The trouble was the lack of consistency. Jaz had a 21 and 19 point game, but also had 5 games going scoreless. Somehow that registers to a top 200 individual offensive rating in the nation according to Kenpom. While he’s not going to blossom into a 20 point scorer, settling in to the 8-10 point range consistently would be huge while grabbing 5 rebounds per game. I could not find data on this, but I’d conservatively say he drew 20 charges on the defensive end. He’s an extreme example of the type of player we’ve been asking for. You love to have him on your team. You hate to play against him.
Jaz should maintain a role among the starting 5 heading into next season where he seemed to flourish in the postseason. I mean this in the nicest way possible, Jaz should be emulating a guy he eliminated in the NCAA tournament, Brad Davison. Ok, I don’t mean that literally. But there’s an integral role to be played as the team “irritant”. Jaz should be ready to jump in lose balls, continue to take charges, get in guys’ faces, and be an emotional leader on the floor. He needs to be on the floor. He was a little too prone to getting into foul trouble. I trust his instincts for when to flop and when to not. We just have to avoid the senseless fouls. Beyond that, shooting the 3 with more consistency is an absolute must. He’s not a guy who will often seek out his own shot, which makes him perfect for TJ Otzelberger’s brand of ball. We’re glad to see Jaz return, and can only hope that he’ll continue to flourish in year 2 of the new Iowa State.