Hoiberg a hit with fans (imagine that)

May 14, 2010

CEDAR RAPIDS — Iowa State coaches moved around the floor at the U.S. Cellular Center Thursday night glad-handing, chit-chatting and giving the fan base some words to chew on and get them through the offseason.

Fred Hoiberg — the Cyclones’ newest rock star — didn’t move more than five feet. For a solid hour.

And the line to share a story or snap a family picture with Hoiberg as its centerpiece was still around the corner by the time he had to hit the stage. Hoiberg’s first appearance at ISU’s summer Tailgate Tour was a mob scene, and that’s a good thing.

“Man, look at that line,” Voice of the Cyclones John Walters said from the other side of the room.

Before being swarmed by adoring fans, Hoiberg talked with reporters about his first two weeks on the job:

ANY MORE ADDITIONS TO NEXT YEAR’S RECRUITING CLASS?

“We want to make sure we’re giving (scholarships) to the right guys. You bring a guy in and give him four years, he’d better be able to play for you. There’s some people we have our eye on. We’ll continue to monitor that.”

CLOSE TO FILLING OUT COACHING STAFF?

“My next hire will be somebody who has head coaching experience and has been successful at the college level. I’ve been watching a lot of flim of some coaches who have had a lot of years in the NCAA. There are some people out there that have a lot of the same things that I want to do.

Hoiberg said no offers have been extended, but they are not far off.

“I’ve got a couple of guys in mind.”

WHAT WILL JEFF GRAYER BE DOING AS A MEMBER OF THE STAFF?

“I don’t know exactly what role I’m going to have for everybody. I’m still sorting through that. Jeff is going to play a big part in what we are doing. It’s very beneficial to have two guys in Ames who have had a lot of success… When I was playing we always had players from Flint and the Detroit area. Jeff knows a lot of people and can definitely make those contacts.”

HOW IS SCHEDULING GOING?

“We’re pretty close to being done. We have a couple more games to get on the schedule.”

Will it be on the light side considering the shape the roster is in?

“I don’t know if anything is light.”

Emptying the notebook from Fred-a-palooza

April 29, 2010

AMES — More heart surgery is in Fred Hoiberg’s future, though it is not imminent.

Hoiberg was forced to cut short his NBA career in 2006, 10 months after having an enlarged aortic root corrected. He needed to have a pacemaker installed.

The new Iowa State basketball coach said another procedure will happen because of a deterioration in his aortic valve.

“I hope it is years away,” Hoiberg said. “If I had any concerns about my health I wouldn’t have taken this job.”

Hoiberg said he nearly returned to the NBA during the 05-06 season, but decided the risk was too great.

MORE ON MAC. Cyclone legend Gary Thompson said Greg McDermott’s departure (some would call it an escape, but whatever) for Creighton probably saved he and the school some face.

The coach and fans had endured four straight losing seasons and finishes of 10th or lower in the Big 12 Conference each of the last three years.

Next season wasn’t looking terribly promising either. McDermott was under contract through the 2014-15 season.

“It was a win-win situation for both parties,” Thompson said. “Everybody wanted McDermott to succeed, but for whatever reason it didn’t work out.”

MOVING UP. Assistant coach T.J. Otzelberger is a big winner in this deal. The talented recruiter has parlayed his skills and wealth of contacts into the job as Hoiberg’s associate head coach.

The 32-year-old from Milwaukee, a junior college assistant in Florida just six years ago, has done well for himself.

“This is an unbelievable situation and opportunity for me individually to continue to be a part of this athletic department,” he said. “And to be able to work for someone everyday like Fred… for me it is a dream come true.”

Otzelberger’s presence was a high priority. He was key in recruiting most of the returning players and the incoming recruits who have signed letters of intent.

“T.J. was being pulled in eight different directions,” Hoiberg said. “He was my first call.”

Another former Cyclone great, Jeff Grayer, also is coming back to coach for his alma mater. Grayer is ISU’s all-time leading scorer. Hoiberg ranks third.

“Jeff is the best player to play at Iowa State,” Hoiberg said. “I’m thrilled to have him on my staff.”

Two more coaches still must be hired.

Experience in the college game — preferably with a head coaching background — will be key.

“We are trying to put the most complete staff together that we can supplementing each others’ strengths,” Otzelberger said.

Left out in the cold may be Jeff Rutter, who decided against joining Greg McDermott at Creighton because of family concerns. He wants his son, A.J., to finish high school in the area and not have to live in Omaha while his wife, Shari, stays back in Ames.

