AMES — Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm has a pretty good idea how much sophomore guard Tyrese Haliburton will play this season.
“He’ll play 38 (minutes) with gusts up to 40,” Prohm said with a chuckle. It’s the same response he gave when he was asked how much Monte Morris was going to play as a senior.
Haliburton was named to the Preseason All-Big 12 team on Wednesday. Now he just needs to prove it.
Haliburton’s stats didn’t jump off the page last season. He averaged just 6.8 points per game, 3.6 assists and 3.4 rebounds. But he did everything well and he always did it within the flow of the game.
He shot 51 percent from the field, 43 percent from 3-point range and had an assist to turnover ratio of 4.5 to 1. He also led the team in steals and blocks.
He was the perfect role player. He had no ego, his teammates loved him and he seemingly always made the right play.
“I just met with him the other day,” Prohm said. “I don’t think it’s about taking the next step, I think it’s about remembering who he is. His biggest strength is his spirit. He’s a really good basketball player, but that’s not what attracts people to him. People are attracted to him because of his spirit. He has to have that spirit.
“His role is changing — can he keep that same spirit? That’s going to be the biggest challenge. He turned it over a couple of times in practice and was getting down on himself and I told him, ‘You can’t lose your spirit and your unbelievable presence.’ If he keeps his spirit up, he’ll be fine.”
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Part of Haliburton’s changing role is becoming more of a scorer. Iowa State lost three primary scorers from last season, and doesn’t have a proven one this season.
Haliburton passed up quite a few shots last season, shots he’ll have to take this season.
But one thing that’ll help Haliburton is Penn State transfer Rasir Bolton, who was granted a waiver to be immediately eligible. Bolton averaged 11.6 points last season as a freshman and is a more natural scorer than his sophomore guard counterpart.
“The great thing about having Bolton is we can play Tyrese at the one, two or three — if we went really small we could play him at the four,” Prohm said. “Tyrese is at his best when we really get the ball moving. Bolton is a really good contrast for him. I’m not going to make Tyrese overthink it about hunting his shot to where he’s shooting bad shots.”
Prohm said Bolton can score on all three levels. And Haliburton will help with that.
“Playing with Tyrese — he’s a 6-foot-6 point guard who can pass out of his mind,” Bolton said. “He can take the ball off the rim and go 94 feet the other way if he wants to, or he can pass it out to the open man.
“He likes to drive and kick, so I talk with him a lot about which spots he likes to kick to and where he expects me to be.”
The unknown with Iowa State this season is who will take the shot as the shot clock is winding down or in late-game situations. Last season, Marial Shayok, Lindell Wigginton or Talen Horton-Tucker could all take a defender one-on-one.
The Cyclones don’t have one of those guys this season.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to attack people late in the shot clock with ball movement, cutting, pace and purpose instead of one guy going isolation,” Prohm said. “But I think we have a couple of guys who can score for us.”
Iowa State probably won’t be able to just outscore teams this season if it wants to win.
“Last year we were more naturally gifted,” Haliburton said. “We had guys who knew how to put the ball in the hoop. We’re gifted this year, too, but in different ways. We play harder, we’re going to rebound the ball better, we’re going to be a better defensive team and I think we’re a closer group — I credit that part to the Italy trip.”
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Something that was somewhat unknown about Bolton is his defensive presence. Stats like steals can tell a person a little bit about a player on the defensive end, but they rarely paint a complete picture.
“He’s a dog on the defensive side, he talks really well,” Haliburton said. “He defends, no question. He challenges me to defend more because he wants me to get up to his level. That’s something he helps me with.”
Bolton has a simple mindset when he plays defense.
“It’s like a one-on-one game when you’re playing at the park with your friends. You can’t let them score on you,” Bolton said.