WEST DES MOINES – Considering some of the maneuvers Marquis Gilstrap pulled off with legs at less than full strength, Iowa State basketball fans are in for a serious high-wire act this season.
Gilstrap showed off his leaping ability Sunday during at the YMCA Capital City League. Rebounds, blocked shots, tip dunks… the Cyclone newcomer was above the rim on several occasions.
“That’s off of two legs,” Gilstrap said. “Off of one I can’t do it that well.”
Umm, really? The signee from Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College still is strengthening the muscles in his left leg. An injury to his patellar tendon forced Gilstrap to miss two full years of basketball before a monster return last season at GCCC.
He has athleticism and leaping ability no one on ISU’s roster can match.
“I love playing with him,” said guard Dominique Buckley, a summer league teammate of Gilstrap’s. “You throw the ball up anywhere and he’ll get it.”
Gilstrap averaged 22.6 points and 10.1 rebounds, and was rated at the No. 2 junior college player in the nation by ESPN.com.
He has only season to play, but could be awarded another if ISU petitions the NCAA for a medical hardship.
Cyclone fans have massive expectations for the 6-6, 210-pound forward, believing he may be the missing piece to a return to prominence in the Big 12 Conference.
“I take it as a challenge. I think my game is good enough that I can handle it,” Gilstrap said.
He’s proven he can hit from 3-point range – 52 of 127 for 40.9 percent at GCCC – and he’s becoming more comfortable in the weight room thanks to ISU’s strength coach Andy Moser.
“I’m pretty much used to it,” said Gilstrap, who will wear the No. 3 at ISU. “I haven’t lifted much in the past.”
Presently, he’s impressing his new teammates with his array of skills.
“He’s a great player,” said junior guard Diante Garrett. “He’s strong. His game is more mature than most of us. I think he’s going to be ready.”
Coach Greg McDermott sees great potential in his prized recruit.
“Now he’s got to overcome this next level of adjustment,” he said. “There’s a big difference between where he played last year and what he’s going to be asked to do… The work ethic and passion is there. It’s a matter of putting it all together.”
Same goes for the team.
The Cyclones have a potential all-America forward, experienced guards, talented newcomers and quality depth. ISU’s postseason drought is at four years and counting.
Most everybody expects that to end.
“We’ve got a real good team,” Gilstrap said. “We are going to be really good I think.”