How A Pair Of Legends Shaped Two Cyclones

It was 2009, Iowa State guards Hallice Cooke and Monté Morris were both 14-year olds living more than 600 miles apart. Both with hoop dreams of their own, their lives were about to be forever changed by relationships built with a pair of basketball legends.

Morris first forged a relationship with Roy Marble as a freshman at Beecher High School in Flint, Michigan. Marble was the best player ever to play at Beecher, and later went on to become Iowa’s all-time leading scorer before being drafted in the 1989 NBA Draft.

Morris and the Bucs were facing Marble’s son, Roy Devyn, who was a senior at Southfield Lathrup. After the game, Morris met Roy Marble for the first time.

“When I was a freshman, we got a chance to play against his son Devyn,” Morris said. “He was at Southfield Lathrup and it was Roy’s first time being back at Beecher in a long time. After that game was the first time I met him and Devyn. We built a relationship there and they brought up Iowa because that was where Devyn was going. They were hoping we could play together. We exchanged numbers and our relationship grew from there.”

Morris eventually started hearing from Iowa State and decided to take an official visit to the campus. In an ironic twist, it was Roy Marble who accompanied Morris and his mother, Latonia, on the trip.

“He wanted to make sure it was the right spot for me,” Morris said. “He knew I wasn’t considering Iowa and he wasn’t forcing that on me. He wanted what was best for me and when he came on the visit, he was all about Iowa State and knew it was the right place for me.”

Morris returned to Flint last weekend and had a chance to see Marble again. Marble has Stage 4 cancer but still is inspiring Morris.

“When I got to see him last weekend at the Beecher reunion, I hadn’t seen him since he got sick,” Morris said. “Seeing him for the first time kind of messed me up a bit. He has lost a lot of weight and is in a wheel chair right now, but he was telling me to keep my head up and keep working. He said he’s been hearing great things about me and that it is in my hands to do it. He continues to give me great confidence.”

Around the same time Morris was meeting Marble, Cooke met a huge man named Darryl Dawkins. A self-proclaimed 14-year old hot-head, Cooke almost instantly recognized the impact that “Chocolate Thunder” would have on his life.

“I first met Darryl when I was 14 after our Sports U tryouts,” Cooke said. “He was such a positive energy guy. A really loving guy. He introduced himself to us and then a couple weeks later he came to our tournament and sat at the end of the bench. When you would come out of the game he would pull you to the side and talk to you, give you advice.”

Though he may not have recognized it at the time, Cooke admits now that he needed that guidance.

“When I was young I was a real hot head. Every little thing got to me. If a coach said something to me I would shrug my shoulders. My body language wasn’t good,” Cooke said. “When I would come out of the game, whether I had made a great play or a bad play, I’d be mad at the fact I was coming out. He would tell me to stay patient, that I looked good out there and so on. He was always so positive.”

Dawkins was around the Sports U AAU program from that point forward until unexpectedly passing away last week at 58 years old.

“He wasn’t a coach, he was more of an ambassador for the program,” Cooke said. “But it was funny, he’d come to a tournament and the next thing you knew he was up there coaching. You could really tell that it was his love of the game and his passion for working with kids our age. He really wanted to help us grow.”

Cooke last saw Dawkins in January, and nothing had changed. He was still impacting lives, and that was no different for Cooke.

“I was at a St. Anthony’s game and they were playing Roosevelt Catholic and he and I sat courtside together,” Cooke said. “He had his daughter, who has Down syndrome, there. The way he loved his kids was really special. I’ll remember that the rest of my life. To know they are without a father now really bothers me.”

Although Dawkins is gone, his message still resonates with Cooke.

“He made every person he talked to feel like they were the most important person in the world,” Cooke said. “He just taught me to love everybody. He used basketball as an avenue to change lives. That is what I hope I can do.”

The world has loss a basketball legend today…Everyone knew "Chocolate Thunder" the basketball player…but not everyone got the opportunity to spend time with and get to know Darryl Dawkins the person..I was lucky enough to get to know Darryl Dawkins and be mentored by him on the bench of an AAU game, rides to AAU tournaments, or business meetings in NYC…He had a role in turning a knucklehead 14year old (me) with a bad attitude into a young mature man at 17…I will forever cherish our memories, laughs, and the hilarious stories you always told…Nothing but positive vibes when I was in his presence…He was truly a man who lit up literally EVERY room he stepped in! And will be greatly missed!! R.I.P Darryl 💔 #SportsUFam

A photo posted by Hallice Cooke (@hallywood_3) on

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Archer One Of Iowa State’s Best QBs

Archer, David001web

When mentioning the best quarterbacks in Iowa State history, David Archer’s name will certainly appear at the top of the list.

