Wednesday, March 14, 2012

'Kemba Walker's Not Coming Back, Is He?'

UConn is practicing this afternoon at nearby Spalding College and won't be available to the media until 6 p.m. We'll have some blog updates later with UConn stuff.

Iowa State players Chris Allen, Royce White and Scott Christopherson and head coach Fred Hoiberg met with the media this afternoon. Here's some of what they had to say:

The Cyclones have hoisted up 748 3-pointers this season, by far the most of all Big 12 teams. More impressively, they’ve hit 38 percent of them and had three regulars shoot the 3 at a 41-percent rate or better.

Leading the way is Christopherson, a 6-3 senior guard and Marquette transfer who has shot 45 percent from beyond the arc this season.

"We're kind of a unique team because we have the ball in Royce's hands quite a bit more than what I'ds say a normal college team does," Christopherson said. "So we do a lot of different things with dribble hand-offs, and use Royce's abilities to kind of manipulate the defense to get looks for our shooters."

Indeed, White presents a matchup nightmare for virtually any team, UConn included. The 6-8, 270-pound sophomore forward is the only player in the nation to lead his team in scoring (13.1), rebounding (9.2), assists (5.1), steals (1.2) and blocks (0.9). It should also be noted that he leads the Cyclones in turnovers at 3.9 per contest, a product of being the team’s primary facilitator of the ball.

“He’s such a unique kid, as far as how he plays,” said Hoiberg. “We try to simulate Andre Drummond in practice, can’t do it. We don’t have anybody that size. I’m sure they’re tyring to simulate Royce White in practice, and they can’t do it. Nobody that we play can simulate what he does.”

We'll find out later who should get the defensive draw on White. 6-8 Roscoe Smith would be a prime candidate, though he's giving up nearly 70 pounds. Drummond is likely, too, but beware what Allen had to say.

“Not too many bigs can move their feet (well) enough to guard him,” said guard Chris Allen. “Any time he has a 6-foot-10, 260-pound guy (guarding him), it’s not going to be too hard for him to get around him.”

Drummond, of course, is 6-10, 270.

We do know one defensive matchup on the other side: Chris Babb, a 6-5 junior guard, told reporters he'll be guarding Jeremy Lamb. He knows it will be a challenge.

"He's really good at coming off down screens and uses them very well," Babb said. "He doesn't need a lot of space to get off his shot. He's a good scorere and I'm going to do my best."
*** Although UConn and Iowa State have never played each other, the Cyclones have two players who have played against the Huskies.

Allen was a sophomore on the Michigan State team in 2009 that beat UConn in the Final Four in Detroit. He scored two points in nine minutes off the bench in the Spartans’ 82-73 victory. Allen also played on MSU’s Final Four team the following year before transferring to Iowa State. He has played in 14 NCAA tournament games, most by any player in this year’s field.

Also, Christopherson was a freshman at Marquette in 2008 when the Golden Eagles lost at UConn, 89-73. He transferred to ISU the following season.

In fact, Iowa State has seven transfers on its roster, including ex-Michigan State standout Korie Lucious, who’s red-shirting this season.

“Did I plan on bringing six of them in my first year?” Hoiberg said. “No, it just happened to be a year where a lot of guys were leaving their schools.”

*** The players were asked if there was an "intimidation factor" facing UConn.

"I mean, Kemba Walker's not coming back, is he?" Christopherson replied. Good line.

*** Hoiberg on Drummond and Lamb as NBA prospects:

"Big time. I think the sky's the limit for those two. Drummond, his size, you don't see any people that can run the floor like him and get off the ground. He's going to be a big-time pro, just because of the size that he has.

As far as Lamb, just a complete guard. He's got the size, he's got the length. He's got the athleticism, and he's a tough kid to stop. We have to mix coverages on him, I think, to try to keep yim off balance a little bit."

Hoiberg is an Ames native who starred at Iowa State in the mid-1990's. He's so popular in town, they call him "The Mayor." He was asked about Jim Calhoun, and why they don't call hyim the mayor of Storrs.

"They should. I'm honored to coach against him. We actually recruit that area out east quite a bit, and I've seen him at a lot of events, and I've gotten to know him. He's a great guy. Hes always a guy that you can ask questions to, and he'll answer them for you."
*** UConn was next-to-last in the Big East in 3-point defense, allowing opponents to hit treys at a 34.3 percent rate. Only DePaul (35.4 percent) was worse.

Iowa State not only shoots the 3 well, it also guards it well, holding opponents to 29.8 percent – tops in the Big 12. UConn shot the 3 at 33.1 percent this season, 10th in the Big East.

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March 15, 2012 at 6:12 AM 

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