“It came down to family,” Rutter said. “Two years was too much.”

Rutter, a McDermott assistant since 2003 at Northern Iowa and ISU, was at Wednesday’s event and has made it clear to Hoiberg he is interested in remaining a part of the program.

“It’s a great fit. He’s going to do great things,” Rutter said.

CHANGE OF HEART? So, could Ames star Harrison Barnes be talked out of going to North Carolina to stay home in Ames like Hoiberg did almost 20 years ago?

Not very likely, but it could be worth some effort. Barnes signed with the Tar Heels last November.

“We’ll see,” joked redshirt freshman guard Bubu Palo, a starter on Ames’ state championship team two seasons ago and close friend to Barnes.

YOUTH IS SERVED. Watching the NBA Playoffs recently with grandson, Jack, Karen Hoiberg noticed how young one of the teams’ coaches was.

It got her to thinking. So she picked up the phone to get in touch with her 37-year-old son.

“I texted Fred and asked how did he get a coaching job?” Karen said. “I told Fred he should be coaching.”

Recruiting ability, fit are key for new mbb assistants

April 19, 2010

AMES — Iowa State has two openings on its coaching staff. What is Greg McDermott looking for in filling those spots?

“Recruiting is always a priority,” the Cyclone coach said during an interview late last week.

With just six scholarship players and two walk-ons currently on campus, immediate recruiting help would be welcome. Realistically, McDermott is meaning down the road, starting with next year’s class.

What else?

An appreciation for the school and the community also is key, McDermott said.

“It has to be somebody who believes (Ames) is a fit for them, because it is not for everybody. That’s just the reality,” he said.

Resumes are pouring in, McDermott says. He’s done some interviews and hopes to make one or both hires official by the end of this week.

“I haven’t struggled to find people who are interested,” McDermott said. “There’s plenty of people who want to be here. It’s trying to find the right people.”

He and coaches T.J. Otzelberger and Jeff Rutter have spent the last few days looking for additions to this year’s recruiting class. Coaches are in an open recruiting period until Wednesday.

McDermott was boarding a plane headed for Wisconsin Friday afternoon. Rutter was traveling to Europe to visit prospects.

“The next (few) days are important for us as we continue to evaluate a few guys more in-depth,” McDermott said.

ISU has seen three players leave the program (Justin Hamilton, Dominique Buckley and Chris Colvin) since the season ended last month.

The late signing period began last week. One player — Oregon big man Jordan Railey — has signed so far. McDermott needs a few more to join up.

“We’ve had players visit and have more planned,” he said. “We are looking at a few (Division I) transfers as well.”

For those going to ISU’s spring game…

April 17, 2010
Iowa State’s spring football game will kick off at 2 p.m. Saturday in Jack Trice Stadium.
Admission and parking will be free.
The general public should enter the stadium at the northeast Gate 1 entrance. All seating for the game will be on the east side of the stadium.
The ISU athletics ticket office will be open from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Football posters will be available in the Guest Services booth on the east concourse.
The game will be played in 15-minute quarters with the fourth quarter featuring a moving clock.

So, who wrestles for ISU next year? Maybe freshmen

April 9, 2010

AMES — Missing half of its regular lineup from this past season, what in the world is Iowa State’s wrestling team going to look like next season?

It’ll be young, that’s for sure. How young?

“If a kid comes in and believes he can be a national champion and I believe he can be a national champion, we are going to wrestle him,” coach Kevin Jackson said. “If not, we’ll redshirt him. “

Previous Cyclone coaches Bobby Douglas and Cael Sanderson were steadfast in redshirting ALL their incoming freshmen. Jackson may not have that luxury with his new class, which is nearly 10 deep right now as the spring signing period approaches.

Three newly-crowned Iowa high school state champions will join the team: Centerville’s Mike England, Kyven Gadson of Waterloo East and Urbandale’s Mike Moreno. Finalists Trevor Voelker of Adel-DeSoto-Minburn and West Des Moines Valley’s Brandon Jones also will be Cyclones.

Three others — Joey Cozart (Brandon, Fla.), Ryak Finch (Safford, Ariz.) and Luke Goettl (Clarksdale, Ariz.) — are among Jackson’s first full recruiting class.

Does the coach prefer they sit or throw ‘em in there?

“I don’t know if I have any rules,” Jackson said. “This is only my second year.”

Ideally Jackson would like to get his newbies acclimated to the type of training and tactics he employs and allow their bodies to develop.

Results can happen quickly with the right person.

