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Friday, July 19, 2013
Hoiberg balancing roster via youth, veterans

By Myron Medcalf

Somehow, Fred Hoiberg is doing it again.

His method is clear. Since he arrived in 2010, the Iowa State coach has relied on junior college and Division I transfers to build the foundation of his program in Ames.

For many coaches, it either works well or it’s a disaster. There’s rarely any gray. But Hoiberg has turned the Cyclones into a successful hub for transfers. Four of his incoming players are junior college prospects.

The greatest challenge with that format, however, is turnover. Those kids don’t stay long, so you have to find young players who can anchor your program into the future.

And that’s the difference between the 2013-14 roster and Hoiberg’s past crews in Ames.

He has some young talent that could make the difference next season.

Georges Niang, a sophomore, is one of the top players in the Big 12. Iowa State is also adding ESPN top-100 recruits Matt Thomas and Monte Morris.

Plus, former Marshall standout DeAndre Kane (15.1 PPG, 7.0 APG), who is eligible immediately after graduating from his previous school, will be one of the league’s top point guards.

Forward Melvin Ejim is back, too. Even players who were lost in the mix in recent years might contribute next season.

Per Travis Hines of the Ames Tribune, Bubu Palo could be one of those players if his summer pro-am effort is any indication of his potential:
It’s all about the state of mind for Bubu Palo.

And right now, the fifth-year Iowa State senior is in a good spot after a big-time summer league performance.

“I’m in the gym,” he said, “but sometimes you’re in the game and you’re out there, if you’re not confident when you shoot it, you’re not necessarily going to make it as much.”

“My confidence is definitely up, so that’s probably why I’m shooting the ball better.”

Palo became just the second player in Capital City League history to average a triple-double, posting 33.8 points, 11.2 rebounds and 11.3 assists per summer-league game.

He attributed his success to confidence and recognizing there’s a chance for him to play a major part in ISU’s backcourt next season.

"Before, we had so many upperclassmen ever since I was here,” said Palo. “(Diante Garrett), Scott Christopherson, Korie (Lucious), other people they kind of had big expectations, I had a smaller role.

“With all them leaving, I feel like there’s a great opportunity for me, so I’m definitely in the gym trying to expand my game and definitely work on that, because there’s a lot of openings and a lot of good possibilities for me to step up this year.”

Palo looked to be a strong contender to start at point guard next season throughout much of the spring, but the Cyclones reeled in Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane, who is able to play both backcourt spots and will assuredly be in the starting lineup come November.

“I think (he) brings a lot and helps the team a lot more,” Palo said. “Experience, someone who’s been there, who’s seen a lot, who can bring it up the court. He’s got good size, so he can play off the ball, someone who can take the pressure off me to pick up sometimes. It definitely helps us a lot.

There’s a lot of talk about Oklahoma State and Kansas dominating the Big 12 race in 2013-14. And I can’t argue against that notion.

Andrew Wiggins might be the best player in college basketball. He’s surrounded by a talented group in Lawrence, too.

Oklahoma State has Marcus Smart and a collection of players who all underachieved in their early postseason exit a few months ago. But that’s a stacked squad.

But Hoiberg is building again in Ames.

A third consecutive NCAA appearance seems feasible. And if the young pieces contribute and the newcomers jell with the veterans, Hoiberg’s squad could be a serious factor in that Big 12 race.

Don’t forget about the Cyclones.