Iowa St transfers adjust to life in the stands
AMES, Iowa – Forced to sit out this season by the NCAA, Iowa State's Royce White has discovered a new way to enjoy basketball.
White has become a loud, animated and often-heartbroken fan of the Cyclones.
White's been a fixture at Hilton Coliseum, leaping after big dunks and defensive stops, and spontaneously shouting motivational snippets to his future teammates.
He's even been known to get after an official or two — though White swears he's working on that.
I'm "probably five times more intense than the average fan. I have to literally count in my head to keep myself from saying things that shouldn't be said. That's how emotional I feel about the game," White said. "I wish I could be out there helping them. That probably makes me more upset."
Though the Cyclones appreciate the support, the 6-foot-10 White would be a much better fit in the paint.
White, a prep star from Minneapolis who landed in Ames after a brief and rocky stay at Minnesota, is one of four Iowa State transfers who make up perhaps the nation's most talented scout team.
White, Chris Allen (Michigan State), Chris Babb (Penn State) and Anthony Booker (Southern Illinois) have all been forced into roles as bystanders because of the NCAA's rule keeping transfers sidelined for a season.
The Cyclones could really use their help right now.
After a 13-2 start, Iowa State has dropped eight of nine in Big 12 play. Four of those losses have come either in overtime or by a point in regulation, and the depleted Cyclones have four players averaging at least 32 minutes a game in league play entering Saturday's visit to No. 2 Kansas (23-1, 8-1).
It can be a frustrating life for the transfers and their teammates. All the players in transfer limbo can do is push Iowa State's starters in practice while they await 2011-12.
"It's just a matter of feeling the guys out and helping them get better and trying to get everybody out on the same level. That's what it takes to get your team to that next phase and to be able to win games consistently. Win big games consistently," Allen said.
White, whom coach Fred Hoiberg dubbed a "world class" talent with strong NBA potential when he signed him last summer, was the only transfer the Cyclones thought they had a shot at getting on the floor this season.
White was suspended by Minnesota last fall and later pleaded guilty to theft and disorderly conduct. White left the Gophers in February without ever playing a game, but in November the NCAA denied Iowa State's request for a waiver allowing White to play this season.
The ruling forced White into an observer's role.
"It's really amazing when you're not playing and you get to sit and watch the things that transpire during the course of a game, and how everything correlates to each other," White said. "It really makes me want to go and evaluate film more, because I think there's a lot to be learned from film."
Allen, a 6-foot-3 guard, was a crucial part of Michigan State's back-to-back Final Four teams the past two seasons. But after a falling out with coach Tom Izzo, Allen was booted off the Spartans last summer.
Hoiberg, looking to fill out a roster decimated by attrition, offered Allen a shot to finish his college career on a high note.
It's worked for guard Jake Anderson, who transferred from Northern Illinois to Iowa State for his senior year and is averaging 11.9 points and a team-high 7.8 rebounds.
"I feel like I've gotten back to doing stuff that I know I can do, consistently and with confidence," Allen said.
Babb, a 6-5 shooting guard who averaged 9.3 points as a sophomore for the Nittany Lions, should help the Cyclones replace the outside shooting of senior Jamie Vanderbeken next season.
The 6-9 Booker was considered one of the nation's top high school post players in 2008, and at the very least he'll will provide some much-needed size down low.
But all that is a year away.
For now, the transfers have settled into a game day routine. They work out, play some pickup ball, grab dinner and, if the Cyclones are on the road, head to the practice facility and watch the game on TV.
The transfers prefer home games because they can interact with their teammates, but road games do offer one benefit.
"We can talk to the refs a little bit more when they're playing on TV, but we've got to be careful when they're here. They're going to be (officiating) our games," Babb said.