116 3rd St SE
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AMES — The Iowa State men’s basketball team has been on a stretch of really good point guards.
Monte Morris and Tyrese Haliburton both are in the NBA and thriving. Morris is the sixth man on the Denver Nuggets, one of the best teams in the NBA, and Haliburton finished third in Rookie of the Year voting last season with the Sacramento Kings.
Both were facilitating, pass-first point guards for the Cyclones who transitioned successfully to the NBA.
Now, Iowa State men’s basketball coach T.J. Otzelberger believes he has the next great Cyclone point guard in true freshman Tyrese Hunter.
Only Hunter’s game is a bit different than Haliburton’s or Morris’.
Hunter is an attacking point guard who isn’t afraid of contact or driving into the paint. Otzelberger doesn’t want him to conform to how Morris or Haliburton played. He wants him to continue with that style and harness it.
“The good thing about T.J. is he wants you to be yourself,” Hunter said. “With me being a point guard, I know the things that (Morris and Haliburton) did well and I can apply it to my game. I’m always aggressive while they slowed down and saw the game more.”
Iowa State played last season without a true point guard. Rasir Bolton played the role while being more of a true shooting guard.
Hunter may or may not be a starter to begin the season, but no matter what, Otzelberger said his freshman is going to get significant minutes.
It’s likely he will start just given the lack of options Iowa State has at the position, but Morris and Haliburton came off the bench to begin their careers before becoming full-time starters during their freshman years.
“Tyrese Hunter is certainly a young man that we have a tremendous amount of confidence in,” Otzelberger said. “He came in highly acclaimed and what I’d say about him is he’s a low-ego, high-producing player. He’s a workhorse and he understands he’s going to have the ball in his hands a lot. He knows how important it is to try and score in transition and play with pace and be aggressive.”
While Hunter doesn’t have a veteran point guard to learn from like Morris did with Deandre Kane or Haliburton with Nick Weiler-Babb, he still can take stuff from the older players.
Senior center George Conditt has been helping Hunter along. Conditt got to play with and learn from Haliburton on what Haliburton expects from a post player in a pick-and-roll situation.
Now, Conditt is passing that knowledge to Hunter.
“With Tyrese Haliburton, that’s a one-of-a-kind talent,” Conditt said. “He’s in the league doing what he’s supposed to be doing. Playing with (Haliburton), you have to really understand the game and that’s what I developed with him. Now, being able to give Tyrese Hunter some of the knowledge from the big perspective has been really great. He’s been really positive toward learning that and he’s been getting reps in the gym with coaches and us bigs.
“He’s a great player who really understands the game. I just try to help him out from the perspective of a big. The big and the point guard have to have a great relationship, so I just try to help him out like if a defender goes under a screen, I’m going to rescreen and get you going down hill. Building that trust with him has been really good.”
Otzelberger knows there will be growing pains with a true freshman point guard, especially one with an aggressive disposition. He’ll have turnovers Morris or Haliburton wouldn’t make, but he’ll be able to do things those two couldn’t, too.
“Tyrese is an aggressive, get-in-the-paint, I’m-coming-at-you player who will take a few more chances,” Otzelberger said. “He has that explosiveness and quickness to where he’s great in the open floor, he can attack in pick and roll and he’s always coming at you. He has a relentless ability offensively and he shoots the ball well enough where you have to respect him from the outside.
“Defensively, his strengths are that he's an elite guy pressuring the ball. He gets into his man and dictates and forces the tempo. He has a lot of strengths and we’ll continue to develop those with him. We’re going to trust him from the jump. He’ll learn on the job and he’ll be better for it as we move forward.”