Archer broke virtually every school passing record during his short two-year stint in Ames from 1982-83. His name is still etched on most of ISU’s passing top-10 record lists.

His outstanding career at Iowa State was just a stepping stone to bigger and better accomplishments professionally, however. Archer became a starting quarterback in the NFL, one of just four Cyclone signal-callers to start a game in the NFL, a league MVP (WLAF) and a record-setting passer (CFL).

Now at the age of 53, Archer has settled into another career as a radio analyst, where he will begin his 13th season as the color man for the Atlanta Falcons radio broadcasts.

I had the chance to catch up with the Iowa State Hall-of-Famer recently. I hope you enjoy this Q&A.

How did you choose Iowa State?

DA: My Dad was born and raised in Arkansas and I always envisioned myself playing for the Razorbacks. We looked at that option coming out of high school, but I had a make-good scenario where they couldn’t commit to giving me a scholarship, so I decided to go to junior college (Snow Community College in Utah) instead. Coming out of junior college I was heavily recruited by Iowa State, LSU, Texas, New Mexico and UTEP. Those were the five schools that really came after me hard. Ironically, Mack Brown, who was the offensive coordinator for Donnie Duncan at Iowa State, had just left ISU and went to LSU. He recruited me at both places. Ultimately, the decision was pretty easy because both LSU and Texas wanted to redshirt me. Iowa State had no plans to redshirt me. In fact, they wanted me to compete with the quarterback returning (Jon English) who had backed up John Quinn. So I came in and rolled the dice and tried to beat this kid out.

Archer ended up earning the starting job at Iowa State where he passed for 1,465 yards with 125 completions during the 1982 season. It was the final year of the Donnie Duncan era, and the Cyclones were primarily a running team. Running backs Tommy Davis, Harold Brown and Jason Jacobs carried most of the offensive load for the Cyclones, combining for 1,937 yards on the ground. The transition from junior college to big-time college football was difficult in Archer’s first year at Iowa State.

What was it like in your first season at Iowa State under Donnie Duncan?

DA: I was playing D-I football against some of the best teams in the nation. I was more concerned about me coming in and winning the job than I was what we were going to do offensively. I had thrown the ball a ton my sophomore year in junior college. We were one of the top passing junior college teams in the country. It was a change for me. We played out of an I-formation, option style attack. As I got more accustomed to the offense, we opened it up a little and they let me throw it a little more. Obviously, there was a learning curve for me. I struggled some, but it benefited me for the next year.

Would you consider the 19-7 win at Iowa the highlight of your first season?

DA: No question. It was a great win in my career. Obviously, coming in as a college football fan, I understood rivalries. I didn’t understand the specifics of Iowa State-Iowa, but I understood what a rivalry meant. It was cool in my mind to have one of those kind of rivalries. It didn’t take me long in the spring to find out what the game meant. So when we lined up against the Hawkeyes in the game in 1982, I understood what it meant.

David Archer set Iowa State single-season records in passing yards (2,639), completions (234) and TD passes (18) in 1983.

David Archer set Iowa State single-season records in passing yards (2,639), completions (234) and TD passes (18) in 1983.

The football program was shocked when Duncan announced his resignation following the 1982 season. The administration picked former Boise State head coach Jim Criner to lead the program in Archer’s senior year in 1983. Criner and his offensive coordinator Gene Dahlquist opened up the playbook and Archer thrived. Riding the arm of Archer, the Cyclones were second in the Big Eight in passing offense (247.0) and Archer was its top passer, leading the Big Eight and ranking eighth nationally in total offense at 245.3 yards per game. Archer set Iowa State season records in passing yards (2,639-now 5th), completions (234- now 4th) and TD passes (18- now T3rd). It was definitely a breakout season for Archer.

How was the transition to Criner from Duncan?

DA: It was easy for me to make the transition when Coach Criner got there. Gene Dahlquist was our offensive coordinator and he was a great coach. Gene and I remain really close. I learned a lot about coverage and a lot of stuff that helped me transition to the next level. I had a young receiving corps. The top three receivers were freshmen and sophomores.

Without a doubt, Archer benefitted from the emergence of sophomore wide receiver Tracy Henderson during the 1983 campaign. Henderson posted the greatest season ever by a Cyclone wideout, setting school records in receptions (81) and receiving yards (1,051). Henderson’s 81 catches ranked third nationally and is still a Cyclone school mark. He earned All-America honors that year and the chemistry he forged with Archer played a big part.

What was it like having an All-American receiver like Tracy Henderson to pass to?

