Archive for December, 2008

Help is coming for Cyclone mbb

December 27, 2008

Things may not look so good right now for Iowa State’s men’s basketball team, entering Sunday’s game at Houston with a 7-4 record after Tuesday night’s shocking home loss to Division I newbie South Dakota State.

Help is on the way in Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College forward/guard Marquis Gilstrap. Gilstrap, who measures about 6-7, 210 pounds, signed with ISU in November and has one season to play in Ames starting next fall.

Gilstrap is lighting it up so far, averaging approximately 25 points and 12 rebounds a game.

“His consistency has been unbelivable,” ISU Coach Greg McDermott said. 

McDermott recently flew to Florida to watch Gilstrap play, but winter weather prevented him from completing a trip to Chicago and a visit to see his other 2009 signee, Whitney Young H.S. point guard Chris Colvin.

Here was the coach’s report on Gilstrap:

“I was very impressed with his play; his ability to get the basket going right and left, he shot the 3-point shot well and was all over the place on the backboards. He’ll fill that hole we have not having an athletic wing who can go inside or out and go block a shot or go get a rebound at the top of the square.

“We don’t have that kind of a player.”

Gilstrap will have played against worthy competition. Many of the players he’s already faced and will go against at junior colleges like Chipola and Northwest Florida, the state’s Nos. 1 and 2 ranked teams, and Tallahassee and Pensacola in the Panhandle Conference also are Division I recruits.

He’s teammates with Brad Reese, who ISU went after hard last spring and eventually settled on Texas Tech.

The two are the Commodores’ top players. McDermott said Gilstrap doesn’t have to dominate the ball on offense and remains in the flow of the game.

“I didn’t see him force much. He really let the game come to him,” McDermott said.

If Gilstrap and Colvin live up to their reputations, the Cyclones could be onto something good in the next two years.  Out of eligibility come March are guards Bryan Petersen and Sean Haluska and center Alex Thompson.

Also new to the team next year will be guard Scott Christopherson, who is sitting out this season after transferring from Marquette. Craig Brackins will be a year older and probably bigger. So will Lucca Staiger, who is rounding into form as one of ISU’s top offensive players.

Diante Garrett is back. So is Wes Eikmeier… and Justin Hamilton… and Dominque Buckley.

Who knows what the rest of this season will bring, but there’s a lot to look forward to if fans can continue being patient.


ISU got it right

December 21, 2008

I came into Paul Rhoads’ introductory press conference Saturday night knowing I’d hear a lot about returning to his Iowa State roots, coming home to the state he loves and being the right guy for the job.

I didn’t know I’d believe it as much as I do. I’m sold on this hire — hook. line. sinker. 

Rhoads doesn’t have head coaching experience or the name brand of some of AD Jamie Pollard’s alleged candidates.

What he does have is motivation. He has passion. He has staying power. And most importantly, having lived and worked in Ames through some dark days in the mid- to late-1990s, he knows what he’s getting himself into.

Let’s be honest, Iowa State is a difficult place to win.  Few have done it with regularity.

Rhoads left town before the Cyclones broke through in 2000 with a winning season, but he helped build it, be sure of that.  His Pittsburgh team was ISU’s final victim in a 9-3 season that ended with an Bowl victory.

He knows how Dan McCarney got it done in going to five bowl games in a six-year span:

Get and develop the top players in the state, attract some playmakers from Texas and Florida and fill in with junior college guys and some from other surrounding Midwest areas. 

Rhoads seems to be everything Gene Chizik was not: personable, forthright, full of emotion and — as it turned out — happy to be in Ames.

Family members and friends filled the Jacobson Athletic Building to watch Rhoads’ public introduction as the leader of Cyclone Nation. He showed emotion and sincerity, which ISU fans don’t take for granted anymore.

They should be very pleased with Pollard’s choice. He may not have been the first, but Rhoads may be the best in the long term.

McCarney/Chizik retrospective

December 18, 2008

Think Jamie Pollard’s had a difficult week? He has.

But he said Gene Chizik’s quick exit from Iowa State — and the lies and betrayals that accompanied it — was nothing compared to Nov. 2006 when Pollard ushered popular coach Dan McCarney out the door after 12 seasons.

