The Iowa State men's basketball season is approaching and with it comes questions about whether the team can succeed without former star guard Tyrese Haliburton.
The Cyclones had a poor season in 2019-20, but their worst weeks came without Haliburton.
Haliburton declared for the NBA Draft, but Head Coach Steve Prohm's group has picked up some of the pieces and put together depth in the backcourt.
Depth despite Tyrese's departure
Along with Haliburton leaving, Iowa State lost Prentiss Nixon, Terrence Lewis and Caleb Grill at the guard spot. This didn't stop the Cyclones from acquiring backcourt depth through transfers and recruits.
The returns of Rasir Bolton and Tre Jackson are just the start as the Cyclones are adding Jalen Coleman-Lands, Tyler Harris, Jaden Walker and Darlinstone Dubar. The Cyclones also will add transfer Javan Johnson who sat out last season. Johnson is listed as a forward, but Johnson has been playing at guard — mostly at point guard — for the last season in practice.
"I kind of got comfortable with [a point guard role]," Johnson said. "Now I'm running really comfortable at all positions on the floor.
"I don't feel like I have too many weaknesses within the offense."
Coleman-Lands and Harris are transfers with Coleman-Lands as a grad transfer and Harris being granted a waiver for his junior season.
Coleman-Lands averaged 11.1 points per game last season with DePaul on 32.1 percent from beyond the arc and 36.3 percent overall.
Harris averaged 8.7 points per game last season on 36.4 percent from three and 36.9 percent from the field.
Walker and Dubar are freshmen and in Walker's case, Prohm spoke highly of the point guard recruit.
"When I look at Jaden Walker, I see 6-foot-5 and I see a skillset that's got great versatility," Prohm said.
Rasir Bolton looking to take a step forward
Another problem for the Cyclones arises with the departure of Haliburton and that is a starting point guard and leading offensive playmaker.
Bolton fits the mold as the next man up and showed the ability to be the most explosive player for the Cyclones in the 2019-20 season, but his inconsistencies showed up too often for him to find solid footing as Iowa State's next best player.
This season, Prohm said he'll have to lean into a leadership role and improve his defensive chops if he wants to take the next step and become Iowa State's primary option.
"He's gotta jump into a leadership role," Prohm said. "You jump into a leadership role by being an everyday guy... The biggest challenge, if he's gonna take the next step, is can he be dominant defensively."
Offensively, Bolton had some huge games for Iowa State, but would sometimes play poorly and shoot inconsistently.
Shouldering more of the offensive load may make the explosive games less common, but Bolton will have a chance to work through that as one of the team's leading offensive playmakers.
Hilton turns down the volume
In a letter from Jamie Pollard to Cyclone fans, it was announced that less than 10 percent (1,373) of Hilton Coliseum seats would be filled during home games for men's and women's basketball.
For Prohm's group, this means less of a fan atmosphere at Hilton Coliseum — a place that has earned a reputation for its fan impact.
Coleman-Lands hasn't felt the effects of Hilton Coliseum as a Cyclone yet and he may not get to this season.
"I haven't played here yet and I haven't seen Hilton packed and full as it typically is, but what I can speak on is what we've been doing in practice in preparation for playing with limited amount of fans," Coleman-Lands said.
Coleman-Lands brought up the energy the Cyclones and himself need to create themselves instead of relying on a packed venue.
The newest members of the Cyclones won't get the full experience, but all sports are dealing with unusual seasons as COVID-19 has changed the playing field. Coleman-Lands and the Cyclones will have to adjust to the different season.