DA: Obviously, Tracy and I hit it off and I tried to get it to him as much as I could. He had a great feel for the game. He wasn’t extremely fast, but he was quick in short spaces. He changed direction really well. He had great feel of playing off of people and playing basketball in the short routes. He had a nice feel for dead areas and zones. We had a couple of routes designed where we had two outside receivers and Tracy would slide inside and play the slot, which is essentially what you see now in a Wes Welker-type position. That position is glorified now in the NFL and Tracy was doing it in 1983, and he was really good at it. He would get isolated on safeties and linebackers and they couldn’t match up and Tracy ate them alive. He also had good body language which I could read really well. I could anticipate some of the routes he was going to run. We just had a really nice mesh between us.

One of the biggest wins in 1983 was the 38-35 come-from-behind victory over Kansas. You passed for 300 yards that day. What do you remember from that game?

DA: Kansas had just beaten a nationally-ranked USC team. They had a good team and it was a passing day for both teams. We were down 14 points in the fourth quarter and were able to storm back and score and then got the ball late. There were a lot of plays made by a lot of people, but what I remember most was our tight end Brett Blaney making a huge play. It was 4th-and-3 and we weren’t quite in field goal range and we had to go for it. Blaney runs a little arrow route to the left side, and as I throw the ball, it gets tipped at the line of scrimmage. Blaney then leans back and makes a left-handed, one-handed stab to catch the ball and extend the drive. We then later get in field goal range and Marc Bachrodt hits the field goal to win the game. My Dad was at the game. There was a picture in the Iowa State Daily of me and my Dad hugging on the field. I still have that paper. It was a great moment.

You guys put up 29 points and you threw for 346 yards against one of the greatest Nebraska teams of all-time in 1983. What are your memories from that game?

DA: They (Nebraska) had such intelligent fans. They understand when they see a pretty good performance by the opposition. We came in and they couldn’t stop us. They tried to play cover two and man coverage underneath and we were eating them alive. We couldn’t stop them, though. They were just so good on offense. Their defense was good. Coming into the game it was talked about our offense, which was ranked No. 2 in the Big Eight, going against the Big Eight’s top defense. They said they were going to shut us out. We went in with something to prove. As it turned out, it was the most points they gave up all season until Miami beat them in the Orange Bowl. As we left the field and went through the tunnel, the Nebraska fans there clapped as we left the field. I thought that was pretty cool they payed tribute to us because they realized we had given their defense all they wanted.

After graduating from Iowa State, Archer went undrafted in 1984. Undeterred, he signed a free agent contract with the Atlanta Falcons and made the roster as its third-string quarterback in 1984. The following season, long-time Falcon signal-caller Steve Bartkowski went down with an injury in the fifth game of the season and Archer was suddenly thrusted into the starting slot for the final 11 games of the year, finishing the 1985 campaign with 1,992 passing yards. The experience gave Archer confidence and he was named the starting quarterback for Atlanta heading into the 1986 season. Archer led the Falcons to a 5-1-1 record to open the season, raising eyebrows across the NFL. He was named NFC Player of the Month for September.

What are your memories of the fast start to the 1986 season?

DA: I was 24 years old and the youngest starting quarterback in the league at the time. Bernie Kosar (Cleveland Browns) and I were the two youngest starting QBs at the time. I had a lot confidence and had a lot of fun. Unfortunately, we were not a very deep team and by midseason we all kind of got hurt. I separated my shoulder in week 10 and was out for the rest of the year. Prior to the 2012 season when Matt Ryan led the Falcons to a 9-0 start, our 4-0 start was the best start in Falcons history. It was a neat moment to be a part of that and be a part of that team.

One of the biggest games of the 1986 season was the win at Dallas in week three. You threw for 269 yards and rushed for 41 yards in a huge fourth-quarter comeback. What were some of your memories of that game?

DA: The Falcons had never beaten Dallas in Dallas. I had a really good game and we won 37-35. We were down 35-27 with about four minutes left in the game. Gerald Riggs scored a touchdown to cut it to 35-34. We got the ball back and I connected with a guy with about 30 seconds left on a deep route to set up the game-winning field goal. It was a special moment.

David Archer started 23 games at quarterback in his NFL career.

David Archer started 23 games at quarterback in his NFL career.

Archer’s 1986 season was cut short when he separated his shoulder. He lost the starting job in 1987 and bounced around the league for the next four seasons as a backup for the Washington Redskins, San Diego Chargers and Philadelphia Eagles. Archer was only 30 years old and he still felt he could play. A new league called the World League of American Football (WLAF) had recently been formed and Archer wanted to show he could still run an offense, so he jumped over to play for the WLAF’s Sacramento Surge for the 1992 season. Archer was outstanding, leading the Surge to the World Bowl Championship. He was named MVP of the league and MVP of the World Bowl.

How special was it to win a championship in the WLAF?

