Minatta Reflects On Soccer Workshop In Portugal

Iowa State head women’s soccer coach Tony Minatta recently visited Portugal while attending a U.S. Soccer International Coaches Soccer Workshop. Minatta visited several of the top teams in the country including FC Porto, Sporting Lisbon and Benfica. From there he was able to learn from some of the world’s best coaches. I was able to sit down with Minatta and review his trip and find out how he plans on incorporating what he learned to his Iowa State team.

How does the U.S. Soccer International Coaches Workshop work and what drew you to Portugal?

Tony Minatta: Every year U.S. Soccer does an international workshop in different countries. They have been to Italy, Germany, England, Spain and this is the first year they went to Portugal. What drew me to the course was that it’s a very small country with limited recourses, yet they are consistently putting their national team in the top 10 in the world. Their club teams like FC Porto are in the Champions Elite Eight playing Bayern here in the next week or two. Being able to go to a country to see what they do and how they’ve managed to have that kind of success given that it’s a country of only 10 million people.

Were you able to meet with other collegiate soccer coaches across the country and what was that experience like?

TM: There were quite a few collegiate coaches there. North Carolina’s men’s coach was there and he has won a national championship. It was great to be around those individuals and share ideas and get different perspectives. When you’re on the bus to different places we were always talking soccer. It gives you a different perspective on different styles of coaching and why they are successful with what they are doing. Although the trip was international, I was able to interact with coaches who are at the highest level nationally.

Can you talk about your experience as a whole and some of the things that you learned that you’ll try to implement into your coaching style?

TM: The reality is that they are so much more advanced in other countries and there is a reason that their teams are consistently in the top in the world both on the club side and the national team side. One of the biggest things was that the clubs we visited had a culture of winning and that was everything from how they take the field to how they approach their scouting, recruiting, training and to the game models. All of the little things add up to the big picture. For us, it’s not about just running a really good training session. We have to be really good at everything that we’re doing. We need to refine and be better at everything we’re doing.

What was the gameday experience like at Estadio de Luz?

TM: It was amazing. The place was packed and everyone was looking to their left and this eagle came flying in and circled the stadium and landed on the wrist of a person at centerfield. When the game started, the songs and chanting that were going on made the entire atmosphere electric. It’s funny because we got to see a U19 Champions league game and the place was packed and they were singing the same songs. On our way back to Lisbon on the last day, we stopped at a restaurant on the way and a bunch of fans were there getting ready to go to another game and the whole table next to us was singing those same songs. I can’t see people doing that here.

What stuck out to you in terms of what Benfica does as a soccer club, or their practices and culture?

TM: Everything that they did in practice was designed to help the team have a better understanding of the spatial awareness on the field. That was something that I took away from it. They are very technical and very advanced. They do things that you don’t see over here in the United States. The youth players over there are amazing. Looking how they run they practices, it’s very similar to what we do already because I have a lot of influence from European styles. Just the spatial awareness that they look for and setting things up so everything will mimic the game and letting the players play. One thing that they always talked about is that they want to present the problem in their practice and they want the players to find the solution. They don’t want to dictate the solution, because they don’t feel that the players will ever learn it.

What does a typical training session look like at Sporting Lisbon and does it look any different from what you saw at Benfica?

TM: They are all very similar in how they set things up with their technical components. Interestingly enough we saw the same possession game in all three places. We got to see the first team train in Lisbon which was incredible. You recognize how much of an importance they put on the technical aspect of the game. Even with the first team, which was a Champions league team, the first three things that they did were all technical. Things like moving off the ball, and how it was set up. Sporting Lisbon has produced Cristiano Rinaldo and Figo, which are two world players of the year who both came out of the same club. Eight of the Sporting academy players are on the first team, which is pretty amazing because at Benfica of the starting 11, there wasn’t one that came out of their own academy. The only one who actually got some minutes came in like the last three minutes of the game. Lisbon puts a huge emphasis on player development and you can see that in how they approached the different training aspects.

What was your experience like at FC Porto and touring the city of Porto?

