116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — New Iowa State men’s basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger is focused on one thing during summer practices. Building a team.
Normally during the summer a coach might break a team up into smaller subsets so players could get more small-group or even one-on-one instruction to build individual skills.
Otzelberger isn’t doing that with his first Iowa State team. The Cyclones have six returning players and seven newcomers. He wants to build team chemistry and a bond.
“We’re allowed four hours a week and we want to make an investment in each other while we’re out there during that time,” Otzelberger said. “We are putting in some of our offensive and defensive concepts, but more importantly than that, it’s about them seeing each other do the work, make the investment, being on a similar schedule and having that same degree of accountability and work ethic.
“We’ve seen progress through that.”
One of the newcomers is true freshman Tyrese Hunter. Hunter was a huge recruiting win for Otzelberger when he took over the job.
The four-star recruit and No. 6-ranked point guard in the nation has done nothing but impress Otzelberger and his staff early on. With Rasir Bolton moving on to Gonzaga, Hunter will be handed the keys of the Iowa State offense.
“Tyrese is a highly-competitive winner,” Otzelberger said. “He comes every day with a look in his eye that he wants to get better. He wants to be told the truth when he’s coached and he doesn’t want it sugarcoated.
“To this point, he’s been a dynamic play maker and his spirit infects our team.”
That last line echoes a former Wisconsin-native Iowa State point guard named Tyrese. Former coach Steve Prohm told everyone who would listen how much Tyrese Haliburton’s spirit drove his game and drove his teammates.
“Hunter is a tremendous on-ball defender,” Otzelberger said. “He’s still a freshman that has a lot to work on but we’re really pleased with the start he’s gotten off to.”
Blake Hinson, on the other hand, is a returning player who feels like a newcomer.
Hinson transferred to Iowa State from Ole Miss before last season but sat out due to health issues. He’s cleared and full go now and is ready to make an impact.
Hinson is a 6-foot-7 wing that can guard every position on the floor and be an offensive mismatch.
“Blake’s been healthy and he’s a huge spark for us,” Otzelberger said. “He’s a mismatch and he brings a high level of intensity. He’s able to make shots, rebound and get to the foul line. We’ve been very encouraged with what we’ve seen from Blake so far.”
It’s very early in Otzelberger’s tenure as Iowa State’s head coach but he’s been pleased with the team that’s been put together and the work they’re willing to put in.
“We have tremendous young men in our program and in our locker room,” Otzelberger said. “That was one thing that when we were recruiting, we wanted to make sure we were getting guys that were goal-driven, work-orientated and competitive individuals. We’ve seen that so far in our practices.
“I’m excited to keep working with them because I know that mindset can accomplish a lot and we have big goals.”