116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
AMES — Somewhere among Tamin Lipsey’s countless keepsakes, a mini basketball signed by former Iowa State point guards Monte Morris and DeAndre Kane stands out.
Lipsey, an Ames native and true freshman, has loved Cyclone basketball his entire life — and now he’s No. 23 ISU’s protagonist at the point of attack, just like his childhood heroes.
“Just being able to be in this great (Hilton) Coliseum and watching the great teams ahead of me play, and just wanting to be out there, I know what (young fans) are feeling,” said Lipsey, whose team faces St John’s at 2 p.m. Sunday in a Big 12/Big East Battle game at Hilton.
At first glance, the 6-foot-1 Lipsey’s rookie numbers appear solid yet unremarkable. He’s averaging 6.1 points, four assists, 2.7 rebounds and two steals per game for ISU (6-1), but just one other true freshman in the country has posted similar or better numbers — and that’s McDonald’s All-American Cason Wallace of Kentucky.
“He should feel great about the way he’s been playing and how he continues to progress,” Cyclones head coach T.J. Otzelberger said. “Specifically two games ago (in a loss to No. 8 Connecticut), their ball pressure was terrific and one way to kind of attack that is by playing downhill in the middle third of the floor off some ball screens and some drives, and Tamin was fantastic getting in there, not only to score and make plays for his teammates, but also hit bigs on rolls and post-ups and things, and that turned into him scoring the ball well.”
Lipsey scored a career-high 12 points in that 71-53 loss to the Huskies in the Phil Knight Invitational championship game in Portland, Ore. He followed that performance up with an 11-point effort in Wednesday’s 63-44 win over North Dakota that was punctuated by his first career 3-point basket.
“I was a little hesitant in the first couple games, just trying to get the feel for it,” Lipsey said. “And once I got that, you know, it’s just basketball. I’m a pretty aggressive player, so I try to get downhill when I can, but I don’t try to force anything.”
So far, so good, but St. John’s (8-0) — which plays with the nation’s second-fastest tempo, according to KenPom — will pose a unique challenge in a season already filled with plenty of them for Lipsey and the Cyclones.
“Their pace on both sides would be as fast or faster than anyone so that means we've got to do a great job taking care of the ball,” Otzelberger said.
Lipsey’s taken good care of his signed mini basketball, which he said is tucked away at home, serving as a reminder of where he came from and what it’s taken for him to arrive at this level.
“That’s cool,” he said. “I’ll never forget about that.”