It's been a bad season for Iowa State, to say the least.
Only two wins, both coming against lower-level teams in Arkansas-Pine Bluff and Jackson State, plus a 0-12 start to conference play has led to a forgettable 2020-21 campaign for the Cyclones.
Despite all of this, Iowa State has accumulated important pieces in a few different ways. Going into what fans hope will be a better 2021-22 season, I decided to rank the five most important pieces for Iowa State moving forward.
5. Blake Hinson
The first name on the list is also someone that hasn't played a single minute as a Cyclone. So why is he here?
Head Coach Steve Prohm mentioned junior transfer Blake Hinson way back before the season started during media day as a big loss when he was determined out for the season.
Iowa State wants to play a small-ball, perimeter-centric play style, and Hinson could give it exactly that without taking away size on defense.
Hinson's 3-point percentage leaves a bit to be desired, but he can shoot it and he likes to shoot it, which works well with Prohm's system.
He's also 6-foot 7-inches tall and 235 pounds, adding bulk and length to a small team.
His two years left of eligibility hurts him, but he's still an excellent fit for Iowa State next season and beyond as a small-ball four.
4. Rasir Bolton
If this list was "who is the best player on Iowa State right now," you would see Rasir Bolton at No. 1, no question about it.
What hurts Bolton is his remaining eligibility. He only has a maximum of two more years left after this season, thanks to the NCAA's blanket waiver, and that hurts how important of a piece he is for the Cyclones' future.
That being said, he's been a good piece for two straight seasons as an elite finisher, steady shooter and underrated floor general.
If he stays for two more years, he could be a big piece on a contending Cyclone team, if everything goes right in the next year or two.
3. Tyrese Hunter
Yeah, I hear you. He's not on the team, and we have no idea what he'll be at the next level, but Tyrese Hunter is exactly what the Cyclones need.
He's a high-tempo, athletic point guard and ball-handler. Iowa State is lacking depth in all these areas, and not to mention, Hunter is a top-50 recruit in the nation by both ESPN and 247sports.com.
Whether Hunter meets expectations or not, his development will be important for the Cyclones.
2. Xavier Foster
Perhaps the biggest recruit in Iowa State history, considering the circumstances, Xavier Foster had a forgettable freshman season for the Cyclones.
Trying to find playing time around Solomon Young and George Conditt IV, playing through an injury and losing sunk the freshman's first chance with Iowa State, but he showed solid flashes in his limited time.
Prohm will always have a good reputation of developing guards, but it's still yet to be determined if he can develop good post players.
For a couple reasons, including that, Foster falls in at No. 2 on this list, despite immense potential.
1. Jaden Walker
Perhaps one of the least surprising "surprises" of Prohm's time at Iowa State is that a three-star, long, high-tempo guard would thrive in Ames.
Jaden Walker has shown huge potential since earning more minutes and a starting spot in Iowa State's lineup.
Offensively, Walker pushes the pace, has solid vision and isn't afraid to make big plays. The negatives of this can be bad decision-making and execution, especially because his ball-handling abilities aren't quite polished yet.
A bigger plus comes on the defensive end, where he doesn't just show potential but immediate results.
He's an aggressive defender, having the same trait as Tyrese Haliburton of baiting bad passes, getting in passing lanes and using athleticism to his advantage.
This makes Walker an already above-average defender, and when you combine that with triple-double potential on offense, he's the most important piece for Iowa State moving forward.