TM: It was amazing. When we met with the technical director in charge of FC Porto he said that he wanted us to go out into the town and talk to people and meet people so that we could really understand what the culture of the town was because that would help us understand the culture of the team. Porto was incredible. They got their Champions League draw while we were there. We had a lot more interaction with the coaches there. We got to have more sit downs with them personally as opposed to the other clubs where we got presentations and watched. Everybody spoke pretty good English. They had a lot of questions for us in how we do things. One of the guys that we sat down with coached a U14 team and he has his doctorate degree. The level of advancement they have for their coaches in incredible. Coaching soccer is an actual college degree in Portugal. What they put into it and how they approach it, it is definitely not just a profession, but rather a lifestyle.

How would you like to incorporate what you learned in Portugal to what you are doing here in Ames?

TM: A lot of the training will be similar. When we played Nebraska earlier and they opened the field up and we opened up defensively, we need to make sure that we’re closing that space and being more compact. Just watching some of their exercises and to be able to teach that and get their teams to understand that really has helped me out a lot. We need to make sure that we are showing our players the spatial awareness so they are able to do those things on the field and they have a better picture in their mind for it.

What are some things that Cyclone fans can get excited for that you have seen thus far this spring?

TM: Koree Willer is playing at a different level right now with some of the things she has been doing in practice. She’s really turned the corner and taken that next step to decide that she wants to be a next level player. Overall you can sense a different maturity about the team. We were so young last year. I think they finally realized that they can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results. If they want to achieve more than what they achieved last year they have to put more work into it. You can see that at every practice they are more competitive. The level is rising every day. It’s exciting to see some of the players come out of their shells a little bit and really show quality play out on the field.

Check back to cyclones.com later this spring for a recap of Iowa State soccer’s spring season.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Iowa State-UAB Gameday Primer

Coming off its second Big 12 Tournament title in as many years, Iowa State enters the NCAA Tournament with a three-seed when it faces 14-seed UAB Thursday at 11:40 a.m. (CDT). This is Iowa State’s 17th appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Find truTV on your provider by clicking here.

For Mediacom, DirecTV and Dish Network subscribers, you can find the game on:

Mediacom: SD-43; SD-Digital-53.23; HD-869
DirecTV: 246
Dish Network: 242

An Iowa State win…
…improves ISU to 26-8, the third-most wins in school history.
…give ISU a win in the last four NCAA Tournaments.
…improve ISU to 5-3 in NCAA Tournament games under Fred Hoiberg.
…improve ISU to 17-16 in NCAA Tournament games.
…makes it 2-1 all-time against UAB and 15-3 against Conference USA teams.
…makes Hoiberg 116-55 as head coach.
…would be ISU’s 100th win in the last four seasons.

Tournament Tested
Iowa State has played 19 games against teams that advanced to the NCAA Tournament, going 14-5 in those games. No other team nationally has played a higher percentage of games against tournament qualifers as the Cyclones (57.5 percent).

Iowa State – 57.5 percent
Kansas – 56 percent
Kansas State – 56 percent
North Carolina – 54 percent
West Virginia – 53 percent
Oklahoma – 53 percent

Special thanks to West Virginia’s Bryan Messerly for researching this information.

Things to watch…
– With his first point, Georges Niang will become the 15th player in school history with 1,500 career points.
– Naz Long needs just two 3-pointers to move into a tie for fifth all-time at Iowa State with Tyrus McGee and Michael Nurse. Long enters the tournament with 144 career threes.
– Monté Morris has 306 assists, just two behind Julius Michalik for 11th all-time. Niang has 302 dimes in his career.
– Jameel McKay (53 blocks) needs just five blocks to match Jared Homan’s 2005 total of 58, which is fifth-most in a single season at Iowa State.
– Dustin Hogue (63 points) needs four points to move into a tie for seventh on the ISU NCAA Tournament scoring charts.

Elite Company
Georges Niang joins his coach Fred Hoiberg, Julius Michalik and Curtis Stinson as the only players in school history with 1,400 points, 450 rebounds and 300 assists.

