Archive for February, 2010

Lacey: Future in hoops, U.S. up in the air

February 27, 2010

If Alison Lacey wants to, a career in the WNBA is likely hers

AMES – Rarely is Alison Lacey confused about much of anything relating to basketball.

Except now, as Iowa State’s star senior closes out a decorated career while also trying to decide whether she wants to make a living playing it.

“I don’t know what I want to do,” said Lacey, who came to Iowa and the United States from Canberra, Australia. “Sometimes I want to play. Sometimes I want to go home. Sometimes I want to stay here. It stresses me out so I just don’t think about it.”

One thing that is clear is that Lacey’s play this season has her among some elite company.

The 6-foot point guard is sixth in the Big 12 Conference in scoring (17.5 ppg), first in assists (6.7 apg) and leads the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio (3.3).

Lacey also is shooting 40.8 percent from 3-point range and is 11th nationally in free-throw percentage (88.7).

Coach Bill Fennelly said it may be ultimately rank among the greatest single seasons in school history.

She’s been the primary reason why this young Cyclone team is ranked No. 15 nationally with a record of 21-5 overall and 9-4 in the conference entering Saturday’s 7 p.m. game with Kansas State (12-15, 4-9) at Hilton Coliseum.

“She’s having a senior year like you hope every senior has,” Fennelly said, “and probably has put herself in the discussion of one of the best players ever to play here.”

Fennelly has had eight of his players selected in the WNBA Draft.

He thinks Lacey — one of only seven players in Big 12 history to amass 1,500 points, 500 rebounds and 500 assists — has the best chance of any of them to enjoy a lasting career as a pro.

“She’s the most prepared player that’s ever played here to go to that level,” Fennelly said. “She’s as good as any guard coming out. Her versatility, her skill set, her competitiveness… all those things. We are getting calls from every WNBA team.”

Lacey said she is leaning towards continuing with basketball, provided the injury problems she’s had during her career are minimized.

“It depends how my body feels,” Lacey said. “I feel good right now.”

The question then would be where to play. WNBA? Europe? Both?

“She could go home and be a professional and make a good living for a while and enjoy it,” Fennelly said.

Lacey also could finish her degree this spring and start a life back in Australia. Or stay in the U.S. until she’s ready to return home.

“Sometimes I miss home and miss my family. I haven’t had a summer back there in five years,” Lacey said. “But I’m ready to experience new things so I don’t know if I’m quite ready to go back.”

Fennelly has tried to provide her with reasonable advice.

“What I told her is not to close any doors until you know you are sure,” he said.

 Lacey admits it won’t be easy leaving the country.

“It’s so cheap here. And I love all the food now,” Lacey said. “I’ve grown accustomed to the way of life here. It’s more fast-paced than home. It’s really laid back in Australia. No one is that motivated. People just kind of hang out.”

Brackins shoots (and shoots) his way out of slump

February 25, 2010

AMES — It was 90 minutes before tip-off Wednesday and who was out on the Hilton Coliseum floor getting extra shots up in advance of Iowa State’s game with Nebraska?

It was Craig Brackins, who had hit just 18 of his previous 68 field goal attempts. The all-Big 12 forward has been doing all he can to break out of this slump. 

“Some guys hide when they struggle and some guys attack it,” Coach Greg McDermott said following ISU’s 78-74 victory. “Right now (attacking) is what he’s doing.”

Whatever he did — it worked. Brackins finished with 21 points — 14 in the second half and 11 down the stretch — to go with 10 rebounds. He hit 7 of his 12 shots from the filed.

“Craig is a great player and rose to the occasion,” said guard Scott Christopherson, who added 17 points of his own and was key in helping snap a six-game losing streak.

Brackins talked earlier in the week about doing more extra work after practices and on his own. He stayed true to his word.

“I made sure I had extra shots,” Brackins said.

The victory puts ISU into a tie for 10th place in the Big 12 Conferenece standings with Colorado, who happens to be its opponent Saturday afternoon.

For a few days at least, the Cyclones can bask in the feeling of a win and quell some of the talk that McDermott’s job may be on the line.

ISU notched McDermott’s 17th Big 12 victory Wednesday night. It was his sixth over Nebraska.

Christopherson not letting mono slow him down

February 23, 2010

AMES — Scott Christopherson’s body is saying one thing. His mind is telling him another. 

The Iowa State guard continues to play hard while fighting off mononucleosis. Christopherson hasn’t been the same since contracting the virus early in the Big 12 season, but has refused to give in mentally.

