The Cyclones were picked to finish last in the league after losing 10 players—including NBA draft picks Fred Hoiberg and Loren Meyer—from a team that had gone 23-11 in the debut season of coach Tim Floyd, who succeeded Johnny Orr. Floyd's only returning first-stringer was junior point guard Jacy Holloway, who averaged a measly 1.8 points per game in 1994-95. Worse, Floyd believed the Cyclones would be in trouble if a new floor leader couldn't be found.
"I never told Jacy that," Floyd says. "I said it in private. But he's made me eat my words. He's developed into a certifiable Big Eight player. Mainly he's a winner, and that rubs off." That last part isn't just a coaching cliché; Holloway played on four straight state championship teams at Moundridge (Kans.) High. At week's end he was averaging 4.9 assists (and only 1.9 turnovers), and he had the Cyclones winning, too. They closed out the regular season with a 20-8 record after defeating Colorado 84-75 on Saturday to finish second in the Big Eight with a 9-5 mark. "I never dreamed we'd have this kind of record," says Floyd. "When we were picked last before the season, I bought into it. I wasn't trying to hustle anybody."
He did have to hustle, though, to field a team of transfers and junior college players—nine new players in all. One key stroke of luck occurred in September 1994, when Floyd was recruiting at a high school tournament in New Orleans. There he bumped into Dedric Willoughby, who had played as a redshirt freshman for Floyd at the University of New Orleans in 1993-94 but had lost his eligibility because of poor grades. He asked Floyd if he would be willing to take him at Iowa State. "You'd have to get your grades together," Floyd told him.
Willoughby enrolled at Indian Hills Community College in Centerville, Iowa, where he earned enough credits to transfer to Iowa State last fall. He has flourished as the Cyclones' shooting guard, leading them in scoring with a 20.2 average. "He's developed remarkably," says Floyd. "At New Orleans almost all his shots were three-pointers, and he never went to the foul line. He's developed a middle game now—the ability to go to the basket and get fouled." Free throws have been central to Iowa State's success this season. The Cyclones have made more foul shots than any other team in Big Eight conference play. "We're not a great perimeter team like we were last year," says Floyd. "But you still have to score points to win, so the biggest thing for us is our ability to get to the line and keep the other team off the line."