Worth Noting
– Iowa State is averaging 50.2 points and shooting 55.6 percent behind the arc in the second half of the last five games.
– Hoiberg scored 32 points, including 17-straight Cyclone points in the second half as ISU beat No. 3 Kansas, which included UAB head coach Jerod Hasse, on Jan. 14, 1995.
– Iowa State is 14-2 in the last two seasons when Morris and Niang combine for 10 or more assists.
– Morris has zero turnovers in the last 136 minutes, a streak that spans four and a half games.
– The Cyclones averaged 6.3 turnovers per game in the Big 12 Tournament.

UAB In The National Rankings (As of 3/16)
UAB Rankings





Day One At The Tournament

Here are some pictures of our first day at the tournament.

Just For The Fun Of It


Posted in Men's Basketball | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Eric Heft’s Cyclone NCAA Tournament Memories


March Madness is here, and for a school-record fourth-straight season, Iowa State is fortunate to be a part of the grand spectacle.

Iowa State has a rich tradition in men’s hoops. For the 16th time since 1985, the Cyclones are dancing. ISU has played in a total of 32 NCAA Tournament games, owning a .500 record at 16-16.

If you are looking for someone to give you a thorough perspective of ISU in the NCAA Tournament, look no further than Eric Heft. Heft is probably the only person who has witnessed all 30 Cyclone NCAA Tournament games since 1985.

The former Cyclone star on the hardwood turned radio broadcaster has a keen knowledge of the history of ISU in the NCAA Tournament, sitting courtside for virtually all of them. He shared his thoughts and memories with us recently on ISU’s greatest games, plays and moments in the Big Dance.

Top Cyclone NCAA Tournament Wins

1. No. 7 Iowa State Beats No. 2 Michigan, 72-69 to advance to Sweet Sixteen (1986)
Setting the Stage
This game at the Metrodome in Minneapolis had tremendous hype. Iowa State head coach Johnny Orr was going against his former school in Michigan, a place where he was the head coach for 12 seasons. His former assistant, Bill Frieder, succeeded Orr as the Wolverine head coach. Michigan was the Big Ten champs with loads of talent, including players like Roy Tarpley, Gary Grant, Richard Rellford and Glen Rice.

Heft Memories
“A lot of things made that game so special. One of them simply was it was Johnny (Orr) vs. Michigan. Johnny was the winningest coach in Michigan history. It was unbelievable, the feeling around it.  Michigan was really good, and the size that they had compared to our team was off the charts. ISU had the ability to find a way to win it. Coming down the stretch, I’ve heard Pete’s (Taylor) call a number of times when (Jeff) Hornacek found Elmer (Robinson) for the dunk.  That kind of gave them the cushion that they needed to win it in the end. I still get goose bumps when I hear that, and I was sitting right next to him when he made the call. It was tremendous. I was just so happy for Iowa State, but just as every bit as happy for Johnny personally, because of how much that game meant to him.”

Iowa State's David Moss guards Michigan's Roy Tarpley as Gary Thompkins looks on. ISU upset the Wolverines, 72-69.

Iowa State’s David Moss guards Michigan’s Roy Tarpley as Gary Thompkins looks on. ISU upset the Wolverines, 72-69.

2. No. 2 Iowa State Beats No. 6 UCLA, 80-56 to advance to Elite Eight (2000)
Setting the Stage
Although UCLA was the sixth-seed, there wasn’t a hotter team in the NCAA Tournament when the Bruins and Cyclones met at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Mich. The Bruins destroyed their first two opponents, including a 105-70 beat down of third-seeded Maryland. UCLA was a confident bunch heading into the Regional, but so were the Cyclones. Led by All-Americans Marcus Fizer and Jamaal Tinsley, ISU was ready. Tinsley’s former AAU team defeated a team a couple of Bruins were members of at the national tournament. He wore his AAU jersey around at the interview/practice sessions as a reminder. He delivered.

