Iowa State is set to play in Brooklyn in January, a non-conference showdown with South Carolina as a final primer for the Big 12 season. This comes on the heels of a trip to the big city in the Sweet 16 last season.
Iowa State has a number of connections to New York, starting with assistant coach Matt Abdelmassih, who attended college in Queens at St. John’s. New graduate assistant Tim Mannix was also a St. John’s graduate.
On the current roster, Yonkers product Dustin Hogue returns for his senior season. Hogue had a terrific performance in his homecoming last spring when he scored a career-high 34 points against UCONN in the Sweet 16. Transfer Hallice Cooke, who will sit out 2014-15 after transferring from Oregon State, grew up just across the Hudson River in Union City, New Jersey.
But Iowa State’s connection to the New York area dates back much farther than the current roster. In the 1950s, a young New Yorker named John Crawford went west, far out of what was probably his element, to Ames, Iowa. Crawford, who was Iowa State’s first African-American basketball player was the start of something special that ties together Iowa State and the New York area.
Crawford played two years for the Cyclones, averaging 13.4 points per game and helping ISU win the 1955 Big Seven Holiday Tournament.
There isn’t a large number of New York area players that have suited up for the Cyclones. In fact, the number is quite low (fewer than 20 players from the New York area have played for ISU). But the guys that have, most went on to have terrific careers for the Cyclones.
Five 1,000-point scorers. Six all-conference first-team selections. Three Iowa State Hall of Famers.
Shortly after Crawford moved on, Brooklyn native Hank Whitney joined the Cyclones and averaged 10.3 points per game before being drafted by the Syracuse Nationals (now the Philadelphia 76ers).
Vince Brewer came from New York City and went on to have a 1,000-point career while playing alongside Whitney and Nick Bruno (Staten Island, N.Y.) on Glen Anderson’s team.
In the mid-60s, a young post player named Don Smith came to town from Brooklyn. Smith, who later changed his name to Zaid Abdul-Aziz, left Iowa State as the school’s leading scorer with 1,672 career points. Abdul-Aziz was a first-team all-conference pick. He had his #35 jersey retired in 1968 and inducted into the ISU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998. He was drafted by the Cincinnati Royals in the first round of the 1968 draft.
Abdul-Aziz played his final season with the Cyclones alongside the White Plains, N.Y. duo of Bill Cain and Dave Collins. Abdul-Aziz averaged 24.2 points and Cain chipped in 16.7.
Cain led the team in scoring in his final two seasons as a Cyclone. Collins averaged 9.5 points per game in his 75 career games.
From that point on, ISU’s ties to the big city went mostly dry until 1998. Michael Nurse arrived from just across the Hudson River in Teaneck, N.J. Nurse would average 11.5 points. He played a major role during the 1999-00 season, finishing second on the team in scoring with 12.5 points per game.
Brooklyn came up big for the Cyclones again in 2000 when a JUCO guard by the name of Jamaal Tinsley arrived in Ames. Tinsley, who held the nickname “The Abuser” while playing in the Rucker League, ended his career in 2001 as an All-American and is widely considered one of the best players to ever don a cardinal and gold jersey.
Another tough guard from the playgrounds of New York arrived in 2004. Curtis Stinson, a Bronx native and “Blue Collar” to his foes at Rucker Park, was an instant impact player for the Cyclones, earning freshman All-American honors while scoring 16.2 points in 2003-04. Like Hogue, Stinson had a successful return home when he tallied 32 points at Madison Square Garden (vs. Rutgers in the NIT semifinals). He finished his three-year career with 1,651 points.
A high-flyer from Queens arrived in 2005 to team up with Stinson. Rahshon Clark had a propensity for the ridiculous highlight film slams, often bringing the Hilton Coliseum crowd to its feet. He made 108 starts and scored 1,075 career points.
New York has been good to Iowa State. Hopefully we can get a win there in January.