Jan 16, 2019; Lubbock, TX, USA; Texas Tech Red Raiders guard Jarrett Culver (23) tries to call time out during the game against the Iowa State Cyclones at United Supermarkets Arena. Mandatory Credit: Michael C. Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — Steve Prohm went locker to locker and door to door.
He met individually Thursday with each of his Iowa State players in an effort to coax out more, well, effort as the struggling Cyclones (20-10, 9-8) prepare to face No. 8 Texas Tech (24-5, 13-4) at 1 p.m. Saturday — then leap forward for potential Big 12 and NCAA Tournament runs.
“Obviously we didn’t represent our program and this school the right way (in Wednesday’s loss at West Virginia), whether it’s guys arguing, or carrying on, but moreso in just the way we played: Not making shots, missing shots and just from a focus and an effort standpoint,” said Prohm, whose team has lost five of seven games. “But I met with everybody on the team yesterday for 10-20 minutes; spent most of my day meeting with those guys. I think — obviously, you’re not gonna say you’re in a good place. You’ve got to kind of like figure it out, heal a little bit, then start your pathway back. I hope after yesterday that we are on that back to the uphill climb. Does that mean you win? I don’t know, but like I talked to those guys, it’s about, ‘Let’s just play the right way.’”
It’s Senior Day at Hilton Coliseum and the Cyclones will try to rekindle the energy, cohesiveness and solid play on both ends of the floor they showcased most of this season — especially in a big road win against the Red Raiders that feels like it happened years ago.
So who takes charge as ISU aims to rebuild some of its formerly rock-solid infrastructures?
Everyone, Prohm said, but senior guards Marial Shayok (who is a game-time decision because of a sprained pinky toe) and Nick Weiler-Babb presided over a players’ only meeting that coincided with Prohm making the rounds individually.
“We spoke among ourselves just kind of like an in-house meeting,” said Shayok, the Big 12’s second-leading scorer. “Really just kind of came together and pretty much let it be known we’re gonna finish out the right way, for us.”
Shayok — who will decide if the pain in his toe has subsided enough to allow him to go tomorrow during warmups — said he has “no doubt” the Cyclones can come together and recapture the magic they flashed for the first 23 games while climbing up to No. 13 in the AP rankings.
Weiler-Babb seemed confident that can happen, too, adding that it’s largely on him as the longest-tenured Cyclone to make sure it does.
“I think it starts with me being the leader of this team,” Weiler-Babb said. “I’ve got to do a better job of making sure everybody’s on the same page and making sure we can get through times like these. Anything can happen in March and I think I’ve just got to preach to those guys that we’ve got to stick together. The farther we go in March, that’s gonna be better for all of us.”
Michael Jacobson on the team's chemistry and what's been missing the last few weeks in this CFTV. pic.twitter.com/fpeflpMTiT
— CycloneFanatic.com (@cyclonefanatic) March 8, 2019
That journey will be short unless internal strife and wayward defensive efforts are banished from here on out.
Prohm said he recently watched tape of ISU’s 68-64 win over the Red Raiders seven weeks ago and marveled at his team’s performance.
“That team is a good team,” Prohm said. “Really good. We’ve got to get back to that.”
So they met. Coaches and players one-on-one. Players collectively. All seeking answers to what could possibly go wrong so fast — and how to reverse the troubling trend.
“I think it was more about effort and commitment to this program,” forward Michael Jacobson said of the meetings with Prohm. “Like, what are we gonna try to finish this season as when we started so well like you guys said. Whatever happened — nobody can really seem to pinpoint one thing to where three weeks ago it just flipped. But he watched some film I think with each guy and just showed, ‘Regardless of whatever we’ve got going on outside, or so-and-so’s mad at so-and-so, you’re not gonna win with this kind of effort that we gave at West Virginia.’ So I think just getting back to committing to defense and playing hard on both ends and really just giving a crap about Iowa State and winning basketball games is the biggest thing right now.”
No better time to “give a crap” than now. Senior Day. As Shayok, Weiler-Babb and Zoran Talley all play their final game at Hilton — and possibly help set the stage for a postseason to remember on the heels of a seven-game stretch that should largely be flushed from the memory banks, if not completely forgotten.
“I think we’ve just got to get ourselves out of each others’ way a little bit,” Prohm said. “I’m not sitting here, I’m not John Wooden by any means, but I went and watched (lots) of tape and ball screen coverages and transition D. It’s just focus and effort and togetherness and we’ve just got to get that back because we had it at the highest level. Everybody saw that and we had it three weeks ago.”
Now it must be reclaimed. One meeting, practice and big game at a time.
“They want to change it,” Prohm added. “Because they need to change it for themselves. For them. So they can experience some really special things this month.”