“We only had our hands on Andrew Long for seven months and he made great strides,” Jackson said of Long, who was an NCAA tournament finalist at 125 pounds in his first season on the mat, though he redshirted as a true freshman. “We have some other guys in the room who are equally as talented and can put themselves in that same situation.”

Sophomores Jerome Ward (184), Andrew Sorenson (157) and Dalton Jensen (141) will be expected to step it up, as will senior-to-be Jon Reader.

Jackson has high hopes for redshirts Trent Weatherman and Boaz Beard, too.

Year two of the Jackson era will be a rebuilding one.

“Next year I think we are going to do things a little smarter from a training aspect,” Reader said. “One thing I can promise you, we are going to work hard. We are going to be young but we are going to fight.”

Cyclones Lacey, Brackins prepping for hoops career

April 2, 2010

AMES — Iowa State’s pro basketball prospects are gearing up for their drafts.

It was announced Thursday that Cyclone point guard Alison Lacey was one of 14 players invited to attend the WNBA’s Draft on April 8 in Secaucus, N.J.

She plans on being there, along with head coach Bill Fennelly, assistant Jodi Steyer and student assistant/roommate Brittany Lange.

Lacey has been working out since ISU’s season ended Sunday in a NCAA tournament loss to Connecticut. She hasn’t been sure about continuing her professional career,  but it sounds as if the WNBA is in her future.

“It is shocking that it is actually happening,” Lacey said. “Just to be mentioned with the people that will be at the draft is surreal. If you would have told me back in Australia that this would have happened there is no way I would have believed it.”

Lacey, a first-team all-Big 12 pick this season, will be the eighth player in ISU history picked for the draft and the first since Lyndsey Medders in 2007.

Other players in the conference joining her in person at the draft will be Oklahoma State’s Andrea Riley, Nebraska’s Kelsey Griffin, Kansas’ Danielle McCray and Oklahoma’s Amanda Thompson.

Meanwhile, former Cyclone big man Craig Brackins is living in Las Vegas, working out daily in preparation for the June 24 NBA Draft.

The 6-10 forward is sharing an apartment with Oklahoma State guard James Anderson, who also decided to leave school a year early for a chance at the NBA.

Brackins and Anderson became fast friends last summer while playing in the World University Games.

The Web site http://www.nbadraft.net projects Brackins as an early second-round pick.  He is hoping to go higher than that, obviously, and earn a guaranteed contract if selected in the first round.

Lacey taking it easy before Sweet 16

March 27, 2010

AMES — Alison Lacey was wiped out after Tuesday night’s hard-fought NCAA tournament win over Green Bay at Hilton Coliseum.

The Iowa State point guard still is getting her strength and wind back after sitting out three weeks with pneumonia. She of course will play Sunday when the Cyclones (25-7) take on No. 1 seeded Connecticut, and will do so after getting some much-needed rest.

ISU got past Lehigh with ease, but had to fight hard for a second-round win over Green Bay and its physical defense. Lacey played 36 minutes, something she hadn’t done in more than three weeks.

“She’s pretty worn down,” Coach Bill Fennelly said. “It’s not just the physical nature of the games, the emotional drain it had on her was just as bad.”

Lacey got Wednesday and Thursday off. She did practice some Friday before ISU took off for Dayton, Ohio, and its Sweet 16 match-up with the unbeaten Huskies, who sit at 35-0 right now.

The first-team all-Big 12 pick would like to be in more of a rhythm and continue getting back her shooting touch and timing with teammates, but Lacey’s body needs to recover more than anything.

She may have to go the whole way for the Cyclones to have a chance at snapping UConn’s 74-game win streak.

“There isn’t a whole lot of time left,” Fennelly said. “She needs to be as rested as she can be.”

How do Geno and his Huskies do it?

March 26, 2010

AMES — Bill Fennelly needed a break.

The television in his office Thursday afternoon was tuned to his second-favorite pastime after his Iowa State women’s basketball team – St. Louis Cardinal baseball.

“Hey man,” Fennelly quipped, “if you’ve been watching as much Connecticut video as I have, you’d want to watch something different. Something positive.”

The Cyclones will line up against No. 1-ranked and unbeaten UConn Sunday at 11 a.m. in Dayton, Ohio; looking to pull a Sweet 16 upset for the ages.

The Huskies (35-0) have won an incredible 74 consecutive games. How exactly?

Players like Tina Charles and Maya Moore sure help, but coach Geno Auriemma is the straw that stirs the drink. He gets his seemingly endless stream of blue-chippers to play at their best every minute they are on the floor.

