Iowa State understands transition, and the Cyclones are replacing five of its six leading scorers off last season’s team.
But optimism is still high with coveted freshman forward Omaha Biliew stepping into a prominent role. Biliew makes his college debut when the Cyclones open the season against Green Bay on Monday at Ames, Iowa.
The five-star recruit and McDonald’s All-American is considered the highest-rated player ever reeled in by Iowa State. He’s also an in-state product from Waukee, located about 50 miles southwest of Ames.
“There’s going to be an expectation level from our fans and the community and what everybody expects to see,” Cyclones coach T.J. Otzelberger said of Biliew. “What I tell everybody is Omaha is going to play with a relentless effort. He’s going to be someone that really cares about the Cyclones winning.”
The lone returning starter for Iowa State (19-14 last season) is guard Tamin Lipsey, who averaged 7.3 points and racked up 73 steals as a freshman. Other returners include forwards Tre King (6.1 ppg), Robert Jones (5.7) and Hason Ward (2.8).
The Cyclones also added three transfer guards: Keshon Gilbert (11.4 ppg) from UNLV, Jackson Paveletzke (15.1) of Wofford and Curtis Jones (15.0) of Buffalo.
The Cyclones made the NCAA Tournament in each of Otzelberger’s first two seasons. Iowa State reached the Sweet 16 in his first season and lost in the first round last season.
Green Bay went 3-29 last season and is a porous 16-71 over the past three seasons.
Sundance Wicks was hired as the new coach and he is hoping to pump life into the program.
Forward Clarence Cummings III (10.5) is the Phoenix’s leading returning scorer while transfer guard Noah Reynolds is expected to add much-needed firepower.
Reynolds averaged 14.5 points in 19 games for Wyoming last season before being shut down due to a third concussion in six months. He followed Wicks, who was an assistant coach for the Cowboys for the past three seasons.
“There is a reason why he was one of the most coveted players in the transfer portal,” Wicks said of Reynolds. “He can score it at all three levels, is a relentless attacker, and loves the challenge of guarding the other team’s best (scorer).”
Green Bay was 1-17 on the road last season.