Heft Memories
“They (UCLA) were the hottest team by all of the pundits in the country. Even though they were a six seed, they were the team that everyone was picking to get to finals, or at least to the Final Four. Going into that game, I kind of bought into it. I didn’t know if Iowa State was going to be able to beat them. Just the way Jamaal Tinsley, Marcus Fizer, Mike Nurse and everyone on that team just took it to them- it was absolute destruction. It was unbelievable to know that you were going to have the chance two days later to play to go to the Final Four. It was an incredible feeling.”

Marcus Fizer was a key player in ISU's 80-56 victory over UCLA in 2000.

Marcus Fizer was a key player in ISU’s 80-56 victory over UCLA in 2000.

3. No. 3 Iowa State Beats No. 6 North Carolina, 85-83 to advance to Sweet Sixteen (2014)
Setting the Stage
Iowa State had faced national power North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament on two previous occasions only to come up short. This game was going to be difficult as well because the Cyclones were without the services of one of their best players in Georges Niang, who broke his foot in the in the second round win over North Carolina Central. In a high-scoring affair, All-American DeAndre Kane came through in the clutch with a last-second layup to put ISU back in the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2000.

Heft Memories
“You’re playing one of the blue bloods (North Carolina) without one of the most indispensable players that we had in Georges Niang. I’m not sure if he was our best player, but he was one of the main guys for sure. He was a guy that I thought North Carolina couldn’t matchup with. Just the way Iowa State hung in there, and had to come from behind later in the game, was incredible. And then DeAndre Kane making the play at the end was unbelievable. They (UNC) wanted to get the ball out of his hands, but he was just so strong and moved his way to the basket. To go on to the Sweet 16 after overcoming a crippling injury, that was awesome.”

DeAndre Kane with the game-winning lay-up in the closing seconds of the Iowa State-North Carolina game in 2014.

DeAndre Kane with the game-winning lay-up in the closing seconds of the Iowa State-North Carolina game in 2014.

Top Performances

1. Kelvin Cato vs. Illinois State in 1997
Setting the Stage
One could argue that senior center Kelvin Cato posted the greatest all-around game by a Cyclone in NCAA Tournament history against Illinois State in 1997. The future NBAer tallied a career-high 29 points, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked a Midwest Region-record eight shots in ISU’s 69-57 victory. It was an absolute dominating performance.

Heft Memories
“I remember we were down 15-4 or something like that. I just remember when we started to get it to Cato on the block is when we started to get back into the game. On one play, he just backed down and had a turn-around dunk over their center. After that two-handed slam I was like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ He was incredible. He completely turned the fortune of that game, without question.”

Kelvin Cato2

Kelvin Cato dunks home two of his career-high 29 points in ISU’s 69-57 win over Illinois State in 1997.

2. Dedric Willoughby vs. UCLA in 1997
Setting the Stage
Dedric Willoughby almost single-handily led the Cyclones to an Elite Eight appearance with his incredible performance vs. UCLA in 1997. ISU lost a heartbreaker, 74-73, in overtime when Cameron Dollar scored a high-arcing lay-up over the outstretched arms of Kelvin Cato at the buzzer. Despite the loss, Willoughby was phenomenal. The senior All-American tied the school record for most points in a NCAA Tournament game with 34 (Lafester Rhodes, Dustin Hogue) and drilled eight 3-pointers, the most by a Cyclone in the NCAA Tournament.

Heft Memories
“He was unbelievable. Dedric hit so many big shots in that game. His performance was I think the best I’ve ever seen by a Cyclone. I know that it was the most a Cyclone ever scored in the NCAA Tournament. That’s a game where you’re playing against a really good team, and one guy is taking control. They were doing everything they could to keep him from getting the ball, but he moved so well without the ball and he could catch and shoot deep threes.”

Top Plays

1. Jeff Hornacek sinks buzzer-beater to defeat Miami (Ohio) in 1986
Setting the Stage
Buzzer-beaters are always great. They are even better in the postseason. With the final possession in a tie game in overtime (79-79), Johnny Orr called the play he always used for the final shot. It involved a baseline screen for Jeff Hornacek. The goal was to get him the ball for a jump shot in between the key and corner. The play worked to perfection, as Hornacek caught the ball in stride and nailed a 26-footer as time expired to give ISU the 81-79 victory.