DA: I enjoyed playing in the WLAF. I kind of got locked into a back-up situation in the NFL, but I knew I could still play. I needed to do something to jar people’s memories to show I could still play. At the end of the 1991 season I was offered a chance to play in the new World League. I took the opportunity and we won it all. I got the chance to play with former Iowa State receiver Eddie Brown. We teamed up and kind of had the Tracy Henderson-Dave Archer thing that year. We really meshed well together. It was fun to win a championship.

Archer remained in Sacramento for the 1993 season, but with a different team and a different league. The Canadian Football League (CFL) branched out to the United States and the Sacramento Gold Miners were the first U.S. city to host a CFL franchise. What Archer did in his first season in the CFL was unprecedented. He threw for 6,023 yards, becoming one of just four players in professional football history to record over 6,000 yards passing in a single season. He ended up playing five seasons in the CFL, recording 20,671 yards passing and 120 touchdowns before retiring after the 1998 season.

How much fun did you have playing in the CFL?

DA: It was fun slinging it all over the yard. We were the first American team to play in Canada. The CFL had expanded into the U.S. and I played for Sacramento. The nuances of the game were kind of lost on the American public. We were used to a more stationary game with one guy in motion. In the CFL, you would have a lot of guys approaching the line of scrimmage. We were kind of learning the game as we went. Plus, there was 12 guys on each side of the ball and the field was bigger. But we were slinging it all over the yard. I think I threw the ball over 700 times in 1993 (701). I had a lot of fun doing it and some good guys to play with. It was a fun game to play. I have done a number of interviews since my career has been over, and if we didn’t have the traditions you already know with American football, and if you were asked which type of football you would rather play, you would probably pick the Canadian game. It’s just so wide open and fun to play.

David Archer threw for 6,023 yards in 1993 for the CFL's Sacramento Gold Miners.

David Archer threw for 6,023 yards in 1993 for the CFL’s Sacramento Gold Miners.

Archer always had an inkling he would enjoy broadcasting once his playing career was over. During one of the brief times he was out of work, he returned to Ames to catch a Cyclone game. He asked Pete Taylor and Eric Heft if he could tag along in the booth to see their side of the action. Taylor and Heft offered Archer a chance to fill in briefly, and he nailed it. It was an impetus to where he is at today as he enters his 13th season as the color analyst for the Atlanta Falcons broadcast team.

How did you get interested in broadcasting?

DA: Pete (Taylor) was a great friend of mine. It was a sad day when he passed. He called all of my games. Eric (Heft) has been a good friend as well. It’s something I always wanted to do. I figured I had to work at it. I knew the game pretty well. The important thing is to make appropriate comments and say things concisely where it fits into a broadcast. I worked at it. I listened to the broadcasters I really liked and took what I liked from them and tried to apply it to what I did.

How honored are you to continue your affiliation with the Atlanta Falcons?

DA: It’s been a lot of fun. When Mr. (Arthur) Blank (Atlanta Falcons owner) took over he showed that he really values what my partner Wes Durham and I do for the team. He’s been very kind. He listens to the game with our broadcast. He will not listen to the TV or the opposing broadcasts. He has to have our broadcast put in his headset. We have a satellite feed that gives him the games and that’s the only broadcast he will listen to. That’s pretty cool when you get the owner listening to you.

The Atlanta Falcons radio broadcast team: Wes Durham and David Archer.

The Atlanta Falcons radio broadcast team: Wes Durham and David Archer.

How special was it for you to be inducted into the Iowa State Hall of Fame in 2005?

DA: It was a great day. It was neat that Dan McCarney asked me to speak to the team on the Friday before the game. It was a neat class. Fred Hoiberg, who I have gotten to know really well in the last couple of years, was in that class as well. It was neat to go in with Fred. Anytime you are recognized by a major institution like that, to be considered one of the elite to have had the chance to wear the colors, it’s an amazing feeling. My family was there and it will always be a day I will never forget.

David Archer honored at halftime of the Illinois State game as a member of the 2005 Iowa State Hall of Fame class.

David Archer honored at halftime of the Illinois State game as a member of the 2005 Iowa State Hall of Fame class.

Despite your busy schedule, do you still get a chance to follow the Cyclones?

DA: I follow the Cyclones on Twitter. I follow Sam Richardson (QB) on Twitter. I tried to shoot out messages to the guys as best as I can. I get alerts on my phone via ESPN telling me how they are doing. Yeah, I’m very much a fan. I got my Iowa State shirt and my Iowa State golf bag whenever I’m on the course.

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McKay, Nader Get Their Rings

Nader_McKay_Rings_2015-16

In June of 2014, the Iowa State men’s basketball team gathered at Fred Hoiberg’s house as a celebration to the past season. The team would receive their Big 12 Tournament championship rings that day, the perfect reminder to an amazing three-day stretch.

