After an abnormal 2020-21 season that featured an 0-18 showing in Big 12 play filled with restrictions due to the pandemic, Iowa State ushers in a new era with T.J. Otzelberger entering his first year at the helm.
Otzelberger brings in new philosophies and a mostly new coaching staff, along with a team that features many transfers that hope to make an impact.
Otzelberger and his team met with the media Wednesday and discussed what the new head coach brings to the team, as well as how lineups may come into form as the season draws near.
Otzelberger brings his passion
Otzelberger was brought to Ames in part because of his history with Iowa State, and his love for the Cyclone tradition was evident once again at media day on Wednesday.
Otzelberger started as an assistant with the team in 2006 and stayed with the program until 2013, and then served as an assistant again for a year in 2015 before accepting a head coaching job at South Dakota State. Alison Lacey, his wife, was also a member of the women's basketball team at Iowa State.
"This place means everything to my family and I, and we're not going to bring guys here or recruit guys that don't value it to that same level," Otzelberger said.
When you have guys that care about the program, each other and winning, you can find ways to play competitive and winning basketball. Otzelberger is a strong believer in that approach.
It's clear in recruiting that Otzelberger will lead with the passion and care that he has for the program. His philosophy brought in key transfers such as Gabe Kalscheur and Izaiah Brockington. It also allowed him to keep a commitment from Tyrese Hunter, who figures to be an important part of the team's success this year.
With more new faces than old this season for the Cyclones, there are certainly many positions and rotational pieces up for grabs.
Positional flexibility key for pressure-filled philosophies
The only remaining players that played significant minutes for Iowa State last season are George Conditt, Tre Jackson and Jaden Walker. All other players for the Cyclones either did not see the court often last year for the team, or in the case of transfer Caleb Grill, came back after departing before the 2020 season.
Otzelberger believes he can turn around a program if you can have players to play many positions and that he has the guys to accomplish such flexibility in 2021.
"We have that flexibility to go big or to play a more skilled lineup where we can play with more pace and some better ball skills," Otzelberger said.
The head coach mentioned Conditt and transfer Robert Jones fitting into those bigger lineups, with Aljaz Kunc and Blake Hinson being the players to turn to in the more skilled lineup. The positional flexibility doesn't just stop in the front-court, however. Bringing in a high recruit such as Tyrese Hunter gives Iowa State an immediate answer if needed in terms of ball-handling and running the show on offense.
Otzelberger believes there are multiple players on his team that could fit the mold of a point guard, though, and while he details the skills that Hunter brings to the table, Otzelberger knows there are other options.
"We also are considering possibilities of Tre Jackson... there's other guys like a Jaden Walker or even a Tristan Enaruna which is a unique lineup for us at times," Otzelberger said.
It's clear that Otzelberger values the pressure created on defense as well as getting the best shot available on every offensive trip, and he wants to provide as many lineups and rotations as possible to fit that mold.