Heft Memories
“I think we kind of forget it sometimes, but this was ISU’s first NCAA Tournament win in 42 years. Jeff Hornacek hitting that bomb in overtime to give you a chance to play Michigan, and to get that first tournament win in so many years, it was awesome. Sometimes I think that first one for a program might be the hardest. One of the things that people forget is that even though Hornacek was one of the best three-point shooters in the NBA during his career, he wasn’t a great perimeter shooter in college. That’s really something that people forget, but some guys are clutch, and obviously Hornacek was as clutch as they come. He was an incredible player and point guard for us, and an incredible two-guard in the NBA.”

2. Royce White steal and dunk vs. Kentucky in 2012
Setting the Stage
Kentucky’s 2012 NCAA championship team was formidable to say the least. Of the seven players that played in the game for the Wildcats, six of them made the NBA (the only player to appear in the game who has not played in the NBA was Kyle Wiltjer, who is currently a senior All-American at Gonzaga). ISU sophomore Royce White had his coming out party that week. He had 15 points and 13 rebounds in ISU’s win over defending champion UConn in the second round and then posted 23 points and nine rebounds against No. 1 Kentucky. A play White made against NBA All-Star Anthony Davis stood out for Heft.

Heft Memories
“One of my favorite memories was Anthony Davis, the best player in college basketball, being guarded by Royce White on the baseline in Louisville. Royce strips the ball from him, dribbles through three All-Americans and goes coast-to-coast for a slam dunk early in the game. That was one of the most incredible plays. Granted it (the game) didn’t have the outcome we wanted, but if you want to talk about one individual play that just epitomized how good Royce was, I think that was it.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nikki Moody: One For The Record

Moody, Nikki_Oklahoma_2014-15

In Nikki Moody’s room in her apartment she keeps a list full of goals – little aspects of her life she wants to get better at and things she looks to accomplish. Over the past few years she has gone over the list with her mother, Chrystal Moody, and the two talk the items over. At the beginning of the season the two wrote down a few pertaining to basketball: break the Iowa State assists record and to be a better teammate.

“I think that my mom talking to me a lot about things I want to do and things that she feels like I can do kind of just made me start the list,” Moody said.

The list has served as a motivator for Moody, who sees it not as goals, but as what she plans to accomplish – a to-do list of sorts.

On Saturday, Moody is on the verge of checking an item off of that list for good as she needs just one more dime to hold Iowa State’s school record for assists. The senior has racked up 719 career assists, tying Cyclone great Lyndsey Medders, in Iowa State’s last game against Texas Tech.

Moody spent most of her career avoiding discussion of the record, and most specifically the number of assists she needed to break it. It was a secret for most of her senior year, how many assists she was away from the mark. She only found out her number the day before the Texas Tech game. She needed nine to tie and 10 to break.

Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Lady Raiders, there was an energy on the court each time Moody earned an assist.

“At halftime Brynn said ‘you have six all you need is four more,’” she said. “‘I’m going to go out there and get it for you.’ Seanna was talking about it, Fallon was talking about it, and I just told them if you make shots you make shots and if you don’t you don’t.”

If there’s one thing Moody gets about the point guard position, it’s that an assist requires two players, one to pass and the other to make a shot. She is thankful that her teammates have helped her so much along the way.

“Without my teammates I wouldn’t be there,” Moody said. “Without Hallie (Christofferson), (Chelsea) Poppens, (Anna) Prins and all the guards I’ve had I wouldn’t have this assist record. Honestly as much as I’m happy I have it, it makes me even happier that they’re happier for me because of the fact they know I’m accomplishing what I want to accomplish.”

Though she is poised to take full ownership of the ISU assist record, her time at Iowa State isn’t over yet. Moody looks to lead Iowa State to four-straight NCAA Tournaments and she also looks to run out of that tunnel again, which is her favorite moment during her time at Iowa State.