“That was the toughest thing I’ve ever had to do in my life,” Pollard responded to a question about appreciating what McCarney accomplished in Ames. “I felt worse that week than I’ll ever feel about what just happened. Dan McCarney is a great coach and great human being.”

Could Pollard have avoided the Chizik debacle and allowed McCarney to stay?

That wasn’t an option, he said. McCarney went 4-8 his final season, better than Chizik ever did in his two years, but simply didn’t have the support of fans and financial backers at the time. They were screaming for change.

“The fact of the matter was that a majority of our fan base had given up hope and had stopped buying tickets and stopped donating,” Pollard said. “We couldn’t do what we need to do to keep Dan here. People got off that bandwagon real quick at the end and it stopped us dead in our tracks. I have all the respect in the world for him but it’s a tough business.”

As much as it hurts to admit, Pollard said Chizik’s hiring was a great thing for the athletic department.

He revitilized the fan base and donors. The money helped ISU pay for a$19 million renovation on the west side of Jack Trice Stadium and similar work that’s currently being done on the stadium’s east side.

“Two years ago we didn’t have a prayer of putting $20 million into the football stadium,” Pollard said. “We couldn’t have made that investment (without Chizik).”

Of course, McCarney’s doing pretty well for himself these days.

He’s about to coach Florida in the BCS national championship after helping elevate South Florida’s program to national prominence the year before.

Chizik gone, Bates back?

December 15, 2008

So what are you thinking now if you are Phillip Bates?

The coach who called you out as a quitter when you decided to leave Iowa State midseason, himself abandons ship at the first opportunity after apparently telling his players he wasn’t going anywhere when talk heated up that he was second-guessing his decision.

The pot calling the kettle black? You betcha.

Bates lost out to Austen Arnaud to be ISU’s starting quarterback and decided he wanted to continue his career somewhere else. Where? We don’t yet know. He may not either.

What do we know? He’s still enrolled at ISU.

What happens if AD Jamie Pollard lands Turner Gill, who appears to be the people’s choice to succeed Chizik and get ISU’s football program to sustain any type of forward motion it has after going 2-10 overall and 0-8 in the Big 12.

Gill’s a Nebraska guy, played there (1980-83) and coached there (1992-2004). Husker fans think the world of them. He may have gotten the NU job had it not been Bo Pelini.

Does Bates — an Omaha native who was born the same year (1989) that Gill served as a Nebraska graduate assistant and grew up idolizing the quarterbacks Gill tutored — reconsider his decision to find greener pastures?

Would Pollard allow him to since Bates has already been given a release from his scholarship? Would teammates welcome him back to the band?

Food for thought.

Hartzell at Hilton..right or wrong?

December 11, 2008

We’ve debated for years whether Rick Hartzell should be officiating Division I men’s basketball games in light of his position as athletic director at Northern Iowa.

He’s no longer at UNI, but continues to wear the stripes at major college games.

Hartzell’s worked Iowa State’s last two ballgames, a win Saturday over Oregon State and Tuesday night’s narrow defeat to Drake. He’s no longer Greg McDermott’s boss, but don’t you have the right to feel like you are at a disadvantage if you’re on the other bench?

It’s human nature.

Especially if McDermott, who was hired by Hartzell at UNI in 2001, is huddling with Hartzell during the game, like coaches often do when referees are stationed next to the sideline or immediately after timeouts are called.

Now, McDermott is as fair and honest as it gets in the coaching business. He doesn’t feel like Hartzell owes him anything.

And Hartzell’s a pro. I don’t believe he’d ever manufacture calls or give ISU the benefit of close calls. That said, he simply shouldn’t be assigned to work Cyclone games. Period.

His ability to affect the outcome of games — in the case of ISU, ones he probably would like to see his good friend win — is reason enough. There’s too much at stake to give anyone the appearance that Hartzell is favoring McDermott’s team. 

If anything, Hartzell is probably trying too hard to prove he’s not favoring his buddy. Same goes for the other officials, trying to prove McDermott and Hartzell are not in cahoots. 

It’s got to be awkward for everybody.

The easy way to solve that?

Have Hartzell stay away from Hilton Coliseum or any other venue Iowa State is playing in. That’s being fair to all parties involved while preserving the integrity of the game.