As the names were called off, Jameel McKay and Abdel Nader sat quietly in the background. They applauded as each teammate rose to get their newest prized possessions. McKay and Nader’s name wouldn’t be called that day. NCAA rules prevented them from receiving the awards because of their status as transfer student-athletes, but the duo didn’t want them anyway. They wanted to earn their rings.

And earn them they did.

McKay averaged 9.0 points, 8.7 rebounds and a block in ISU’s three wins in Kansas City in 2015, while Nader came off the bench to average 8.3 points, which included 13 points in the championship game against Kansas.

The Cyclones won the three games by a total of eight points, the smallest margin of victory for a champion in Big 12 history.

Fast forward to August 5, 2015 at Jack Trice Stadium. McKay and Nader are handed their rings by fellow senior Georges Niang as the team celebrates in the Jack Trice Club.

Mission accomplished.

“Definitely was something we set out to do,” McKay said. “Abdel and I sat back last year and we saw how much fun those guys had winning it. You see how proud the school and the fans were of those guys and we wanted to keep it going and win one on our own.”

Nader noted the challenge of accomplishing the feat.

“We both set goals for ourselves and achieving those goals wasn’t easy,” Nader said. “It feels good to have this on my finger, something we both played a big role in accomplishing. Hopefully we can do it again next year.”

McKay echoed Nader’s thoughts.

“This ring is great, I want another one next season,” McKay said. “That’s the goal.”

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Morris Still Driven To Excel

Morris, Monte_GeorgiaState_2014-15_36

Monté Morris had a lot of success in high school. He led the Flint Beecher Bucs to back-to-back state titles and was named Michigan’s Mr. Basketball. Still, he didn’t get an offer from instate schools Michigan and Michigan State and eventually decided on Iowa State as the best place to further his education and basketball career.

That certainly worked out for Iowa State and it has worked out just fine for the player that teammates call “Big Game.”

For Morris, who arrived on campus in June of 2013, it wasn’t about proving anyone wrong. He has a strong belief in what he can do on the court.

“I know personally what I can do, what I’m capable of doing on a basketball court,” Morris said. “You know that when you lace up, you control it.”

In his first two seasons, the 6-2 point guard has led the nation in assist-to-turnover ratio. His career A/TO ratio sits at an eye-popping 4.69. He increased his scoring from 6.8 points as a freshman to 11.9 as a sophomore. He’s one of the Big 12’s leaders in steals averaging 1.6 per game in his career.

So just what has allowed the court general to become one of the nation’s top players at his position?

He says he’s matured in his approach to the game.

“I think I’ve matured a lot in my work ethic,” Morris said. “You know, it’s not just about getting a team workout in and going home, but instead it’s shooting for an hour and a half after. When I first got here I was just trying to fit in instead of trying to be better than those guys.”

He’s a surefire name you’ll find on the Bob Cousy Award Watch List when it is announced this fall. But he’s still striving to be better.

Better for his mom. Better for his grandmother, who passed away in late June. And better for that young boy that grew up with a dream.

That is what drives Morris.

“First off, it would be eventually providing for my mom. My grandma passed away recently and that is something that drives me. I’m just trying to make my family happy and proud. I want to someday fulfill my dream that I had as a young boy, to play at the next level. That is what drives me and I’m not going to stop working.”

Morris’ evolution as a player will continue with a new coach, one that has put a pair of point guards into the NBA already. He’s being pushed every day by new Cyclone leader Steve Prohm to be a better player, a better person and a better teammate.

The approach is taking Morris back to his Beecher days, something that quickly brings a smile to his face.

“Coach Prohm has kind of taken me back to my high school days,” Morris said. “He counts on his point guard a lot. He expects a lot from me and he expects me to have a great day, every day. Our relationship is good and I feel like it is going to be great in November. He wants me to go get the ball. It really does take me back to my high school days and I’m looking forward to giving the nation a little replay of how that was.”

Morris is proud of the way the team handled the coaching change.

“I realized that we are just tough young men. Resilient, really,” Morris adds. “A lot of people probably would have tucked their tail and tried to make moves but this group stuck together. Everybody is on the same page and that really told me a lot about the type of season we can have.”

He says the team has learned from its mistakes a year ago, which included a loss in their opening game of the NCAA Tournament.

“The way we approached the game, the day before, everything was just not the way we should have handled that situation,” Morris says while shaking his head. “You are going to get any team’s best shot at that point and we realize that now. These are business trips and we have to stay focused and have everyone buy into their roles.”

You can still hear the disappointment as he speaks.

“The night you think someone isn’t that good, that you can cruise, that is the night you lose,” Morris said. “You have to stay focused.”

