INDEPENDENCE - For Independence, the prep football season opener bore little resemblance to its winless 2016 campaign.
Even in defeat, a clear message was sent that there are brighter days ahead for the Mustangs.
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AMES — When Steve Prohm stepped in to take over a top-25 basketball program two summers ago, he knew he’d be taking cues from his veterans once practice rolled around.
As the year progressed, the Iowa State coach slowly started to implement his process and philosophies while respecting what made his players successful in the past.
Year one and year two are different situations, and Prohm will coach them as such. The number of newcomers on his roster dictates he do so.
“Last year I was really just trying to feed off which direction these guys wanted to go because coming into change and try to shake things up wouldn’t have been smart,” Prohm said. “Now you’ve got seven new guys and you’ve got four or five guys that kind of know offensively what we want to do, but we’ve got seven brand new guys.
“You’ve got to go slow.”
Many of the same pieces from last season’s Sweet 16 team are back, highlighted by guards Monte Morris, Naz Mitrou-Long, Matt Thomas and forward Deonte Burton — as well as redshirt sophomore Nick Babb. But with the graduation of Georges Niang, Abdel Nader and Jameel McKay, the frontcourt will have plenty of new faces.
Iowa State signed five players in its 2016 class — six if you include forward Cameron Lard, who Prohm is hopeful will arrive in December — with a mixture of ages and experiences. Freshmen Jakolby Long and Solomon Young joined junior college transfer Donovan Jackson and graduate transfers Merrill Holden and Darrell Bowie.
“The difference is I kind of have to be an echo to what Coach Prohm is preaching because I kind of know his basis,” Mitrou-Long said. “Guys like myself, Monte, Matt and Deonte as guys that have been through his system for a year, we just have to preach what he’s preaching to guys on the sideline when he can’t talk to everybody at one time.
“It’s a bigger leadership role to try to get the message to everybody as quickly as you can.”
Holden (6-foot-8, 224), Bowie (6-8, 218) and Young (6-8, 240) all provide immediate help around the basketball with Burton (6-4, 250) as experienced reinforcements.
Although Holden and Bowie came from Division I programs — Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois, respectively — while Young is straight from high school in Sacramento, there is a defined learning curve for all three as they enter a new situation with different philosophies.
“Solomon is impressing me out of all of the frontcourt guys,” Morris said. “I think him just getting the pace is going to be his biggest thing, but as far as making plays and being athletic, he’s good. Deonte, he’s a veteran, so what he’s doing I’ve seen and he’s improved on that.
“Merril is still learning, but he’s athletic and can run the floor. He’s playing all off natural talent right now, but once he keeps watching film and getting better he should be fine.”
The biggest key for the newcomers is learning how to define their roles among teammates with reputations as scorers.
“We need energy, we need defense, we need rebounding,” Prohm said. “And I think Merrill and Solomon (Monday) did a great job with that. Darrell Bowie is very, very active.
“Those three guys we’ve got to continue to push and challenge and then hopefully Simeon (Carter) can slowly come along. Those three guys, I think their energy level has been really, really good.”
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