My Heisman ballot – final edition

December 10, 2008

After careful consideration and thought — and thanks to all of you who responded with how you’d approach the vote — my Heisman Trophy ballot went as follows:

1) Colt McCoy, QB, Texas
2) Tim Tebow, QB, Florida
3) Sam Bradford, QB, Oklahoma

I do think Iowa’s Shonn Greene is deserving and believe me, I nearly changed my vote at the last minute.
But those three players are so clearly the best three candidates for the prize. Who would replace if Greene were in the top 3?
Bradford, who passed for 4.464 yards and had 53 combined touchdowns?
Tebow, who appears to be one of the great leaders in recent memory and has his team in the BCS Championship game?
McCoy, who could be playing in the title game, finished with 3.445 yards passing, a team-high 576 yards rushing and 42 total touchdowns?

Did i get it right? Or at least close?

Heisman vote…what do i do?

December 6, 2008

My Heisman Trophy ballot is due next Wednesday. My No. 1 choice is all but set, but who should take silver and bronze (voters are asked only to rank their top three choices).

There still is time to sway me, which Iowa fans surely like to hear as Shonn Greene’s name fades from the national spotlight now that the Hawkeyes haven’t played in two weeks.

Greene’s numbers translate to a top-5 finish — and in most years would get him invited to the ceremony. Not this year, and that’s a shame.

It’s all about the quarterback.

ESPN isn’t hyping Greene for its broadcast of the Dec. 13 ceremony, a sure sign he won’t be in New York and possibly that his candidacy is losing steam.

I’ve long thought that the network has too much of an influence on the voting. Its commentary and (un)intended? campaigning of top players almost certainly helps fill out voters’ ballots.

So, who am i voting for? I’m leaning strongly toward Texas’ Colt McCoy.

He, Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell and Oklahoma’s Sam Bradford have all played in primetime and delivered huge games and huge wins. And yes, Florida’s Tim Tebow has got to be considered too.

(Full disclosure: I voted for Tebow a year ago. No brainer.) 

So what separates McCoy this year?

To me, he’s got a specialness that the other guys don’t. Can I explain it? Not very well, other than to say he seems to make plays and do incredible things when the ball is in his hands.

Accuracy, arm strength, running ability — I like it all.

Can anybody convince me otherwise? The rest of my top 3 is up for grabs, but short of a drop-dead performance from Bradford or Tebow in their conference title games, the Real McCoy is the Real Winner.

Whaddya think? Have i got this thing all wrong?

Ames’ Barnes draws a crowd

December 3, 2008

Seating was at a premium Tuesday night at Ames High School’s gym.

Ames and Urbandale kicked off their boys basketball seasons, a meeting of two of central Iowa’s top Class 4A teams. That mattered very little to many inside the gym.

They were there to watch Ames junior Harrison Barnes, considered one of the top five recruits in the nation.

Kansas’ Bill Self, Stanford’s Johnny Dawkins and hometown hope Greg McDermott were in attendance. Barnes holds two dozen scholarship offers already. The 6-6, 200-pounder can write his own ticket: Duke, North Carolina, UCLA, Kentucky, Florida, Texas, Louisville… name the school and they’ll drop everything to sign him.

The capacity crowd included Iowa State men’s basketball players and support staff, former Cyclone assistant coach Jim Hallihan, Wayne Clinton — Ames’ coach when the last huge local star Fred Hoiberg was here, a half-dozen ISU football players and all three Des Moines television stations.

It was darn near standing room only.

Barnes showed his array of skills during Ames’ surprisingly lopsided 66-34 victory. Barnes swished threes, soared to the hoop for lay-ins, snared rebounds, swatted shots and showed the kind of unselfishness you rarely see from players of his stature.

He finished with 16 points, a modest total that certainly could have been higher.

Whether Iowa State can reel in its high-profile local boy has been dicussed at length on talk radio and Internet chat rooms and message boards. It was the first school to offer the kid, who is the son of former Cyclone star Ron Harris.

To Coach K or Ol’ Roy, Barnes would be another five-star notch in their recruiting belt.

To McDermott, Barnes would be a program changer, a player who could help return ISU to national prominence and the top of the Big 12.

We’ll be watching, along with the rest of college basketball’s elite hot on Barnes’ trail. He’s said he’s in no hurry to decide.

Signing day is next November. Cyclone fans will be on pins and needles till then, with fingers crossed and rabbit’s feet stuffed in their pockets.