It is a task that Morris takes to heart. Especially in Big 12 play where the competition is at its best. So he’ll do his homework, help his teammates do their homework.

“I know that for me, I have my hands full every night in this league going against great guards,” the All-Big 12 Second-Team pick a year ago said. “I have to be prepared. I have to know them better than they know me.”

That is what being a point guard is about after all.

“I love that as the point guard I am able to control everything,” Morris said. “There are pros and cons to it. You get the praise and you get the blame. I understand that. But you are in control of everything. That’s how you want it to be as a player.”

Did you know?
Only seven times in NCAA history has a player led the country in a statistical category three seasons in a row. Morris will try to become the eighth (assist-to-turnover ratio). No one has ever done it four times.

Stan Modzelewski, Rhode Island – Scoring Average (1940-42)
Oscar Robertson, Cincinnati – Scoring Average (1958-60)
Pete Maravich, LSU – Scoring Average (1968-70)
Jerry Lucas, Ohio State – Field-Goal Percentage (1960-62)
Todd MacCulloch, Washington – Field-Goal Percentage (1997-99)
Blake Ahearn, Missouri State – Free-Throw Percentage (2004-06)
Paul Millsap, Louisiana Tech – Rebound Average (2004-06)

Follow Iowa State Men’s Basketball on Twitter, @CycloneMBB. Follow Matt Shoultz, men’s basketball contact for Iowa State, on Twitter, @mjshoultz.

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Summer Hoops Update

It’s been a busy summer for the Iowa State women’s basketball team. With so much to talk about now that we have entered the month of July, I thought we would do a summer hoops update to get you caught up.

Billy Fennelly attends prestigious Nike Villa 7 Consortium

Assistant coach Billy Fennelly was invited to attend Nike’s Villa 7 Coaches Symposium this summer. The goal of the symposium is to connect top assistants from across NCAA men’s and women’s basketball, who have hopes of becoming a head coach, with administrators.

This year was the 10th anniversary of Villa 7, which took place in the NCAA offices in Indianapolis, Indiana. A total of 30 women’s basketball assistants attended the invite-only event along with 50 men’s assistants and roughly 50 administrators.

“Yet again, Nike proved why they are the premier brand in all of sports,” Fennelly said. “The Villa 7 assistant coach symposium was a phenomenal experience, and I feel privileged to have been a part of it. The interaction between fellow peers and administrators is truly one of a kind. I am honored to be invited and have the opportunity to represent Iowa State and continue to make the Cyclones the best we possibly can.”

Jadda Buckley and Claire Ricketts receive medical redshirts for 2014-15

Jadda Buckley and Claire Ricketts were granted medical redshirts for the 2014-15 season.

Ricketts fractured her wrist in the Cyclones season-opener against USC Upstate, which sidelined her for the season. Buckley on the other hand, suffered a stress injury in her right foot which plagued her throughout the non-conference season. Buckley competed in nine games for the Cyclones last season before pursuing a medical redshirt due to the lingering injury. Buckley’s injury forced her to play limited minutes in most contests she appeared in.

Buckley will enter the 2015-16 season as a redshirt sophomore, while Ricketts will be a redshirt freshman.

Carleton to serve as torchbearer for Pan Am Games

 Incoming freshman Bridget Carleton was selected to represent Canada Basketball and serve as a torchbearer in the Pan Am Games Torch Relay on Thursday afternoon.

Carleton will carry the torch for about 200 meters in Toronto for the torch relay, which has spanned the entire country as a part of a 41-day relay.

For more information on the torchbearers click on this link. Also, stay tuned to our Twitter account for updates.

TeeTee Starks and Meredith Burkhall move to Ames

Freshmen TeeTee Starks and Meredith Burkhall have officially moved to Ames and enrolled in classes. Carleton, the third member of the 2015 class, will join the Cyclones in August after fulfilling her Canada Basketball commitments. The 2015 recruiting class was ranked in the top-15 in the nation, which is the highest-ranked recruiting class in program history.

Iowa State ranked among the nation’s best in attendance once again

Hilton Coliseum proved once again to be one of the top venues in the country when it comes to college basketball. The Cyclones were one of just eight schools in the country with men’s and women’s basketball programs ranked in the top-20 in attendance. Iowa State women’s basketball checked in at No. 4 in the nation, while the men’s team came in at No. 20.

ICYMI: Check out this article on Seanna Johnson and her new found motivation for next season.

https://cyclonesidebar.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/seanna-johnson-someone-to-play-for/

Also, earlier this summer I chatted with Lisa Kreiner about her life after Iowa State basketball:

https://cyclonesidebar.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/lisa-kreiner-making-a-difference-after-iowa-state/

Be sure to follow Iowa State women’s basketball on Twitter (@CycloneWBB) for the latest news on the team.

