Iowa State Basketball Media Day: New Season, New Coach, High Expectations

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AMES, Iowa – The 2015-16 Iowa State Cyclones held their media day on Tuesday at the Sukup Basketball Complex with expectations high once again this upcoming season.

The Cyclones are expected to be a top 10 team in both polls when the season begins next month, and ESPN ranked them No. 7 in their preseason rankings. With new head coach Steve Prohm entering his first season at the helm after taking over for Fred Hoiberg, he stressed patience at media day and said he will rely on his strong group of seniors this year, such as Jameel McKay, Abdel Nader, Naz Mitrou-Long and Georges Niang.

“The biggest thing is I can’t thank them (the players) enough. They’ve done an unbelievable job of buying in and trying to do things the right way on and off the floor, and coming to work every single day,” Prohm said. “It’s been a great group to work with. My biggest focus and my staff’s biggest focus are (to look) no further than this season.

"The great teams that I’ve been around and coached, you just went through the process of getting better. When you start thinking about all the distractions and listening to all the detractors, you start getting away from what is important. What is important right now is developing this team. "

The players, who all said they’ve improved in different areas, spoke highly of Prohm on Tuesday. Although practice just began on Oct. 2, the overwhelming theme of media day was how smoothly getting accustomed to Prohm has gone for them.

“I think he’s made a great transition. He’s bonded with people on the team all the way down to 14th man, and has also built relationships with our families,” point guard Monte Morris said. “When he does things like that, it makes you more comfortable around him and makes it easy to play for him. Everybody respects him, we’ve bought in, and we’re ready to enjoy the process.”

The high expectations for this season come with the added pressure, but the Cyclone players said on Tuesday that they welcome the challenge. Falling to UAB in the first round of the NCAA Tournament last season is not lost on them, and they reiterated that they look forward to putting that loss behind them and proving they deserve the preseason recognition.

“There comes a lot of pressure with that (expectations), but I feel like all of us work extremely hard to be the best we can be every day,” Niang said. “At the end of the day, pressure is really a privilege.

“Definitely the motivation is to prove people wrong and show them that what happened last year wasn’t supposed to happen,” Niang added. “I think that’s why this year will be a redemption year for us.”

“I think on a daily basis our motivation is 60-59, that was the final score of our last game (against UAB) and that gives us motivation every day," McKay said. "It makes us go even when we are tired and it’s what made this summer so special for us.”

Even though Iowa State doesn’t play their first regular season game until Nov. 13 against Colorado, the team sounded upbeat and ready to take on the new year under a new coach.

“He (Prohm) wants us to take that extra step as a team,” Morris said. “When your coach has that swagger about him believing the hype, you tend to believe it to and it makes you work that much harder. That’s the approach we have in practice every day: win the day and take this train to the next level.”

Quick Hits From Media Day

  • Prohm said he hasn’t named a fifth starter alongside the expected group of McKay, Niang, Morris and Mitrou-Long, but he did say Abdel Nader has the inside track to land the spot.
  • Prohm also said Nader has been the team’s most consistent player to this point.
  • Morris mentioned McKay stretching his game out to the three-point line, and McKay confirmed that while he won’t shoot them a lot, he’ll make defenses respect him and fire away from behind the arc.
  • Everyone remains very high on freshman Simeon Carter and say he’s performed very well in practice.
  • All of the players discussed improving the team’s defense. The majority of the time in each practice has been focused on that side of the ball.
  • Prohm said Mitrou-Long will be ready for the season opener and Halice Cook is already fully recovered after both had offseason hip surgeries.