Posts Tagged ‘Wesley Johnson’

ESPN’s Fraschilla on Cyclone hoops, Staiger

January 25, 2010

Chatted with ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla before Saturday’s game between Iowa State and Kansas at Hilton Coliseum.

Fraschilla, always fair and informed with his commentary, had some revealing things to say about Coach Greg McDermott and the Cyclone basketball program.

Success at the high major level is difficult to attain — and maintain.

“If you are not at Kansas, Kentucky, Carolina, Syracuse, Duke and maybe three or four other programs you are living day to day in college basketball,” Fraschilla said. “It is just the way it is.”

ISU’s is program that grew accustomed to postseason basketball be it the NCAAs or NIT. It hasn’t sniffed either in McDermott’s three-plus seasons, for a variety of reasons that have some starting to wonder how much of the player turnover and below-average records is in indictment of the head coach.

With the roster shuffle that’s gone on the last three weeks and ISU down to eight scholarship players reaching those NCAA goals will require a lot of things to go their way. 

The Cyclones are 12-7 overall and 1-3 in the Big 12 going into Wednesday’s game at Oklahoma.

Enough of me. Here’s more of what Fraschilla had to say:

On Lucca Staiger’s decision to quit the team:

“For a guy to leave you in the middle of the season is unconscionable. I know Europeand baektbalt maybe as well as anybody who follows baskebtall in the States. For that kid to leave like he did for basically a prorated $100,000 contract..he could’ve gotten that contract in May or June. He could have. The simple fact is where he is an average player in the Big 12, he is considered one of their top young players. That tells you all you need to know about the level of German basketball.”

On another high-profile player suddenly leaving the program:

“We all know Wes Johnson’s family shopped him to Kentucky and a bunch of other schools around the country. It’s worked out for him and good for him. I definitely don’t buy that there wasn’t a great relationship. I think that was an excuse for his family to be able to get him out of here to a higher profile program. Iowa State is not considered basketball royalty. A kid gets a chance to leave and go to Syracuse or Kentucky, and has a family member that talks him into it, what can you do? There’s nothing you can do about it… If you put Wes Johnson on the floor with these guys and minimize some of the injuries they’ve have, they easily could have been a top-15 team. That’s what i mean by bad breaks.”

On McDermott and his difficulties building a winner:

“I know if you talk to other coaches in the Big 12, every one thinks that Greg is a tremendous coach who has had horrible luck. Now, when does that luck run out? That’s up to Iowa State to determine. I know from watching his teams at Northern Iowa and watching how he prepares his teams here that he is a very, very good coach. I went through this at New Mexico with bad luck. I went from being a genius in New York to a guy in Albuquerque who people thought should be parking cars. I understand how it works. It’s easy for fans and media to get down on you.  That’s the way things work, but I know he is a good basketball coach.”

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Lucca’s free….what now for the Cyclones?

January 20, 2010

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.”

Another Cyclone streak snapped in Lincoln

January 17, 2010

Iowa State’s streak-busting in Lincoln continued Saturday night with a 56-53 win at Nebraska, snapping a 16-game Big 12 Conference road losing skid.

Three months earlier — just days apart — it was the Cyclone football team leaving town with its first win at Memorial Stadium since 1977 and ISU’s volleyball team winning its first overall match against the Huskers in 75 tries.

As was the case with football, it wasn’t pretty, but the Cyclones finished strong.

They got the job done defensively down the stretch, holding Nebraska down and forcing tough shots for the offensively challenged Huskers.

ISU survived this one despite shooting 39.3 percent on FGs and having Craig Brackins score just six points.

Brackins, who along with juniors Diante Garrett and Lucca Staiger got his first conference road victory, did pull down 11 rebounds and dish out three assists.

Seven different players had at least six points, led by Marquis Gilstrap’s 15 to go with 12 rebounds.

Next up is a game at Texas Tech on Wednesday. That’s another very winnable road game. Is two in a row too tall a task for this crew?

DEPTH PERCEPTION

It wasn’t long ago that depth was thought to be a strength of this team.

Not anymore.

The Cyclones are down to eight scholarship players after Saturday’s news that reserve guard Charles Boozer will miss the rest of the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Boozer was hurt in Wednesday’s loss to No. 1-ranked Texas.

He would have been an important player off the bench for Coach Greg McDermott over the last half of the season.  Instead, he joins Jamie Vanderbeken (ankle) on injured reserve and is the fourth player in the last 10 days to become unavailable.

Forward L.A. Pomlee was dismissed and freshman point guard Chris Colvin is on suspension until at least February.

ISU managed themselves fine agianst Nebraska, but are going to find more difficult tests in the next two months.  Right now the help off the bench consists of Scott Christopherson, LaRon Dendy and Dominique Buckley.

McDermott, from all indications, is not considering pulling the redshirt off true freshman Antwon Oliver.

NBA DOWN ON BRACKINS?

