Cyclones say goodbye to memorable senior class
By LUKE MEREDITH
AP Sports Writer
AMES — Nearly seven years to the day he was hired, the Fred Hoiberg era is over at Iowa State.
Steve Prohm is now completely in control of the Cyclones’ future.
The last of Hoiberg’s recruits completed their careers Saturday in an 80-76 loss to Purdue in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Monte Morris, the point guard Hoiberg couldn’t keep on the bench as a spindly freshman four years ago, finished with a school-record 100 wins. Fellow seniors Naz Mitrou-Long, Matt Thomas and Deonte Burton blossomed into All-Big 12 honorees.
Iowa State (24-11 in 2016-17) never won a Big 12 regular-season title or reached the Final Four. But the Cyclones won three conference tournament titles, earned a school-record six consecutive NCAA Tournament bids and, perhaps most important, made the program relevant nationally.
“These seniors have been amazing,” Prohm said. “I challenged them to leave your jersey in a better place. Then I internally said, ‘Hey, we’ve got to get back to the NCAA Tournament.’
“Hopefully we can win a championship and then hopefully we can get back to another Sweet 16 and see what happens.”
Most programs need to rebuild at some point, and 2017-18 looks like it might be one of those years for the Cyclones.
Iowa State might not be down for very long though.
Morris will probably be remembered as the best point guard in school history. But Donovan Jackson shot 45.4 percent on 3s in a reserve role last season with an assist-to-turnover ratio of better than 2-to-1, so he should be ready to be a quality Big 12 starter next season.
Freshman Solomon Young beat out a pair of fifth-year seniors for the starting job at center by February, and swing man Nick Weiler-Babb will get a chance to thrive in expanded role next season. Tennessee transfer Ray Kasongo, a 6-foot-9 forward, will also be eligible, and guard Jakolby Long will get a chance to crack the rotation now that Morris, Mitrou-Long and Thomas have moved on.
Prohm also has a promising crop of incoming freshmen. The headliner of the group will be guard Lindell Wigginton, a top-40 recruit who should compete for immediate playing time. Wigginton could even emerge as a significant scoring option in 2017-18 for a team that will be seeking playmakers.
Cameron Lard, a 6-foot-9 forward who redshirted last season, is also expected to make an impact next season. Newcomers Darius McNeill and Terrence Lewis had offers from other power five schools before picking Iowa State.
One area where Hoiberg’s impact will still be felt will be in the graduate transfer market.
Prohm has embraced Hoiberg’s practice of adding veteran talent in the spring. He’ll likely look for at least a few fifth-year players who might be able to help keep the Cyclones from slipping into the Big 12 basement.
A seventh straight NCAA Tournament appearance isn’t necessarily a realistic expectation for Iowa State, at least not yet.
But Prohm now has a chance to mold the team in his own image.
After winning 151 games in six seasons between the Cyclones and Murray State, that’s an opportunity that Iowa State and its fan base should be excited for.
“If you’re going to play at Iowa State and in certain other programs in the country, you got to be a great player and you got to have great character and toughness,” Prohm said.