Iowa State Cyclones

Iowa State men's basketball returns from COVID-19 pause to host Oklahoma State

Cyclones will likely be depleted and rusty Monday night

Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm talks to his players during a timeout in the first half of an NCAA college basketball
Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm talks to his players during a timeout in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Friday, Dec. 11, 2020, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

AMES — Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm was watching his team’s Big 12 Tournament game against Oklahoma State from last season.

Prohm was watching it as part of his scouting process when it dawned on him that that game was among the last sporting events to be played under normal circumstances.

That night, the Utah Jazz’s Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19, the country largely shut down and the Big 12 canceled the remainder of the tournament, after Iowa State had already played.

Now, on Monday, after Iowa State (2-7, 0-5 Big 12) was forced to shut down for over a week due to its own COVID-19 problems, it is scheduled to play Oklahoma State (9-4, 3-4) in Hilton Coliseum at 8 p.m.

“That game was the last time anything was normal,” Prohm said.

Prohm didn’t say which players would or wouldn’t be available for the Cyclones but did say that they would be without some players and that Iowa State’s four walk-ons have to be ready to play.

“I think everything is on the table,” Prohm said. “We have to get everybody prepared and get all hands on deck.”

With the limited numbers Iowa State is sure to have, playing a 9-4 Oklahoma State team, which has the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft in Cade Cunningham, will be a difficult task. Cunningham did not play Saturday against No. 2 Baylor due to COVID-19 protocols and it’s unclear whether he’ll be in uniform Monday.

Prohm has a list of things he wants to see from his team, which has had limited practices.

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“Great resolve, competitive spirit and togetherness,” Prohm said. “That’s why I’m excited to get back out there to be united and be together and play the right way. Win, lose or draw, I don’t know what Monday night holds but just to get back and be one — that’s what I hope happens on Monday.”

Being one isn’t something the Cyclones have had the opportunity to do.

With the positive coronavirus tests, they’ve been forced to hold workouts with just two players at a time on opposite ends of the court with Prohm in the balcony of the Sukup practice facility to maintain the proper social distancing.

“It’s the landscape we’re living in and we have to be able to handle it the right way,” Prohm said. “I think our staff has done a terrific job and I think our guys have been resilient.

“We’ve had guys, who have tested negative and are healthy, in groups of two who have been in the gym all week. They’ve gotten small workouts in to try and stay in shape until we can progress back together as a team.”

Not only have the players not been able to practice together, they’re not even really allowed to hang out with each other unless they’re roommates.

Prohm is doing everything he can to keep in contact with his players and making sure they’re keeping in contact with each other. But there’s only so much you can do through a zoom call or a group text message.

“You have to make sure you’re doing a great job with your players to make sure you’re invested in them and make sure they’re OK mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually,” Prohm said. “There are so many different factors because they’re going through a lot. Us as leaders have to do a great job of keeping them upbeat, positive and focused on the vision ahead.”

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