Moody joins a long list of Iowa State point guards, from Lyndsey Medders to Alison Lacey to Stacy Frese and Lindsey Wilson. Moody understands that she will forever hold a spot in Cyclone history. All you have to do is take a quick glance in the Iowa State record book and see the rich history at the position. A history that most colleges can’t touch.

With Moody eclipsing 700 assists Iowa State becomes the only school among power five conferences – and likely the only school in the country – with two student-athletes reaching 700 career assists in the last 10 years. To put this in comparison, 40 of the 65 power-five schools have never had a player reach 700 assists. This stat goes to show not only how hard it is to reach 700, but also how exceptional Iowa State is at developing point guards.

Moody credits Iowa State and head coach Bill Fennelly for helping her develop as a player. She also credits the strength of the Big 12 Conference and playing against point guards like Odyssey Sims, with whom she is friends, and Tiffany Bias.

“They’re great point guards and you have to live up to that and you have to compete with that and I think that’s helped me a lot since I’ve been here,” Moody said of playing against Sims and Bias.

As her time with the Cyclones winds down, she is looking forward to the next steps in her career. She hopes to continue her basketball career playing professionally in the WNBA. Though the WNBA is getting closer, she still looks to close out her career at Iowa State on a high note.

“I just want to be remembered as a person who didn’t give up, a person that didn’t quit no matter what was thrown at me,” Moody said. “I handled it the best way I could and I came out stronger at the end.”

Posted in Women's Basketball | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Fallon Ellis: A Little Confidence Goes a Long Way

Fallon Ellis

Every year before the season starts head coach Bill Fennelly sits every player down for individual meetings. He goes through what each player needs to do to be successful and explains his expectations. During senior Fallon Ellis’ meeting, what Fennelly said has stuck with her throughout her senior year. He told the 5-11 guard from Missouri City, Texas that she would win a few games for the Cyclones this season.

And he meant it.

However, that was a bold statement for Ellis to take in, considering prior to this season she had averaged just 2.6 points and played around 11 minutes a contest.

Fennelly’s confidence really struck a chord with Ellis. She believed him and it made all the difference in her play this season.

“When he said that to me, I was just like, ‘He believes in me and that I can do certain things. He knows what I am capable of.’ I felt if he sees this in me then I should see it in myself,” Ellis said.

Ellis started believing in herself and big things happened for the senior and for the Cyclones.

Ellis’ improvement on the court has been evident in conference play, where the senior has been lauded by Cyclone Nation on multiple occasions.

The Cyclone faithful first caught a glimpse of her improvement against Kansas State in Hilton Coliseum. With Iowa State struggling against the Wildcats late, the game was tied at 50 with 2:51 remaining. Brynn Williamson passed it to Fallon Ellis along the 3-point line for an open 3-pointer. Ellis didn’t hesitate and knocked down the biggest shot of the game to give Iowa State a 53-50 lead that would eventually seal the deal for Iowa State.

Ellis’ improved play is clearly reflected in her season stat line, as she is averaging 4.8 points, which is nearly double her points from last year. She is also shooting high percentages from the field (.500), 3-point land (.381) and from the charity stripe (.756), and her rebounding is also up from seasons prior (3.7).

She’s tied her career high of 11 points five times this season and in Iowa State’s last game against the Sooners she hauled in a game-high 14 rebounds. After receiving her fifth foul against OU, Ellis went to the bench with a standing ovation from the crowd.

“I didn’t expect to get 14 rebounds in any game but I just did,” Ellis said. “It just came. We needed it. My rebounding hasn’t been as good the past few games. I would look at the stat sheet at half and see zero rebounds and think that that is not acceptable. I can do something. I guess it was just in me that game to just grab every rebound I can.”

Ellis has handled herself against some of the best posts in the Big 12 this season. It’s a true testament of her hard work over the last four seasons and to the Iowa State system.

“I think it is just sending a statement,” she said. “I’m small but I pack a lot of power. I’m able to do just the same things as taller posts can. I feel like I’m a little bit quicker and faster and I’m pretty strong. So it is safe to say I’m small, but I’m capable of doing big things.”

