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MILWAUKEE — Deonte Burton, Donovan Jackson and Darrell Bowie are back in the city that raised them.
They know this homecoming won’t be like any other.
The fifth-seeded Iowa State men’s basketball team is here to face No. 12 Nevada in the first round of the NCAA tournament at the Bradley Center. This trip, they said, isn’t for leisure and to relax with family.
As long as Burton, Jackson and Bowie are back in their home state, they are all business.
“It’s like going anywhere,” Burton said. “Not really being on my phone, not really trying to see people. This is a business trip. I only have four tickets and my family will be receiving them.”
Burton played in the Bradley Center for a season and a half at Marquette before transferring to Iowa State. Jackson and Bowie played there too, although it was in AAU tournaments growing up.
Familiar sights are all around them, and maybe some temptations to lose focus on the upcoming tournament. Iowa State coach Steve Prohm has broached the subject of staying locked in, and hasn’t seen any signs of that focus slipping.
“We’re here, this is a great city, glad to be here,” Prohm said. “This city has been really good to Iowa State for a long time. It’s great we’ve got three players here. They’ve all been impactful to our program.
“I’m excited, to be honest, that their families don’t have to travel to see them play. That’s huge. And it’s also great being in a game five hours from home.”
All three played key roles in the Cyclones’ (23-10) Big 12 tournament championship last week.
Burton, who made the All-Championship team, was crucial in the wins against Oklahoma State, TCU and West Virginia, scoring 16 points with five rebounds in the title game. Bowie had arguably his best three-game stretch with Iowa State, averaging nine points including 13 against the Cowboys.
Jackson has been a spark off the bench, tallying five 3-pointers in three games last week. For Iowa State to be good, it will need its Wisconsin natives — including guard Matt Thomas from Onalaska — to keep it up.
“It’s going to be good going back home and playing in front of your friends and family, but also realizing this is my first time going to the NCAA tournament and I want to make the most of it, especially this being my last year,” Bowie said. “So I just want to stay focused on the main goal.”
Nevada (28-6) enters the tournament as a trendy pick to upset the Cyclones — 46 No. 12 seeds have beaten No. 5 seeds in NCAA tournament history — with careers for six ISU seniors on the line.
“I love Milwaukee,” Burton said. “It’s business though. I have a lot of friends and family there and I want to talk to them, but I will not be talking to them.”
While a few players navigate the return to their hometown, Prohm’s mind will at least in part be back in Ames with his wife, Katie.
The family — who has a 2-year-old son, Cass — is expecting baby No. 2, a girl, around March 27. Kaite and Cass accompanied the team to Kansas City for the Big 12 tournament, but are not with the team in Milwaukee.
“I hate that my wife’s not here,” Prohm said. “That’s probably the toughest thing because you want to be able to share these moments because she’s done a lot for me to be able to come here to take this job. You want them here.
“Last week was great so hopefully we’re able to advance and I can get her back.”
Prohm said there is a contingency plan in place should the baby arrive early. A private plane in Milwaukee would take him back home to be with his family. If he had to leave in close proximity to any tournament game, assistant William Small would assume coaching duties.
“He’s been with me for six years now and I trust him,” Prohm said. “He’s great with the guys and understands what I want. So if that happens, he’ll take over.”
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