AMES, Iowa – Iowa State rode a pair of one-and-done transfers to its first NCAA tournament appearance in seven years. The formula worked so well that the Cyclones will give it another go in 2012-13.
Iowa State lost perhaps the nation's most versatile player, Royce White, and standout senior guard Chris Allen from the team that went 23-11 before falling to eventual national champion Kentucky in the third round of the NCAA tournament.
Enter senior forward Will Clyburn and point guard Korie Lucious.
Clyburn, a 6-foot-7 forward, led Utah in scoring at 17.1 points per game in 2010-11 before transferring to Iowa State following a coaching change. Lucious, like Allen before him, fell out of favor with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo and decided to spend his final college season in Ames.
Clyburn and Lucious won't be eased into anything after spending the past year on the sidelines. They'll be asked to contribute significantly and immediately to a team that lost its top three scorers.
"I expect big years out of both Korie and Will. They've been great as far as leading these young guys," Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg said Wednesday during the team's annual media day.
Lucious is likely more well known in Ames and beyond for his high-profile stint playing for the Spartans. Clyburn might be the one who'll make a bigger impact for Iowa State.
Clyburn rose to prominence in his second season at nearby Marshalltown Community College with 19.6 points and nearly nine boards a game. He quickly adapted to Division I, leading the Utes in scoring, rebounding, 3-pointers and steals.
It's fitting that Clyburn would step into the role vacated by White, who led the Cyclones in five major statistical categories in 2011-12. But while White was a one-of-a-kind point forward with superior strength and passing skills, Clyburn is more of a traditional small forward who can do things power forwards do.
"Will is a kid that can beat you from all over the floor. He's a guy that can facilitate offense. You can post him up against smaller players," Hoiberg said. "You lose Royce and you wonder who's going to make up those 10 rebounds (a game) that we lose there. And Will is getting everything."
The comparisons between Clyburn and White are inevitable. Both are forwards who can beat defenders off the dribble on offense and float between the perimeter and the paint on both side of the ball.
Clyburn isn't as strong as White, but unlike White he'll give Iowa State an outside shooting threat. Clyburn shot 40 percent from 3-point range in his only season at Utah.
"I hear it, but I don't pay attention to it. I just know that Royce is Royce and Will is Will," Clyburn said.
The Cyclones thrived last season despite the lack of a true point guard. Lucious should solve that problem.
Lucious was never asked to score much at Michigan State. With the likes of Clyburn, junior forward Melvin Ejim and senior shooting guard Chris Babb playing with him in Ames, Lucious will likely distribute more than points than score at Iowa State as well.
But Hoiberg also made sure to remind folks of the buzzer-beating 3 Lucious hit to beat Maryland and send the Spartans to the regional semifinals in 2010 as proof that he can score if asked to.
"He's very talented. We'll play more traditional this year. You'll see us have a point guard again," Hoiberg said about Lucious. "What that will allow us to do is play a little faster."
Clyburn and Lucious, much like White, Allen and other Cyclones before them, were at least able to commiserate over their unique but shared experience of sitting out a year as upperclassmen.
They won't have much time together on the court in Ames. But in that brief time they'll be asked to do a lot — and both said they're ready to accept such a major role for a team with legitimate NCAA tournament expectations.
"I'm just grateful for the opportunity. It's been so long since I've stepped on a college court and played in a college game," Lucious said. "I'm anxious about it and I'm happy that it's here."
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