The newest issue of ESPN the Magazine includes a not-so-flattering blurb about Brackins’ pro prospects.

In hoops analyst Doug Gottlieb’s notes column, Gottlieb quotes an unnamed NBA scout on Brackins: “He’s wildly overrated.” Gottlieb says league evaluators are seeing the 6-10 big man as “a face-the-basket 3 trapped in a 4’s body without enough athleticism to create his own shot.”

Brackins was a sure first-round NBA Draft pick last June but decided to return to ISU for his junior season.

A mock draft at www.nbadraft.net has Brackins going No. 16 to Minnesota.  It also has former Cyclone Wesley Johnson, now at Syracuse, at No. 2 overall behind Kentucky’s freshman point guard John Wall.

Double whammy Wednesday for Cyclones

January 7, 2010

It was a tough night for Iowa State basketball fans watching ESPN2 Wednesday night.

Before the Cyclones’ disappointing 86-65 loss to No. 5 Duke at the United Center in Chicago, it was former Cyclone Wesley Johnson continuing to play out of his mind in another impressive Syracuse victory.

Johnson, who played his first two seasons at ISU before curiously deciding he would transfer, had19 points, seven rebounds and three assists in the No. 7-ranked Orange’s 74-57 victory over Memphis. The 6-7, 205-pound forward came into the night averaging 17.1 points and 8.8 rebounds while shooting 50 percent (23 of 46) from 3-point range.

Bob Knight called the SU-Memphis game for ESPN and had high praise for Johnson, whom he’d seen up close while coaching at Texas Tech.

“This kid can play,” Knight said during the telecast. “There isn’t any facet to the game he isn’t better than average at. Ane he obviously likes to play the game.”

After Johnson was done, the spotlight was on ISU against the Blue Devils. The big stage — and their opponents’ suffocating defense — was a little too much for the Cyclones to handle.

Big man Craig Brackins was in foul trouble and forced several shots, that is, when he could get them.

Duke’s ball pressure didn’t allow for many clean passes to Brackins, who finished with 12 points and just three rebounds.

Too many turnovers (18) and offensive rebounds allowed (??) didn’t help the cause.

ISU heads into its non-conference finale Saturday against North Dakota State with a record of 10-4. Reaching the postseason is not going to be easy for this crew.

ISU hoops… what if?

February 26, 2009

Hypotheticals have never really interested me, but let’s think for a minute what might have been with Iowa State’s basketball team.

Humor me here, folks.

The Cyclones are 14-14 overall, 3-10 in the Big 12 heading into Saturday’s game at Texas A&M.

Where would ISU be sitting right now with Wesley Johnson playing the small forward spot? It’s a question I’ve had posed to me numerous times this year.

Is the former standout — who currently sitting out the season at Syracuse waiting to be eligible — the difference between ISU’s season ending after the conference tourney in a few weeks or earning an NIT berth? 

Is an NCAA bid out of the question? I don’t think it is.

A handful of players still keep in contact with Johnson, exchanging text messages and the like. Guard Diante Garrett says he’s caught glimpses of the 6-7 forward on the Orange bench during TV broadcasts. 

But Garrett and his teammates aren’t sitting around lamenting Johnson’s loss in the midst of a disappointing season.

“I just left that in the past. I don’t think about it that much,” Garrett said.

“You can if you want to, but what’s the point,” said guard Bryan Petersen. “Yeah, he was a really talented player and I’m not going to sit here and say he wouldn’t have helped if he was on our team. He probably would have. But you can’t do that. He’s not here and he’s not coming back.”

The talented forward curiously skipping town last May, claiming he and coach Greg McDermott had a falling out. McDermott was surprised to hear of this, to say the least.

I don’t think there’s any question this team would be markedly better with Johnson wearing cardinal and gold (or whatever colors they are).

How much better? That’s up for debate.

I believe he probably gives ISU a half-dozen more victories, which has the program right on the cusp of a postseason berth that it hasn’t had since making the NCAA Tournament during the 2004-05 season.

The Cyclones don’t have an athletic wing player like Johnson, who can score from inside and out, defend and rebound the ball amongst the trees.

They will next season in Marquis Gilstrap, a transfer from Gulf Coast (Fla.) Community College.

That doesn’t help the here and now. Johnson would have been a junior.

His absence has been helpful for players like Garrett, Craig Brackins, Lucca Staiger and Charles Boozer. Boozer has seen the floor far more than he would have if Johnson were here, and done good things.

Garrett and Brackins, both just sophomores, accepted leadership roles as two of the most experienced players on a team made up primarily of freshmen and sophomores.

“It’s given some of these young guys a chance to step up,” Petersen said.

McDermott’s endured some difficult losses in his three seasons as head coach. He saw his top returning player leave the program in consecutive years and may have it happen again if Brackins decides to forgo his final two years of eligibility in favor of the NBA.

And we’ll again be left to wonder, what if?