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AMES — Nick Weiler-Babb put in countless hours on the court as a youngster and waited for his shot.
After starting his career at Arkansas and eventually deciding to transfer, he knew he’d be asked to wait a bit more for a continuation in his career. Without any games to look forward to, Weiler-Babb had to put the work in and hope for a return on investment.
“You just stick through it and know everything is going to pay off in the long run,” Weiler-Babb said. “Some days you’re going to be laying in your room like, ‘Why do I have to go to the gym? I’m not playing this year so I’ll do it next year.’ Just push through it and it’ll come to light.”
The “sticking through it” part was a piece of advice Weiler-Babb got from his big brother, Chris, who played from 2011-13 for the Cyclones after transferring from Penn State.
If Weiler-Babb is anything like his brother, that bodes well for Iowa State.
While at Arkansas, the 6-foot-5, 200-pound guard played in 26 games and averaged just 4.8 minutes per appearance. He scored five points twice, against Wake Forest and Georgia, and had five assists against Delaware State.
Knowing his game needed to evolve, Weiler-Babb spent his first year in Ames not just in the gym, but in the weight room, too. Coupled with his athleticism, Weiler-Babb presents a versatile piece alongside Iowa State’s four core seniors.
“I said (Tuesday) in practice when you talk about NBA potential, he may have the best NBA potential — when you’re just looking at straight NBA potential — on our roster,” Iowa State Coach Steve Prohm said.
“My dad has always told me when I was little, ‘You’re a late bloomer,’” Weiler-Babb said. “I realized that as time went past. Just sticking with it, it just feels good that everything has paid off and to just know I have a long way to go and a lot of work to put in still.”
Weiler-Babb’s length also lends him to be a bit of a chameleon on defense, blending into different defensive roles. Prohm believes he can guard any position one through four and said the sophomore can clean up a botched play or blown assignment with his natural ability.
“I’d love to have three guys like him,” Prohm said. “It’s not just a guy that can make shots and it’s not just a guy that can bounce. He can bounce it and he can shoot it. Late shot clock, he can rise over you and get a paint touch.”
“I think if Babb just knows he’s a pro and can I get him going like that; he only plays hard when he’s on my team,” point guard Monte Morris said. “I tell him to go on and wake up. Nobody else really pushes him to that point, but once you do that you’re going to see his potential for sure.”
Although he flew under the radar at times during his sit-out year and even this summer — largely due to Morris and Naz Mitrou-Long returning — Weiler-Babb has done everything but go unnoticed in the ISU practice facility.
“I’m excited about that because when he comes off the bench and somebody throws a lob up to him and he goes and smashes one home and it hits everybody with a shock and gives us momentum, that’s going to be great for us,” Mitrou-Long said. “Nick shouldn’t be a guy that’s forgotten about by any means, man.”
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