Iowa State men’s basketball may not step onto the court until early November, but basketball season officially kicked off Wednesday on men’s basketball media day.
With veterans like Michael Jacobson, George Conditt IV and Solomon Young in the front-court, most of the questions and mystery fell on the mostly young backcourt. Multiple players will be in and out of the starting backcourt this season, but a bulk of the workload will fall on Tyrese Haliburton’s shoulders.
The Cyclones’ main backcourt set will be filled by Rasir Bolton as well as freshman Tre Jackson and senior Prentiss Nixon.
At media day, a lot was on the mind of the predominately young backcourt, as each player had something to say about their expectations for how Iowa State’s backcourt will shape out and perform.
After a battle with the NCAA, Bolton got his wish and is able to play immediately for Iowa State after playing a year at Penn State University.
He announced his intention to transfer from Penn State in April and signed with the Cyclones in May. Bolton did practice with the team during the summer as he waited to hear back from the NCAA.
Bolton’s waiver was cleared less than two months ago, making the sophomore a scoring asset for the 2019-20 Cyclones to add to an already backcourt-heavy roster.
Bolton averaged 11.6 points per game as a freshman at Penn State — shooting 36 percent from three point range. He scored in double-figures throughout 20 games for Penn State last season.
Prohm was impressed a freshman like Bolton could stand out like he did in a tough Big Ten conference.
“He’s been a double-figure scorer in the Big Ten as a freshman, so that says a lot,” Prohm said.
The time Bolton had to wait didn’t prevent him from working at his game, even if he had no guarantee of being eligible to play the 2019-20 season.
“I played as if I was already eligible,” Bolton said. “I want to help this team offensively in any way I can.”
Bolton said while he found early success at Penn State, he wants to improve on not turning the ball over on offense and being more efficient with his overall shot selection.
Bolton said he has had conversations with Haliburton about where he looks the most to kick out the ball when he drives to basket.
Bolton said his chemistry with Haliburton will be a big piece for the 2019-20 Cyclones.
Coming into this season, Iowa State will have some new faces all throughout the lineup, especially in the backcourt with the loss of Lindell Wigginton, Nick Weiler-Babb, Talen Horton-Tucker and Marial Shayok to the NBA this offseason.
Luckily for Iowa State, one of its most efficient scorers is returning and is looking to lead.
🗣️ "That's a big thing for me. I don't plan on losing at Hilton. I don't want to lose at Hilton. It really frustrated me when we did. I'm really looking forward to defending home court and treating Cyclone Nation the right way." pic.twitter.com/I51Rdoftyn— Iowa State Men’s Basketball (@CycloneMBB) October 17, 2019
“I probably put more pressure on myself than anybody else, whether that be the media or fans,” Haliburton said. “Pressure is nothing for me.”
Haliburton said he expects himself to shoulder more of the workload in the scoring department than last season, but added he will always give as much as the team needs him to in each game, whether that is 30 points or 10.
He was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team after averaging 6.8 points, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds per game last season.
Hailburton’s presence was on the mind of Prohm, with the Cyclones’ coach expecting Haliburton’s return to impact the young members of the Iowa State backcourt this season.
“Now he’s got to play like a preseason All-Big 12 type guy,” Prohm said. “His role has drastically changed; he knows that, and I know that.”
Prohm said there will be “peaks and valleys” Haliburton will have to communicate to Prohm and the coaching staff early on.
Haliburton’s teammate Bolton said he will be looking to build a relationship with him as they begin to play with each other more often.
“He’s our leader; you can’t come here and say, ‘I’m going to push [Haliburton] to the side’ — it just won’t happen,” Bolton said. “If you learn to play with him, it makes life a lot easier.”
Being the oldest member of the Iowa State backcourt, Nixon is expecting his role for the team to revolve around setting the tone during the game and the week beforehand.
Nixon transferred from Colorado State last season, and he had to sit out last season because of it.
With six months of college basketball left, Nixon said he has grown to appreciate Iowa State’s family dynamic within the game.
Nixon said this year’s Cyclones might be the most tight group he has been around since he began playing basketball.
Nixon said he is looking to lead the charge on the defensive end of the court, making sure the Iowa State backcourt sees the tone Nixon sets on defense when scoring isn’t always present game in and game out.
Nixon said that the Cyclones have plenty of scoring power, which makes the defensive end so important to handle every game.
A young piece in the backcourt comes in the form of freshman Tre Jackson.
Jackson was mentioned when Prohm was asked about who would be getting the workload in the backcourt this season.
When Jackson heard his name, he was honored to be in the mix so early in his career at Iowa State.
“It’s an honor, really,” Jackson said. “It’s really a blessing to be here at Iowa State. I’m glad he mentioned me because I have been working hard.”
Jackson said the recent success that Iowa State has found at the guard position was a big reason he chose to come to Ames, and he’s happy to see his decision is paying off so early on.