AMES — The Iowa State men’s basketball team is struggling.
The Cyclones are winless in Big 12 Conference play. They had a two-week layoff because of a COVID-19 outbreak and even as players start to get back into the fold, it could take a few games to get them completely back up to speed.
On Tuesday, Iowa State (2-9, 0-6) hosts No. 17 West Virginia (11-5, 4-3) in Hilton Coliseum at 6 p.m.
Coach Steve Prohm said he’s expecting more players back, but wouldn’t say who or how much they would play.
“We should have more guys on the floor today and that’s great because we haven’t done five-on-five in practice in a long time,” Prohm said. “We’ll monitor how guys are feeling and the hope is our roster will have a couple more guys (Tuesday) night.”
Even with the additional players, Iowa State’s freshmen, who have been getting more playing time because of the limited roster, will continue to play a big role.
Iowa State’s veterans are all doing their best to help the young players along.
“Rasir (Bolton) and I have to talk to the freshmen and let them know what they should see and what needs to happen,” junior George Conditt said. “Or even just saying that we trust them and have belief in them. Letting them hear those words helps a lot. It sure helped for me when I was a freshman.”
But it’s not just the freshmen who need to step up. Veterans like Conditt and Bolton need to up their game, as well.
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“We have to go into every game with our minds focused on winning,” Conditt said. “That’s all it should be. I remember in an interview last season, I said, ‘It can’t always be on Coach Prohm.’ This year is unlike any other. Of course you’re going to lose players from game to game, but the focus has to be on the players, the determination has to be on the players, the can’t-give-up attitude has to be on the players. Those are the things we need to have.
“We had that early in the year when we were in close game after close game after close game. We have to get back to that. Whether it’s a win or loss, we have to play hard. We can’t go out there and play soft. No, we’re going to go out there and play like we know we can play.”
Iowa State got graduate transfer Jalen Coleman-Lands back Saturday in a 95-56 loss to Mississippi State — the first to return from COVID-19 protocol. As the oldest and most experienced player on the team, he’s reiterated to everyone just how weird this season is.
“With me having a lot of experience and playing in different leagues and at a high level, that’s what I try to get across to these guys,” Coleman-Lands said. “This is abnormal, for sure. But what you don’t want to do is not leave everything out there and then have regrets. You don’t want to have any practice or game or opportunity where you’re questioning whether or not you could’ve done more.
“We can’t control who’s all out but when we are healthy and we know we can play, then we need to leave it all out there and let the rest take care of itself. That’s the biggest thing we’re working on with the young guys as we play more and more with each other. Hopefully this leads to a win at the end of the day. All it takes is one for it to snowball.”