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Seanna Johnson: Someone To Play For

Johnson, Seanna_Texas_2014-15 (3)

“God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”

That is the motto that Iowa State guard Seanna Johnson and her family are choosing to live by these days. The last month has been a whirlwind after learning that Jarvis Johnson, the youngest son in the Johnson clan, was not medically cleared to play basketball at the University of Minnesota after being diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM).

Jarvis was a top basketball recruit and held offers from Baylor, Michigan State and Wisconsin among others before choosing to stay at home to compete for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Jarvis learned the news after completing medical testing after moving onto campus for summer classes. The news was released by Minnesota on Monday, June 16. The Johnson’s are hopeful that he will be medically cleared in the future.

Seanna and Jarvis share a tight bond – one so tight that people often refer to them as twins. The two both wear No. 12 on the basketball court, which is a trend they picked up from their older brother Curtis, who used the number during his playing career. The two are just 14 months apart and their mother, Tanisha Johnson, often refers to them as peanut butter and jelly or her Kobe (Bryant) and Shaq (O’Neal).

“He pushes her to be her best and she pushes him to be his best,” Tanisha said. “They have a phenomenal relationship because they’re so close together. Everyone thought they were twins for so long.”

In their days growing up in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, the two spent a lot of time in the gym. However, it was Jarvis who was typically the encourager to get better in the gym.

With so much shared time together in the gym, it was only natural for both siblings and the entire Johnson family to have a tough time comprehending that Jarvis’ career was possibly over.

Jarvis broke the news to her via a simple text, “I’m done.” She won’t forget those words or what he said when she phoned him after. The first time Seanna walked onto the gym in the Sukup basketball practice after learning the news she cried.

“He texts me every day,” Seanna said. “I cried every time he’d text me for the first few days because he’d say, ‘You’re my hero. Thanks for keeping playing.’ I would think, ‘I don’t want to do this.’ I just walked in the gym and cried.”

It was difficult for her to believe that the little brother and best friend that would motivate her each day to play could no longer play the sport they both loved.

“I felt guilty because he loved the game more than anybody,” she said.

A lot of thoughts crossed her mind after she learned the news. She contemplated quitting basketball because the thought of playing when her brother couldn’t was too much. She wondered how it was even possible to enjoy the sport anymore.

After the initial shock was over she knew she had even more motivation to play for Jarvis, who she calls her hero. She even got a tattoo to remind herself. It was the words Jarvis used on of his first posts to social media after finding out he could no longer play basketball, “God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”

Her new tattoo is not her first however. Several years ago she got another one that reads “I believe in miracles.” That tattoo signifies the day her brother passed out during a basketball practice and went into cardiac arrest. After several minutes, Jarvis was revived and rushed to the hospital.

He remained hospitalized for weeks with a bleak prognosis.

Jarvis would eventually return to the basketball court and the brother sister duo would earn a combined seven state titles for De La Salle High School.

As Cyclone fans already know, Seanna would make Cyclone history in her first two seasons after crashing the boards and becoming the fastest Cyclone to reach 500 career rebounds, hauling in 500 in just 59 career games. She would nearly average a double-double with 11.7 points and a Big 12-leading 9.2 rebounds per game in her sophomore campaign.

After Jarvis was initially declared medically ineligible, Seanna told her mother she would use this as motivation to improve her game for the two of them.

“I know she is super excited for the season to start and take it to the next level,” Tanisha said.

With this added motivation, the sky is the limit for Seanna as she enters her junior season with the Cyclones. Though she isn’t sure exactly how else she will continue to honor Jarvis during her final two seasons, she knows she will continue to play for him and has the backing of her Cyclone teammates who have taken to social media to support both Seanna and Jarvis. The hashtag #DoItForJarvis has already garnered hundreds of mentions on social media.

 

 

 

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Vroman Remembered For Spirit, Toughness

Jackson Vroman, who passed away Monday, was a fan favorite in his two seasons at Iowa State.

Jackson Vroman, who passed away Monday, was a fan favorite in his two seasons at Iowa State.

The news that former Iowa State basketball star Jackson Vroman passed away on Monday was a hard pill to swallow for Cyclone fans.

Vroman was one of the best centers to play for the Cyclones in recent years, averaging 13.2 points and 9.5 rebounds in his brilliant two-year (2002-03, 2003-04) career in Ames. He was also a career 55.8 percent shooter from the field.

The two things I remember most about Jackson was his free spirit, and his incredible motor. He was one of the most interesting characters to put on a Cyclone uniform, and one tough competitor. When it came to game time, Vroman was “All In.”