“I don’t want to be sick and I’m not going to tell myself I am,” Christopherson said recently. “Am I 100 percent? No. But I’m going to go into every game thinking I am because there’s no point in not… Everybody is fatigued and their knees hurt and their body aches. As far as I’m concerned I’m just like everybody else.”

Christopherson scored a career-best 19 points on 7 of 12 shooting last week in a loss to Oklahoma State.

He’s taking one for his short-handed team, which is down to eight scholarship players going into Wednesday night’s game agianst Nebraska at Hilton Coliseum.

Christopherson again will likely log 30-plus minutes for the Cyclones, who come in with an overall mark of 13-14 and 2-10 in league games.

“The effort he’s giving when he shouldn’t really be playing is incredible,” said Coach Greg McDermott. “There aren’t many guys that would play through what he’s playing through. Somehow he’s finding enough energy on game day.”

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McDermott indicated Monday he still is not ready to welcome forward LaRon Dendy back into his good graces.

Dendy was gone from the team for a full week — and two games — to attend his great grandmother’s funeral in South Carolina. Dendy returned days later than expected and without a good explanation.

He did not play in last Wednesday’s loss to OSU and saw four minutes of action last Saturday against Texas A&M.

“He and I met (Sunday) and talked through some things,” McDermott said. “I like the progress he’s making. We’ll gradually work him back into the lineup.”

Dendy is averaging 6.8 points and 3.5 rebounds a game. He’s tried to keep his head up, teammates say.

“He’s working extra hard and is doing what he has to do to get back some more minutes,” said Craig Brackins.

McDermott: Brackins’ draft stock still high

February 22, 2010

AMES — Don’t get too excited thinking a down year by Craig Brackins is going to kill his draft prospects and keep him at Iowa State for another year.

Coach Greg McDermott still thinks the 6-10 forward is NBA bound at season’s end.

“He hasn’t said that for sure, but that’s my feeling,” McDermott said Monday.

“There still aren’t many skilled 6-10 power forwards floating around that can do what he can do. You don’t see the kind of same type of defense in the NBA that you see in college basketball. When Criag hasn’t been double-teamed, he’s scored.”

Brackins is averaging 16.5 points and 8.4 rebounds a game — down from the 20.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg he put up last year as an all-Big 12 first-team player.

He’s been streaky this season and is in a major slump over the last four games, shooting 18 for 68 (26.5 percent) from the floor. 

“I probably shoot 200 to 300 shots a day. Maybe I’ll try 400 or 500,” Brackins said. “Maybe what I’m doing is not enough. I’ve worked twice as hard this year than last year and I’m still a little off.”

The web site www.draftexpress.com has Brackins as a high second-round pick. Another mock draft at www.nbadraft.net projects Brackins as going No. 21 overall.

New to the draft game this year is a May 8 deadline for early entries to pull their name out and still retain their eligibility. Prospects used to be able to go later into the process before having to do that.

April 25th is the deadline players have to declare for the draft.

Brackins — and 6-7 wing Marquis Gilstap, if he is granted a sixth year of eligibility — should have their plans figured out by then.

“They’ll make some decisions shortly after the season is over,” McDermott said. “I don’t think either one of them is in a situation where they are going to drag this out.”

Gilstrap, who is averaging 14.4 points and 9.3 rebounds, could be awarded another season if the NCAA rules in favor of ISU’s appeal. He could also decide to turn pro.

Gilstrap and his girlfriend have a young child together and are expecting another in June.

“His priority is feeding his family and he’s going to make a decision that’s in the best interests of his family,” McDermott said. “Nobody can question him on that.”

Either way, the Cyclones are moving forward as if they won’t have either Gilstrap or Brackins back next season. The late signing period opens in mid-April.

Cyclone Fanatic.com reported Monday that ISU has offered Marshallltown Community College wing Will Clyburn.

“You recruit with the assumption they’re not coming back and if they do, you still have time,” McDermott said. “It’s not like we’ve got anybody committed there.”

Is McDermott finally feeling the heat?

February 18, 2010

McDermott's post-game scene Wednesday was tough to watch

AMES — The pressure may finally be getting to Greg McDermott.

The Iowa State coach got emotional addressing reporters after his team’s 69-64 loss to Oklahoma State, the Cyclones’ fifth straight and eighth in nine tries.

ISU (13-13, 2-9 Big 12) couldn’t do much right early on and trailed 36-16  with 5 1/2 minutes before halftime.

Fans were restless. The student section was quiet, except for the snide remarks aimed at ISU’s players and their fourth-year coach. Players’ body language screamed frustration and embarassment.

“The start of the game was a joke,” McDermott said softly, searching for the right words. “That’s all there is to it. It’s my job to get these guys ready and they obviously weren’t. I didn’t feel like we practiced with quite as much focus and energy the past few days, but there’s no excuse for it.”