Her play on the court is just as important as what she does off the court. Each year at Iowa State, Ellis set goals for herself. This year, one of her goals was to be able to help her team on and off the court and to reach her potential.

“I want to be that teammate that everyone is like, ‘That is the teammate that helped me a lot and I appreciate her.’ That’s the kind of teammate I always want around,” Ellis said. “That is what I want to leave behind. I guess that was the main goal for me and I’m hoping by the end of the season that my teammates think of me that way. Not only as a good player on the court but a good person off the court.”

She credits much of her character to Fennelly and the Iowa State Way and she also looks forward to being able to use what she learned at Iowa State when she transitions into the career world.

“I think that the best thing about Coach Fennelly is that he does teach us character,” Ellis said. “It’s not just basketball. That’s the kind of thing we need as young adults. Knowing not only what is going on here, but what’s going on in the real world. I think that is going to help me out in the long run. He teaches us character and to always be appreciative of things. Those things have helped me out in my social life as well. People look at me as that person that is appreciative and I’m really grateful for that.”

All things considered, her time at Iowa State will not be forgotten and she isn’t ready just yet to turn the page because there’s still a lot of basketball left. However, Ellis’ big year just goes to show just how far a little confidence can go.


Posted in Women's Basketball | Tagged , | 1 Comment

The Doctor Almost Begins His Practice In Ames

Cain & Erving

Almost every college athletic fan can recall a “we almost got this player” story. And just like every other school, Iowa State has had its share of them.

As a Cyclone fan growing up in the 1980s, I remember when Glen Rice committed to play basketball at Iowa State. Rice was high school teammates with Jeff Grayer at Flint (Mich.) Northwestern and it looked like Johnny Orr had tapped into the Flint area for another star player who could eventually hang in the rafters with Grayer and Barry Stevens.

Of course, it wasn’t meant to be, as Rice changed his mind and eventually signed with the University of Michigan. He later single-handily led the Wolverines to the 1989 NCAA title, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the Final Four before embarking on a 15-year NBA career where he was a three-time All-Star.

I know most Cyclone fans are aware of the close call with Rice. But did you know that one of the greatest players in hoops history, Julius Erving, was almost a Cyclone? Yes, The Doctor was this close to beginning his practice in Ames, Iowa.

I first heard of this story in 2002 when Bill Cain was inducted into the Iowa State Letterwinners Club Athletics Hall of Fame. Cain, a native of New York, had an extraordinary hoops career at Iowa State (1967-70), earning first-team All-Big Eight honors in 1969 and 1970. He set school records for rebounding average in a season (15.2) and rebounds in a game (26 vs. Minnesota), marks which are likely safe for eternity. He’s still one of only four players in school history to finish a career averaging a double-double (19.5 ppg; 12.5 rpg).

Bill Cain is one of four players in school history to average a double-double in a career.

Bill Cain is one of four players in Iowa State history to average a double-double in a career.

Cain was the 42nd pick of the 1970 NBA Draft by the Portland Trailblazers. After narrowly missing the final cut with Portland, Cain contacted then-Drake assistant and future Iowa State assistant Gus Guydon, who was trying to hook him up with a team in Europe through his connections.

“I told Gus, ‘I’m not going to Europe. I want to stay here and play in the NBA,’” Cain told me recently over the phone. “Well, I listened to Gus, and as I’m talking to you now I’m sitting in a country house outside of Paris, France.”

Meeting Cyclone legends and listening to their stories when they come back for the Hall of Fame induction ceremony is one of my favorite times of the year.

When I first met Cain in 2002, I immediately peppered him with questions about his days in Ames. I also asked him about the outstanding players from the New York City area who came to ISU before him. Guys like John Crawford, Vinnie Brewer, Henry Whitney and Zaid Abdul-Aziz, just to name a few.

Without warning, Cain laid a shocker on me.

“You know, we almost got Julius Erving, too,” Cain said at the ceremony.

Well, this was news to me, and as a lifelong fan of Dr. J, frankly I couldn’t believe it. I mean, how come I had never heard of this?

Cain filled me in a little more on Dr. J’s 1967 recruiting visit to Ames in an interview over the phone this past week.

