First, here’s a bit of good news pertaining to Iowa State’s struggling men’s basketball program: Freshman standout Xavier Foster remains on track in his rehabilitation from season-ending right foot surgery.
The Cyclones’ head coach Steve Prohm — whose team is preparing for Saturday’s 5 p.m. matchup with No. 9 Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum — shared information on the athletic 7-0 freshman’s recovery process Friday afternoon during a zoom call with reporters.
“He’s halfway through rehab right now,” Prohm said of Foster, who was expected to be fully sidelined eight to 12 weeks after last month’s surgery. “(He’s) doing a terrific job with that. He’s focused. Everything looks really good with him, so I’m excited about that.”
Foster shot 62.5% from the field (10-for-16) and 75% from 3-point range (3 of 4) in limited duty before the decision was made to shut him down so his foot could be fully repaired and healed.
He scored 10 points in the ISU’s loss to Kansas State and hit both of his 3-point attempts in the loss to Iowa. He also had four rebounds in a season-high 14 minutes against the Hawkeyes and is obviously a huge piece for the Cyclones in the 2021-22 season and beyond.
“He’s in the pool now doing a lot of the rehab,” Prohm added. “So he’s getting a chance to move around a little bit.”
ON PLAYING THE SOONERS THE SECOND TIME…
Prohm noted that his team played well despite falling short in its 79-72 loss to Oklahoma on Feb. 6 in Norman. The Cyclones drilled 16 of 31 3-point attempts in that game, but were outshot 21 to 2 at the free throw line.
ISU (2-15, 0-13) led 58-57 after a Javan Johnson jumper with 9:15 left, but the Sooners (13-5, 8-4) unleashed an 11-0 run to help cement the victory.
“They play with great, great toughness and great purpose defensively,” Prohm said of OU, which has won seven of its last eight games. “Really, really active. But on the offensive side, they just put a lot of guys out there that can score the basketball. (Umoja) Gibson’s terrific. He’s quick, he’s fast, he can really make shots. And then you’ve got (Elijah) Harkness (who) is their toughness. (De’Vion) Harmon. Obviously Austin Reaves is terrific, and then (Brady) Manek. Those five guys — and Alondes Williams has been out because of COVID protocols. But those are four or five legit scorers. … I think they’ve got a bunch of different guys that can be really efficient and speed you out. I didn’t mention (Jalen) Hill as well, not to leave him out, but they do a great job of kind of isolating you and being able to really, really drive you and try to expose your matchups. So we’ve got to do a great job of really pushing that elbow catch out and make sure we dictate the right way against the defense.”
Harkness scored a season-high 19 points in the first meeting. ISU’s Rasir Bolton notched team highs in scoring (21 points), rebounding (7) assists (4) and made 3-pointers (5). Tre Jackson, Jalen Coleman-Lands and Johnson each drained three from long-range, and Tyler Harris added two.
“We have to be locked in,” Jackson said of Saturday’s rematch. “We have to rebound the ball. We have just play all 40 minutes as hard as well can. … We need a win.”
FRESHMEN DEVELOPMENT …
Prohm said versatile and big guards Jaden Walker and Darlinstone Dubar have been the quickest to understand the level of devotion to their craft that’s needed in order to develop at the high-major level. Walker pulled down a career-high 14 rebounds in a loss to Kansas and has collected two or more steals in four of the past nine games. Dubar, whose minutes have declined as a fully healthy roster has emerged in recent weeks, also shows promise on both ends of the floor.
“I think Jaden Walker has started to put (extra) time (in) and (knows) you need to watch extra tape; you need to get in extra, and then Dubar, as well,” Prohm said. “Both those guys. It’s hard as freshman, especially this year, but I think that’s the one biggest thing: the more time you put in, the more attention not detail, the better you’re gonna be.”
Walker — who has started the past eight games — has played some point guard to help free up Bolton for spot-up opportunities and dribble-drives to the rim.
“I’m still learning,” Walker said. “Coach has been trying to play ‘Ra’ off the ball more. I’m just trying to keep progressing and getting better, getting a better understanding of the game, especially at this level.”