The Cyclones rallied to make it a game, led for a bit in the second half, but couldn’t make enough of the right plays late to win.

On the court, we saw McDermott act in a way fans — and we in the media — aren’t used to seeing from him.

After a no-call on forward Craig Brackins under ISU’s basket, McDermott reacted by ripping off his suit coat, throwing it to the ground and screaming in the face of official Kip Kissinger, who quickly whistled McDermott for a technical foul.

It didn’t stop there. He rode officials the rest of the way, barking and staring, and probably is lucky he wasn’t tossed.

A colleague of mine described McDermott as looking defeated during his post-game remarks. Could you blame the guy with how this once-promising season has gone?

It was a strange scene Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum. It could get stranger. 

Athletic Director Jamie Pollard isn’t talking publicly about McDermott’s status. It’s getting harder to ignore with each passing game that doesn’t go ISU’s way.

Medders’ secret exposed; can ISU’s luck in Lincoln continue?

February 17, 2010

Former Iowa State point guard Lyndsey Medders and her former coach’s son now are husband and wife and living in Chicago where Billy Fennelly serves as an assistant women’s basketball coach at Northwestern.

The two began dating during Medders’ career that spanned 2003-07, a time when Fennelly was a student manager for his dad. Not wanting news of their relationship go public, or put anyone (umm, Bill Fennelly in particular) in an awkward position, the couple hid it from most of the outside world.

Lyndsey and Billy provided details of their secret romance for the first time in this piece, courtesy of ISU’s Alumni Association.

Check out Lyndsey’s web site and don’t hesitate to follow her on Twitter, if nothing else for the inspirational quotes she shares daily.

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Iowa State is looking for its fourth big-time victory in Lincoln, Neb., this athletic year.

First it was volleyball ending a 75-match losing streak to the Huskers. A few days later the football team won at Memorial Stadium for the first time since 1977.

The men’s basketball team snapped a 16-game losing streak in Big 12 road games last month.

The Cyclone women’s basketball team faces unbeaten and No. 3-ranked Nebraska (23-0, 10-0) Wednesday night. An ISU victory would be its eighth in nine games and the cherry on top of an already impressive NCAA Tournament resume.  

“We are going to go over there with the belief that we can,” Head Coach Bill Fennelly said. “Football did it, volleyball did it,  men’s basketball did it. We might as well go try and do it.”

ISU (19-4, 7-3) lost to the Huskers 57-49 in the teams’ Big 12 opener.

Nebraska has tied the single-season school record for wins and is one of only two teams nationally (No. 1 Connecticut) still without a loss.

“It’s one of those perfect storm kind of seasons for them,” Fennelly said. “It is probably the most difficult situation our team will play in all year. It comes at a time when we are playing well. I hope our players are excited about the challenge and seeing where we are.”

Dendy expected back in Iowa tonight (we think)

February 15, 2010

Expected to rejoin the Cyclones Monday night

AMES — Will LaRon Dendy ever make it back to campus and Iowa State’s basketball team?

The answer is yes, though at his own expense and later than a frustrated Coach Greg McDermott would’ve liked. As a result, the 6-9 junior forward may miss his third straight game Wednesday when the Cyclones (13-12, 2-8 Big 12) play host to Oklahoma State.

“He was on his own to get back,” McDermott said. “He stayed too long, in my opinion.”

Dendy — in South Carolina for the past week attending his great grandmother’s funeral — is scheduled to fly into Des Moines late Monday, McDermott said. The funeral was scheduled for last Tuesday, then postponed till Thursday. 

ISU was able to pay for Dendy’s flight home, but was too late in trying to change his return flight. Dendy did not inform coaches in time. 

“I think he found a flight that was reasonable that he could get home tonight (Monday),” McDermott said.

Dendy is ISU’s fifth-leading scorer (7.2 ppg) and averages 3.6 rebounds a game. He is shooting 56.7 percent from the field.

He missed road games at Missouri and Kansas and may not play against the Cowboys, who at 17-7 overall and 5-5 in Big 12 play are just as desperate as ISU for a victory.

“I don’t know (if Dendy will play),” McDermott said. “He hasn’t practice for a week.”

Why is Pollard mum on Mac? Because he can be

February 15, 2010

Is McDermott on the hot seat? His boss isn't saying.

In response to the great number of people asking their friends, wondering, blogging, chatting and filling up Internet space in regards to Greg McDermott’s job status at Iowa State and why Athletics Director Jamie Pollard hasn’t adressed it publicly, here’s the answer:

He doesn’t have to.

