AMES — Steve Prohm’s time as Iowa State men’s basketball coach has looked a lot like a sinusoidal wave.
In the first two seasons with Prohm at the helm, Iowa State made the NCAA Tournament — including a Sweet 16 in the 2015-16 season. The third year was when things started to get bumpy for him.
The Cyclones went just 13-18 overall and 4-14 in the Big 12. Iowa State was a young team and had just graduated two classes that currently have six players in the NBA, so a drop-off was expected.
Last season, Iowa State bounced back, going 23-12 and making the NCAA Tournament once again.
But this season, after four key players graduated or left early, Iowa State had another down season.
Iowa State’s season ended Wednesday in the first round of a Big 12 tournament that was eventually canceled with a 72-71 loss to Oklahoma State. The Cyclones finished just 12-20 overall and 5-13 in the conference.
Prohm knows things have to change.
“Like I told the guys in the locker room, ‘I’ve got to change in some ways and you’ve got to change,’” Prohm said. “It starts in the spring when we get back on campus and start our spring and summer workouts. Our mental and physical toughness has to get better and there are a lot of little detailed stuff we gotta clean up so we can get back to the tournament and be back where we need to be.”
Prohm believes it starts with him.
“I think I just have to change,” Prohm said. “I have to be a little bit more aggressive in a lot of different areas. That can go in a lot of different directions but I think I have to be aggressive and I have to continue to be myself, but the areas that I need to improve in and get better in, I’ve got to challenge myself to do that.
“It will happen and we will get back to where we need to be.”
Senior Michael Jacobson said the season was “unacceptable.’
He won’t get a chance to help turn it around on the court but he hopes the returning players have learned a valuable lesson.
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“You’ve got to find some consistency and just make sure you’re competing every day, competing in the games,” Jacobson said. “Just understanding that the biggest thing is what it takes to win at a high level. This year we didn’t have a ton of guys that had that experience. They need to realize what that takes and everything that goes into it and not to take anything for granted.
“They need to realize what Iowa State is about and the success they have had and how important it is to this fan base and going out there with that in mind every game and every day at practice and competing.”
Two freshmen played nearly all 40 minutes of Wednesday’s game for Iowa State — Tre Jackson and Caleb Grill.
Grill had the best game of his career, scoring nine points and getting eight rebounds. Prohm likes Grill’s competitive edge that he brings.
“This game, going into next year, gives me confidence to come in every day with a different mindset and try to do what (Jacobson and Prentiss Nixon) did,” Grill said. “They came in and worked every day, so I’m going to follow in their footsteps and do what they did.”
Jackson started the season slowly — shooting just 25 percent from 3-point range in Iowa State’s first 13 games. In the Cyclones’ last 18 games, he shot 39 percent from beyond the arc.
“I feel like my shot was falling the second half of the season,” Jackson said. “That’s what boosted my confidence but just losing and stuff, that’s not what we want to do. I’m not really satisfied with anything.”
Iowa State will lose seniors Jacobson and Nixon and could lose Tyrese Haliburton to the NBA Draft.
Prohm said he’ll meet with Haliburton after spring break to discuss Haliburton’s future.
Whether or not he returns, Prohm is still focused on the team he has.
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“Everybody needs to change in certain areas for us to get back where we need to be,” Prohm said. “You know, it can change in a year, it can flip in a year. I’m excited to lead this program and get us back to where we need to be.”