Vroman was a nomad in his childhood. His father, Brett, played basketball at UCLA and UNLV before a long professional hoops career in all regions of the world. Jackson lived in Europe and spent time in Alaska, California and Utah.

Vroman, who was a late comer to basketball, played in the NBA for the Hornets and Suns before a career in Europe.

Vroman, who was a late comer to basketball, played in the NBA for the Hornets and Suns before a career in Europe.

Vroman was primarily a soccer player and didn’t get into basketball until his senior year in high school. At 6-10 and lightly recruited, Vroman attended Snow Community College in Utah to give hoops a try.

It was at Snow CC where former Iowa State head coach Larry Eustachy saw an unfinished product who never took a play off. Eustachy offered him a scholarship on the spot.

“He’s my type of guy,” Eustachy said about Vroman in a Des Moines Register article. “He’s relentless. He doesn’t know the meaning of quit. I was told about this guy who never really played in high school, but was a hard-playing guy. That’s my type of guy.”

Vroman’s high-energy style and relentless effort on the boards made him an instant favorite of Cyclone Nation. He was also flamboyant, which helped his legend grow further. He grew his hair long and dyed it pitch black in his first season. Soon members of Cyclone Alley donned wigs to mimic his style and called the group “Vromie’s Homies.”

Donning his jet-black hair, Vroman goes for a rebound against Jackson State in 2002-03.

Donning his jet-black hair, Vroman goes for a rebound against Jackson State in 2002-03.

Every rebound was his. That was how I recollect my two years covering Vroman. I never saw a player tip rebounds to keep the ball alive in order to secure it better than Vroman.

He was the first Cyclone in 24 years to lead the conference in rebounding when he topped the Big 12 on the boards in 2003-04 at 9.6 rpg.

And he was tough. Man, was he tough. He never wanted to come out of a game, even when he lost a tooth.

“During a game he was hit in the mouth,” said Vic Miller, Iowa State’s longtime athletics trainer for men’s basketball. “He ran to me, spit out his tooth, and hustled back on defense to complete the play. The legend grew from there.”

One of my favorite memories of Vroman was the play he made in the now famous “John Neal Game” vs. Iowa during the 2003-04 season. Neal, a seldom-used walk-on, became the hero of the contest when he buried a pair of 3-pointers down the stretch to help the Cyclones rally to beat Iowa, 84-76.

Neal’s second 3-pointer with 2:02 left in the game tore the roof off of Hilton Coliseum and gave the Cyclones a 76-70 lead. The play was instigated by Vroman.

Curtis Stinson missed a tear-drop and Vroman fought off three Hawkeyes to grab the carom. Without hesitation, Vroman bulleted a pass to Neal in the corner before the defense could get set up. Neal nailed the trey and the game was virtually over.

After the game I met with assistant coach Bob Sundvold.

“That was the play of game,” Sundvold told me. “How he got the rebound in the first place was incredible. Then to have the intellect to know where the shooter was after he got the ball, only the good ones can do that.”

Vroman drives for a lay-in against UNI in 2003-04, a season in which ISU went 17-1 at home.

Vroman drives for a lay-in against UNI in 2003-04, a season in which ISU went 17-1 at home.

People forget that the 2003-04 Cyclone squad was very good. Vroman, as a senior, earned Third-Team All-Big 12 honors that season while averaging 13.9 points and 9.6 rebounds. The Cyclones lost just one game in Hilton Coliseum (17-1) with their only blemish coming to Final Four-bound Oklahoma State.

Iowa State ended the season at 20-13 and advanced to the NIT semifinals.

Vroman continued to improve offensively throughout his career at ISU. His soccer background made his footwork sound and he developed nifty post moves with the help of being ambidextrous.

Some of his memorable games included a 20-point, 18-rebound performance vs. Colorado and a 17-point, 19-rebound outing at Kansas. In his final game as a Cyclone, he grabbed 20 rebounds vs. Rutgers in the NIT semifinals at Madison Square Garden.

If there was one deficiency in Vroman’s arsenal it was his free-throw shooting. As a career 51.2 percent foul shooter, he never felt comfortable at the charity stripe.

The last play of his ISU career basically summed up his comedic nature and his woes at the line.

With the Cyclones down 83-81 with 0:52 seconds left to Rutgers, Vroman grabbed his 20th board in traffic and went down to the ground after being fouled.

He didn’t get up.

Miller ran onto the court to see what was wrong.

“I go out there and I asked him if it is a cramp,” Miller said. “All Vroman said was, ‘There is no way I am shooting these free throws.’ I then started to assist him like he was having cramps. Wayne (Morgan) and the referee came out to see what was wrong and the referee decided a replacement was needed to shoot his free throws. That story always makes me laugh.”

Classic Vroman.

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