Media outlets — including this one — have made multiple inquiries on the topic. Pollard believes it is most beneficial to remain quiet.  

McDermott, who after Saturday’s loss to No. 1 Kansas has records of 57-63 overall and 16-42 in Big 12 Conference play, is under contract through the 2014-15 season.

According to details of his contract, the fourth-year coach is earning $950,000 this year and next year will crack the $1 million mark.

McDermott’s base salary is $225,000 with $625,000 more in guaranteed additional compensation. He also earns an annual raise of $75,000 for the life of the contract, though agreed to  give up $25,000 of that increase for the 2010 fiscal year to help pay for raises for his assistants and “other purposes in the best interest of the program,” according to his contract.

If Pollard decided the man he hired back in March 2006 should not continue coaching the Cyclones after this season, McDermott would be paid $2 million, or $500,000  for each remaining year of his deal.

In the spring of 2008 his contract was extended through May 1, 2015.

This started as McDermott’s most anticipated yet. He finally had the kind of depth and talent that past team did not.

It’s been disappointing, for several reasons, as ISU sits at 13-12 overall and 2-8 in league play.

If the program doesn’t start winning sooner than later, Pollard won’t need make any public statements. His hand will likely be forced. 

At this point in time, Pollard doesn’t feel the need to speak out.

ISU-Mizzou mbb: my postscript

February 11, 2010

Iowa State fought hard in a 65-56 loss at Missouri Wednesday night with just seven scholarship player suited up.

They were within one point on a handful of occasions late in the second half. They never took the lead and Kim English’s long 3-pointer with 1:45 to play pretty much sealed the game, and ISU’s sixth loss in seven games.

The Cyclones are 13-11 overall and 2-7 in the Big 12 heading into Saturday’s game at No. 1 Kansas.

Which team is more disappointment in being 13-11 you think, ISU or North Carolina after Wed. night’s loss to Duke? That’s a discussion for another day.

Anyways, here are some observations from Wednesday night’s game at Mizzou:

— Lucca Staiger’s presence on the 3-point line is sorely missed. ISU is a combined 7 of 37 (18.9 percent) from beyond the arc over the last two games.

— It may not be in ISU’s best interests that Scott Christopherson is playing as much as he is. The shooting guard clearly is affected by his mononucleosis and his defense and outside shooting accuracy looks to me to be suffering. I’m aware of the numbers problem, but if he’s hurting the team get someone else  — like steady backup Dominique Buckley — in there for him.

— Had LaRon Dendy been in Columbia and not Greenville, S.C., this one could have gone the other way. The Tigers owned the offensive glass — especially late — an area where the 6-9 Dendy would have helped and prevented second and third shot opportunities.

— Craig Brackins really needs to stop forcing crazy impossible, high-degree-of-difficulty shots against double teams. I realize he’s the team’s leading scorer, but there has to be a better shot at the goal than some of the stuff he’s firing up there.

— Chris Colvin may have been 1 for 9 shooting but he got to the rim and into the paint as good as any Cyclone guard in recent memory. He’s not Jamaal Tinsley just yet, but say this for the freshman, he’s aggressive. And that’s a good thing.

— If ISU shoots anywhere close to the season-low 32.8 percent it shot against Mizzou, brace for an ugly, ugly loss to the Jayhawks aa Allen Fieldhouse. It may be ugly anyway.

Welle’s jersey will hang from Hilton rafters

February 10, 2010

AMES — Angie Welle will be the fourth Iowa State women’s basketball player to have her jersey retired.

Welle, the school’s career scoring and rebounding leader, is joining former teammate Megan Taylor, along with Tonya Burns and Jayme Olson, in the Hilton Coliseum rafters.  The ceremony will Feb. 20 when ISU plays host to Missouri.

The weekend’s festivities also will celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Cyclones’ first Big 12 Conference regular-season and tournament championships.

Welle statistically may be the most dominant player in program history. That translated into quite a successful stretch for ISU, which went 103-29 during her four seasons.

“When you really look at her statistical numbers — how she impacted the success of our program and our attendance — it almost defies belief,” Coach Bill Fennelly said.

During Welle’s four-year career (1999-2002), ISU made four NCAA Tournament appearances, including an Elite Eight finish and two Sweet Sixteens. The Cyclones also won two Big 12 Conference Tournament championships and a regular season title.

Individually, Welle closed out her career owning multiple career and single-season scoring, shooting and rebounding records. The Fargo, N.D., native still holds the Big 12 record for career field goal percentage and is ISU’s only player with 2,o00 or more points (2,149) and 1,000 or more rebounds (1,209).