Key Losses: C Jared Homan (13.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 2.1 bpg), F Damion Staple (5.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.1 spg)
Postseason: NCAA: Defeated Minnesota 64–53, lost to North Carolina 92–65 in the second round
Toronto, ON/Cardozo (NY)
Mansfield Center, CT/South Kent (CT) Prep
Davenport, IA/Tyler (TX) JC
Prague, Czech Republic/Marshalltown (IA) CC
Richmond, VA/Mt. Zion Christian (NC) Academy
ISU's newcomers can be described in one word -- big. Of the seven players new to the roster, six stand 6-foot-8 or taller. The cream of the crop is a pair of top-75 recruits, Taggart and Davis. Both could end up starting. Transfers Gray (who began his career at Indiana) and Hubalek (junior college) provide size and much-needed 3-point shooting.
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Left for dead and heading for a dreadful finish in the Big 12, Iowa State saved its season a year ago with a monster turnaround that didn't end until the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Anything short of an encore would be disappointing in coach Wayne Morgan's third year. He's taken the team a step further in both of his seasons, and with two star guards and the quick development of a much-ballyhooed recruiting class, Morgan has ISU primed to be among the Big 12's best for the foreseeable future.
"A year from now, if we can keep this group together, I'd be telling you we'll be really good," Morgan says.
The Cyclones are starting from scratch at the forward and center spots. Graduation and attrition leave ISU with no returning big men, though the coaching staff is hardly in panic mode.
Shawn Taggart, from Mount Zion (N.C.) Academy, is the newcomer with the strongest credentials and is a lock to fill one of the two forward spots in the starting lineup.
"He's very good offensively," Morgan says.
Another big catch is Theo Davis, a one-time Texas commitment who picked the Cyclones over a who's who of suitors. The 6-foot-10, 225-pounder is a rebounding and shot-blocking force who will help replace the inside presence of third-team All-Big 12 bruiser Jared Homan.
Junior college transfers Jessan Gray and Jiri Hubalek are most comfortable on the perimeter but will need to help battle for rebounds and defend the post. Their ability to step out and hit the three will do wonders for a team that finished last in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage. Gray is an Iowa native who is on his third school in three years after spending time at Indiana and Tyler (Texas) Junior College.
"Each of these kids brings something unique to our team and all of them have skills," Morgan says. "If we can get three or four of them to give the blood and guts we need, we'll be pretty good."
The heart and soul of this team are Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock.
Stinson for two years has been rumored to be going pro but has said he plans on being a four-year player. That's bad news for the rest of the Big 12. The gritty guard from the Bronx, N.Y., finished in the league's top 20 in scoring (eighth), rebounding (18th), assists (fifth), steals (second) and field-goal percentage (12th) as a sophomore. There's no reason to think he won't be as good or better, despite offseason hand surgery.
Blalock is more comfortable setting others up to score. This year he's got finishers to dish to rather than having to score in double figures every night.
Both he and Stinson averaged more than 35 minutes per game last year, which Morgan does not want to see happen again.
"We only had six guys last year. They'll play 30, 31, 32, but they won't play 39," Morgan says.
Rahshon Clark, a 6-6 swingman, rounds out the Cyclones' three-guard lineup. Clark is a tremendous athlete who plays at the top of ISU's attacking pressure defense and halfcourt zone.
Tasheed Carr showed no fear as a freshman and will be counted on to play quality minutes off the bench. He can shoot from outside and handle the ball. Anthony Davis is finally healthy and figures to find a spot in the rotation. Sharp-shooting freshman Mike Evanovich should also be a factor.
It's NCAAs or bust for Iowa State. Expectations are rising coming off a 19-12 season and a highly ranked recruiting class on its way in. How quickly players such as Taggart and Davis can adapt to the rigors of the Big 12 will tell the story. The talent is there, but are the heart and desire?
The Cyclones were a No. 9 seed in last year's NCAA tournament and had the unenviable task of facing eventual champ North Carolina after beating Minnesota. They want a better draw this time around, but they'll only go as far as the youngsters will take them.