AMES — The day has (probably) finally arrived.
The Iowa State men’s basketball team will, in all likelihood, welcome back its best player in Lindell Wigginton and one of its best role players in Solomon Young at 6 p.m. Friday against Eastern Illinois at Hilton Coliseum (Cyclones.TV).
Wigginton led all Big 12 freshmen in scoring last season, averaging 16.7 points per game.
He can score in a variety of ways, shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc last season and able to attack the rim and either get a layup or draw a foul.
Wigginton is an offensive game-changer, which Iowa State needs. The Cyclones (9-2) have had periods in games against better competition where they go on scoring droughts. Wigginton doesn’t go on scoring droughts.
“I think we have times in games where the ball dies and things like that,” freshman guard Tyrese Haliburton said. “Lindell, not a lot of people can stay in front of Lindell — he’s really quick. He’ll get to the rim, get paint touches, he draws fouls really well and he can make the right kick. He’ll help us a lot offensively.”
How much will Iowa State’s offense change when the 6-foot-2 sophomore returns after missing eight games with a foot injury?
“We’re not going to change anything really,” Coach Steve Prohm said. “We may add some actions and different things, but nothing extreme.”
The players have practiced with Wigginton all summer and the early part of the season; they expect to pick up where they left off.
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Haliburton said it was probably harder to adjust to Wigginton being out than it will be to adjust to getting him back.
Haliburton is the player Wigginton’s return will likely impact the most. The freshman guard has been starting in place of the injured Wigginton and is playing well, averaging 8.1 points, 4.4 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.
Haliburton believes Wigginton’s return will not only benefit himself, but the team as a whole. Haliburton has the personality to be a good energy guy off the bench.
“I can’t wait to get Lindell back. He’s one of our best players and one of my best friends on the team,” Haliburton said of Wigginton, who is also his roommate. “I don’t know how much it means for me, but I hope it means that we’ll play better and keep getting wins.
“Guys just have to adapt to their role and star in it. Lindell will probably be option No. 1 and teams are going to focus on him and that’s going to leave a lot of us more open. It’ll help a lot.”
Prohm said Wigginton’s return will also help a guy line senior Nick Weiler-Babb.
“I think he’s a big key to what we’re doing,” Prohm said. “With Lindell being out, it’s probably put more of a workload on Nick over these last couple of weeks. When Nick’s really good on both ends of the floor – pushing the pace and defending – I think it takes our team to a whole other level.
“The addition of Lindell will help him ease back at times — whether it’s a couple minutes here or a couple of minutes there. He’ll be able to have better extended minutes.”
Prohm has described Young as the quiet soldier. Young is a gritty big man who isn’t afraid to be physical, something Iowa State has lacked at times.
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Young doesn’t get talked about much, but he’s a good rebounder and can make open shots.
Prohm likes the four-guard lineup, so Michael Jacobson will probably still get the bulk of the minutes at the five spot. But Young will be a good situational addition for Prohm.
Wigginton and Young probably won’t get a lot of playing time against Eastern Illinois (6-5) as they still have to knock the rust off and get their legs back under them, but their return will be a welcome one.
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