Jan 11, 2020; Ames, Iowa, USA; Iowa State Cyclones forward George Conditt IV (4) dunks against the Oklahoma Sooners at Hilton Coliseum. The Cyclones beat the Sooners 81 to 68. Mandatory Credit: Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports
AMES — One sample in particular on J. Cole’s sixth studio album, The Offseason, resonates with Iowa State center George Conditt.
It comes on the song punchin.the.clock, the fourth track on one of this year’s most successful musical releases, having reached No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and earning the distinction as the most-streamed album to this point in 2021 on Spotify.
While somewhat unorthodox, Cole using the Portland TrailBlazers’ Damian Lillard’s answer to a question after a game in last summer’s NBA Bubble, jumped out immediately to fans of basketball and rap alike.
“There ain’t nothing I want more,” Lillard said. “Ain’t nothing I want more. When I first came here, I said I ain’t coming here to waste my time. They gave us a chance to get in like we asked for, and that’s what we came here to do. Job still ain’t done, but you know what I’m here for.”
There’s nothing Conditt wants more than to help turn the tide for Iowa State basketball and return the program to its former glory after a 2-22 season that led to its head coach losing his job and massive changes sweeping over the roster.
Conditt wants nothing more than to rectify the mistakes that led to what he described as awful play, caused fans to doubt his fit in the program’s future and left people wondering what happened to the guy who displayed sky-high potential in flashes as a freshman in 2018-19 and during the first half of his sophomore year in 2019-20.
“It was the worst year of my entire life,” Conditt told reporters on Wednesday. “I couldn’t have played a worse year. Just to be honest with you, be honest with the fans. Horrible.”
He lost sight of the things that would allow him to fulfill the lofty goals he’d set for himself before arriving in Ames. But, the senior has those goals and how he plans to achieve them back in the crosshairs.
He knows what he came here to do.
“It’s gonna show,” Conditt said. “No matter if you see it or not, everything I’m doing in (the gym) is gonna show.”
Refocusing on those goals has led to Conditt shedding more than 10 pounds from his lanky frame. He feels quicker and more agile on the floor after battling spurts of feeling “sluggish” during a junior season that saw him average 2.4 points, 3.6 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game, with each of those numbers being rather significant dips from his sophomore year.
The Chicago native gets in the gym at least twice a day, with the first one coming each morning at 7:30. Some days, he finds the time to get in a third workout to maximize the time he has left in Ames before he heads off to play for the Puerto Rican national team as they battle for a spot in this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo.
Putting in that extra time is crucial when you consider the makeover Iowa State’s frontcourt has undergone ahead of T.J. Otzelberger’s first season at the helm of the program.
Former four-star recruit Xavier Foster will be back from a foot injury that forced him to take a medical redshirt last year. The program will add Denver transfer Robert Jones later this month, further bolstering the competition for minutes at the five spot.
Nothing is guaranteed for anyone at this point, and everyone must take advantage of every opportunity they have to carve out their role.
This fact creates even more urgency for Conditt, who leaves to meet the Puerto Rican team in Greece on Friday and will not return to Iowa State until July 5th at the earliest.
“You got to make sure you’re doing what you have to do to get on the court,” Conditt said. “I come back late. Everybody will have a chance to play with each other, play together and practice together… (Otzelberger) trusted me to stay ahead and learn some of the plays, and learn some of the actions and stuff like that. That’s what I’ve been doing so far, but I still have to come in and fight for minutes.”
The reality is the clock is ticking for Conditt, who arrived in Ames as a member of the program’s highly-touted four-man 2018 recruiting class and now stands as the only one of the four left on the roster.
Two members of that class, Talen Horton-Tucker and Tyrese Haliburton, played crucial roles in Iowa State winning its fourth Big 12 Tournament title in six seasons in 2019. Both of them were able to achieve their goals and are now reaping the benefits by excelling at the professional level.
Zion Griffin never found the opportunity he was looking for in Ames and elected to transfer. For Conditt, there may have been a brief moment when he considered taking the same route.
“I talked to TJ (about it),” Conditt said. “After having conversations with TJ, I felt good with where I was and what his plan was for me. I like this place.”
His affinity towards Iowa State plays a role in a feeling of responsibility to be one of the driving forces in getting the program back on track, back to where everyone feels it belongs as one of the Big 12’s best programs.
Failing to do his part not only lets him down but also the Cyclones who came before him and still hold the program close to their hearts.
“You’ve got greats that watch our games,” Conditt said. “They don’t want to see (Iowa State lose). I read Marcus Fizer’s tweets all the time. Every time. He doesn’t want to see that… He doesn’t want to see the Cyclones lose. But, the one thing I love from him every time is he came back.”
That’s why Conditt came back, too. It is why he’s recommitted himself to becoming the best version of himself in any way possible. He does not want to see the Cyclones lose.
He knows what he came here to do and the job ain’t finished.
“That (losing sight) will never happen again,” Conditt said. “I will never relive that. I would die on this floor before I relive that.”