“He (Erving) was from Long Island and was in Ames for an entire weekend, and boy, did we have some great games in State Gym that weekend,” Cain said with a laugh. “I think he would have come to Iowa State if things would have been done a little differently. It is very possible we could have gotten him. It’s too bad he didn’t come there, but we had a great weekend.”

Cain vividly remembers everything about the visit. How could he not? He spent a weekend with one of the all-time greats. Larry Farmer, who played for and later became the head coach at UCLA, also paid a visit to Ames that weekend.

“The Temptations were playing in Des Moines and I grabbed Julius and we went down to the concert on a Saturday night,” Cain remembered. “It was at the old Vets Auditorium and it was the first time both of us had seen them play. We had a blast. I was hoping that was enough to get him to Ames.”

In later books about Erving’s outstanding career, his visit to Ames is backed up. In 2013, Erving published his autobiography, “Dr. J,” where his weekend at Iowa State is mentioned.

We all know the story from here. Erving chooses Massachusetts and evolves into a 16-time All-Star in a 16-year Hall-of-Fame career. He was named to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary All-Time Team in 1996.

Cain loves telling the story of his weekend with The Doctor. He also loves recollecting about the sequel to the meeting.

In the 1990s, Cain was in New York to attend a family reunion. By chance, Erving and Cain are distant relatives and Erving was present at the same family gathering. Cain made eye contact with Erving, but after 30 years, he figured he would have no idea who he was.

Suddenly, Erving started walking toward Cain. He put out his enormous hand, which made a basketball look like a softball in his grip, and said, “Bill Cain. Iowa State. The Temptations.”

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Hoop Bits (1-28-15)

Niang’s All-Around Game Impressive

Georges Niang is one of 13 players in the nation averaging better than 14 points, five rebounds and 3.5 assists per game. His versatility has been well known nationwide since he arrived at Iowa State in 2012.

In fact, Niang is one of 20 players nationally with 1,200 points, 400 rebounds and 250 assists in their career.

Niang is the only player on the list that is not a senior. He’s also just one of two players that are taller than 6-6 (J.J. Avila, Colorado State).

It is a pleasure to watch such a crafty player take the floor at Hilton Coliseum each night.

Six In Double Figures
Iowa State is the only team in the country with six players averaging double figures. Led by Niang’s 14.8 points, the Cyclones are aiming to become just the third ISU team to have five players average double digits. Also in double figures are Bryce Dejean-Jones (12.7), Naz Long (12.2), Dustin Hogue (11.0), Monté Morris (10.8) and Jameel McKay (10.1).

Texas is the only other team in the Big 12 with four or more players in double figures.

Too Close For Comfort
Iowa State’s seven Big 12 games have been decided by a total of 23 points, or an average of 3.3 points.

Fortunately for Iowa State fans, ISU is 10-3 in conference games decided by six points or fewer (or OT) in the last two seasons.

Hoiberg Advances In Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge
In case you missed it, ISU head coach Fred Hoiberg is again participating in the Infiniti Coaches’ Charity Challenge. He dominated the first round and is currently in second behind Purdue’s Matt Painter in the second round. Hoiberg is competing to earn money for the American Heart Association.

He danced for you, now hopefully you will vote for him!

You can vote daily by clicking here.

GameDay Comes To Ames
Having ESPN’s College GameDay was a great experience for all involved. Cyclones.com built a special page to allow you to relive that day. Check it out!


Fantasy Camp
Fred Hoiberg Basketball Camps offer a new way for adults to get involved in the camp world. Sure to be a great experience, attendees will get a bunch of Iowa State basketball gear and the opportunity to interact with coaches and players.


Dunk Meter
Last season, Iowa State had 50 dunks. This season, Iowa State has 60 dunks.

Here is a breakdown of the dunks per Cyclone this season:

McKay – 19
Dejean-Jones – 18
Hogue – 8
Nader – 4
Edozie – 3
Morris – 3
Niang – 3
Jackson – 1
Long – 1

Posted in Men's Basketball | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment