Fred Hoiberg doesn’t care.
He doesn’t care that Iowa State was again picked to finish near the bottom of the Big 12. It doesn’t matter to him his team isn’t expected to return to the NCAA tournament.
“Expectations from what we’ve seen national media-wise: They’re not really high for us, but that doesn’t bother me,” said Hoiberg, who is also known as “The Mayor” throughout Ames. “I could care less about that stuff. I know what these guys are all about, and I’m excited about what they’re going to bring to the table.”
What they do bring to the table is a variety of assets.
More specifically, they bring five transfers, all of whom are seniors. After each one of them sat out a season, watching from the stands and not attending road trips, each one of them is ready for their final season — their big finale.
Two transfers without any playing time inside Hilton Coliseum wearing the cardinal and gold are Korie Lucious and Will Clyburn.
Both offer a rare versatility Iowa State lacked last year on both ends of the court.
Lucious brings a heap of experience gained in a pair of Final Fours playing at Michigan State alongside the traditional point guard style where Iowa State contrasted last year with a “6-foot-8, 270-pound freight train running the one,” as Hoiberg put it.
“I’m thinking I’m going to be able to fit in perfectly,” Lucious said. “I know coach Fred wants to get up and down a lot and score points in transition, and that’s something I like to do. Me being a point guard, I just get the ball and go just find guys wherever they’re at.”
He also adds a defensive dimension the Cyclones were without last year: quickness.
“We didn’t have that traditional point guard last year,” Hoiberg said. “Not only on the offensive end, but the defensive end too. It affects the way you’re able to play. We really had to pack it in at times last year. Scott and Chris were great, but they’re not point guards. On the defensive ends they never really guarded point guards before.”
Clyburn is a lanky wing who has the ability play positions anywhere from shooting guard to power forward. Averaging 17.1 points per game last year and 7.8 rebounds, he exhibited the ability to score and rebound.
Hoiberg reiterated that Clyburn will be an integral part of Iowa State’s offense as well as on the defensive half of the court.
“Will is a kid who can play different positions,” Hoiberg said. “I think Will can play two through four, and there’s times where Will will initiate our offense similar to what Royce White did for us last year and just how much success we had.”
Coach Hoiberg said he plans to adjust the offense to an NBA-style with more pick and roll and transition game than last year. Having Lucious and Clyburn helps the Cyclones fit the mold of an up-tempo team that gets up and down the court quickly and efficiently.
“I think last year we slowed it down a lot to get it in our half court offense, but I think this year with Korie running the one [and] me and Will running the wings, we’ll be able to get a lot more in transition,” said ISU shooting guard Chris Babb. “Korie is one of the fastest guards with the ball that I’ve ever seen. And he’s really quick and has good court vision, so I think we’ll be able to run a lot more transition.”
Babb, who many, including his coach Hoiberg, believed was overlooked and left off the All-Big 12 defensive team, might be getting overlooked on his own team.
Babb only mustered 32 percent behind the 3-point line making 64 of those shots. He did, however, make “timely” shots, Hoiberg said, which includes him canning a 3-pointer sealing Iowa State’s 72-64 win against No. 5 Kansas.
“The thing that I was so impressed with Chris last year is how well when his shot wasn’t falling, he’d still have an impact on the game,” Hoiberg said. “Although he didn’t make the All-Big 12 defensive team, I thought he was as good a versatile defender not only in the Big 12, but in the country.”
Alongside Babb on the wing will be Melvin Ejim, who was a utility player for Iowa State last year. Ejim averaged over nine points and six rebounds per game, playing anywhere from the wing to guarding Kansas’ All-American Thomas Robinson and holding him to two of his lowest scoring totals of the season.
Two other seniors vying for a starting spot along four candidates — Lucious, Clyburn, Babb and Ejim — are Anthony Booker and Tyrus McGee, Hoiberg hinted.
Both players came off the bench for Iowa State last year, contributing in their own respective ways.
McGee was the sixth-man for Iowa State last year and provided the energy off the bench, averaging 7.7 points per game, while hitting 39 percent of his 3-pointers, most notoriously the shot which tied the game with Oklahoma State 68-68 before Scott Christopherson banked in the game-winner.
Booker averaged 3.5 points per game along with 2.9 rebounds per game. Iowa State fans will mostly remember the big man for stretching the floor and draining 16 3-pointers at a 42-percent rate.
Hoiberg said he expects both Booker and sophomore lefty Percy Gibson to contribute exponentially under the hoop.
“I’m excited about our post players,” Hoiberg said.
“Booker has shown a nose for the ball in the workouts. Percy has really developed his body. He had a lot of baby fat coming in, and he’s done a good job getting after it and adding lean muscle.”
Regardless of how Hoiberg decides to mix and match this team on the floor, he believes what they have as a team will be something that’s easy to get excited about and root for this upcoming year.
“Last year we took it to a new level, and that’s what I expect out of us,” Hoiberg said. “That’s what I expected when I was fan who grew up here walking to Hilton Coliseum when I was a ball boy. There’s such excitement now with Iowa State athletics, and we hope to contribute to that.”