AMES — Iowa State basketball coaches Greg McDermott and Jeff Rutter gave it their best shot in convincing Lucca Staiger to continue his basketball career in the United States.
But Staiger’s plane ticket was purchased and his mind made up: the junior guard is leaving ISU mid-season to begin his professional career in Germany.
“We attempted to reason with him and explain to him what we felt were the benefits of finishing the season,” McDermott said late Tuesday night. “We felt there were a lot of positives to that. Lucca, however, felt the (financial) guarantee that he would have wasn’t worth the risk.”
And so, the Cyclones (12-5, 1-1 Big 12) come into tonight’s 6:30 p.m. game at Texas Tech with just seven scholarship players scheduled to suit up.
The head coach has some thinking to do between now and tip-off. His options are these:
— Play the next four games with those seven players until freshman guard Chris Colvin comes off suspension in February
— Reinstate Colvin immediately, which McDermott said Monday before Staiger’s stunning announcement he would not do
— Pull the redshirt off one of the true freshmen guards, Antwon Oliver or Bubu Palo
“None of the three of those is ideal,” McDermott said, “but I have to decide along with input from my coaching staff what is best for our team at this point in time. Outside of the plane ride I haven’t had a lot of time to think about what to do moving forward.”
Scott Christopherson will take Staiger’s place in the starting lineup.
The sophomore guard, who averages 6.8 points a game, often has been a late-game replacement for Staiger. He is shooting 50 percent both from the field (41 of 82) and 3-point range (19 of 38).
“There’s an opportunity there for someone else and I’m certain Scott is going to grab a hold of that and run with it,” McDermott said.
Staiger led the Cyclones with 48 3-pointers and was his 9.4 points a game was third-most on the team.
It’s been an eventful 2010 for ISU so far. Colvin was suspended, center Jamie Vanderbeken is being withheld from competition because of injury, forward L.A. Pomlee was dismissed, guard Charles Boozer sustained a season-ending knee injury and Tuesday came Staiger’s shocker.
McDermott — who had to deal with a similar situation in April 2008 when Wesley Johnson abruptly decided to transfer — will really have to circle the wagons in order to have a strong finish.
“I hope this is a rallying point for the guys “ he said. “We are going to have to count on each other.”