“It can’t be just the players he recruits,” Fennelly said. “It’s built into their team and he demands it. Most of us try to demand it and don’t achieve it… He’s arguably one of the best basketball coaches of all-time.”

The NCAA-record winning streak has ISU’s coach most impressed.

“Not many people can say they showed up for work every day and do it at a very high level,” Fennelly said. “They’ve done it 74 times in a row.”

Connecticut has beaten its first to NCAA tournament opponents by a combined 110 points, including a 90-36 beat down of Temple, whose head coach, Tonya Cardoza, spent 14 seasons as an assistant under Auriemma in Storrs, Conn.

It doesn’t matter who you are. This team is relentless – and supremely confident.

“You’d better play or they are going to bury you,” Fennelly said. “The minute you relax it can go bad quick… They like the idea that they are better than everybody else. They act like it, they talk like it and play like it. You had better be ready for it.”

Klein “ready to step up” as defensive leader

March 25, 2010

AMES — Iowa State’s defense is looking for some new leaders.

Sophomore linebacker A.J. Klein wants the job.

“I’m ready to step up,” Klein said Tuesday, the first day of spring practice for the Cyclones, who are replacing a half-dozen defensive starters and all three linebackers. “I want to be the leader.”

Klein, Jake Knott — who also got his feet wet last year playing some as a true freshman — and transfer Matt Taufoou sit atop the depth chart at this point in time.

Klein wants to fill the shoes of Jesse Smith, an emotional leader and one of the Cyclones’ top tacklers the past three seasons. Josh Raven and Fred Garrin, both starters, and backup Derec Schmidgall also have moved on.

“Jesse and Fred and Raven all helped us out a lot giving us pointers knowing it would be us next year,” Klein said. “There’s nobody else older around to teach us.”

Klein has a burning desire to follow in Smith’s footsteps as a defensive captain.

The 6-1, 237-pounder from Kimberly, Wis., wants to help call the shots.

“I know I’m going to be getting signals from the sideline but I always want to be the guy taking charge,” Klein said. “I want to make this a championship team. I want to be the leader of it.”

Prime time TV good for exposure, bad for fans

March 19, 2010

Late Night at Hilton Coliseum

AMES – Hilton Coliseum and Iowa State’s women’s basketball team will get great national exposure and face time Sunday in the NCAA Tournament.

The Cyclones’ late start – set by cable network ESPN, which holds the event’s broadcast rights – isn’t so great for those who have purchased tickets or are thinking of doing so.  Fourth-seeded ISU (23-7) will tip off its first-round game with No. 13 Lehigh (29-3) just shy of 9 p.m. local time.

That’s assuming the first game of the night on ESPN2 between No. 5 Virginia (21-9) and No. 12 Green Bay (27-4) doesn’t go long.

For adults getting to work the following day and kids coming back to school off spring break, schedules are going to be thrown for a loop.

Sunday’s winners will also play late. Tip off Tuesday is set for 8:30 p.m.

“It’s good from a television perspective,” said Callie Sanders, ISU’s Senior Associate Athletic Director and the site’s tournament director. “It’s not ideal from a fan perspective, but it’s not something we can control. We understand it is going to be more difficult. We hope the fans will appreciate the opportunity to see the games in person regardless.”

Game times were known in advance, then cemented when the pairings were determined.

Several thousand all-session ticket packages were purchased in advance and more have sold since Monday’s selection show.

More than 5,000 have been snatched up thus far.

“(The game time) hasn’t slowed our fans down,” Sanders said.  “We sold quite a few all-session as the season progressed and fans saw we were more likely to be in.”

The Cyclones have made the tournament field four years running and in 11 of Coach Bill Fennelly’s 14 seasons.

They played at home in first- and second-round games for five straight years from 1998-2002 when hosting duties went to the teams seeded fourth or better.

ISU, which is 8-2 in NCAA games at Hilton, also served as the host school in 2008 at Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.

“It’s worth it,” Sanders said. “The only downside is the additional pressure it puts on the coaching staff they feel to get into the tournament. We go into these bids knowing our team might not be in it.”

Fennelly talked regularly this season about the need to get the Cyclones to the dance.

ISU lost five seniors and a key reserve off last year’s Elite Eight team and had a lot of questions going in. It ended up finishing second in the Big 12 Conference and earned the reward of playing at home in the postseason.

“It gives you something more to play for,” Sanders said.

“Bill is always motivated to make the tournament. That is a goal of his every year. Given the fact he had a pretty young team and some uncertainty early on… whatever he did it worked.”

The other three teams were scheduled to arrive in Ames Friday.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.