Iowa State Coach Fred Hoiberg has an enormous problem this offseason. Five key contributors are graduating from Iowa State this year leaving gaping holes in the roster for the 2013-2014 season. Will Clyburn, Anthony Booker, Korie Lucious, Chris Babb, and explosive guard Tyrus McGee will all be departing from Ames and will certainly be missed dearly. Between the five of them, they averaged 50.6 points per game which in some instances would be enough to win an entire game with just those five. It’s now time for coach Hoiberg to show the country that he deserves that 10-year, $20 million contract extension he received following the Cyclones’ close second round loss to Ohio State in the 2013 NCAA Tournament. While coach Hoiberg is doing his best off the court to prepare for the massive reconstruction of the Iowa State roster, the best help he can get is from two solid players that will become the face of the Iowa State Cyclones in the 2013-2014 season.
Junior forward Melvin Ejim was the leading rebounder for the Cyclones and also put up 11.3 points per game last season. While some believe that Ejim has enough talent to make that next step and declare for the draft, he has elected to stay in Ames for his senior year. As a senior, any player has more of a responsibility to his team to keep calm and even thrive in pressure situations. Talk about pressure, Ejim has much of the burden to keep Iowa State basketball relevant after last year’s outstanding season. In Ames, Iowa, college basketball is everything, and as a senior it is up to Ejim to be a leader on and off the court for this young team.
While Ejim will be crucial in determining the success of the 2013-2014 Cyclones team, one player who both Ejim and coach Hoiberg will look to next season is freshman forward Georges Niang. While Niang has the strength to bang down low, he also has the finesse to drive to the basket like a guard and even step back and hit three pointers. One thing that doesn’t show up in the stats sheet are the intangibles. Niang is always the first player to dive on the floor after a loose ball and is never afraid to put his body on the line or take a charge for his team. Having shown the country flashes of greatness last year, another offseason with coach Hoiberg can give Niang the opportunity to polish his already vast skill set and potentially become one of the best forwards in the country.
With only one recruit in the ESPN Top 100, Fred Hoiberg certainly has some work to do. While the Iowa State faithful may be writing this year off as a rebuilding season, it would certainly be premature to do so. One thing is certain, Fred Hoiberg is a great college basketball coach and with players like Melvin Ejim and Georges Niang by his side, the Cyclones should be able to finish near the top of the Big 12.