AMES — As March Madness tips off Thursday around the country, there’s excitement and disappointment with former Cyclone Curtis Stinson.
Stinson captained Iowa State’s last NCAA Tournament team in 2005, when the Cyclones beat Minnesota and fell in the second round to eventual national champion North Carolina. ISU hasn’t come close to a postseason game since.
Meanwhile, his Iowa Energy teammates are going back and forth about their alma mater’s chances in the Big Dance.
“I want to be able to talk about my team, too, when NCAA time comes around and people are doing their brackets,” Stinson said during a late-season visit to Hilton Coliseum with former running mate Will Blalock, also an NBA D-Leaguer.
Despite how things ended for both of them at ISU – turning pro early after head coach Wayne Morgan was fired and Greg McDermott was hired away from Northern Iowa – they are eager for their school to rediscover Hilton Magic and get back to the Big Dance.
Their final season was ISU’s last one over .500.
“I want to see Iowa State be successful,” Stinson said. “This is my school. I’ll always be a Cyclone no matter what happens. I want to see them win. I’m cool with some of the guys on the team. I want them to be happy and experience what we did. We had some big wins and NCAA experience.”
Morgan’s exit and the mass exodus that followed, in large part, has led to the program’s troubles.
Blalock hadn’t been back to Ames for a game since he left. He didn’t feel Morgan deserved to be let go.
“That’s why I’m still kinda bitter about the situation,” Blalock said. “If he was here I’d probably be showing a lot more support than I am.
“Being a fan of my school I’m going to support them regardless. I know they’ll turn it around sooner or later. You can’t really put too much pressure on them. They are in a rebuilding process. Hopefully next year it’ll be a lot better.”
McDermott received a vote of confidence from athletic director Jamie Pollard last week and has five years left on his contract.
ISU’s team won’t have an easy time winning next season without starters Craig Brackins, Marquis Gilstrap, Lucca Staiger and Justin Hamilton. Stinson hopes ISU’s patience pays off.
“I never want to see nobody not make it,” he said. “I know how hard it is to get that next level… Every team is a building process.”