AMES — Iowa State guard Marial Shayok was fulfilling his media obligations Monday at the Sukup Basketball Complex.
Reporters lobbed questions his way about beating then-No. 6 Kansas, previewing Tuesday’s Baylor (8-5, 0-1 Big 12) game in Waco, Texas (6 p.m., ESPNews), and about how impressive Iowa State’s freshman class continues to be. And he answered them. As he answered, players filtered in for practice. Nothing special about it.
When Shayok finished answering the last question, he walked back into the gym and as he got to the door he said, “Nobody better have taken my hoop.”
Shayok was in the gym since the early morning shooting on that one basket.
Shayok is the Big 12’s leading scorer, averaging 20.1 points while shooting 52 percent from the field, 38 percent from 3-point range and 86 percent from the free-throw line. He’s the only player in the power six conferences to shoot 50-38-85.
Against Kansas, he was 5-of-5 from 3-point range. He also was named Big 12 player of the week, averaging, 20.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in the two games No. 21 Iowa State (12-2, 2-0) won in the last week. Yet he was the first one in the gym.
Shayok personifies the gym-rat mentality ISU Coach Steve Prohm wants to see from his team.
“That’s just who he is,” Prohm said. “It’s an everyday habit for him. He’s being rewarded for that (work ethic). The deeper we get into conference play, the more efficient he’s going to have to be.”
Shayok’s had that work ethic since he was a young player.
“You can’t cheat the game,” Shayok said. “You have to be in the gym as much as possible. The more you’re in the gym, the more you’ll be successful.”
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Shayok, a redshirt senior, transferred into Iowa State from Virginia. He was second on the team in scoring at Virginia as a junior, but the Cavaliers play with such a slow pace he only averaged 8.9 points.
He wanted to be at a place that had a free and open offense. A place like Iowa State.
“I just wanted to play my game, play confident, play free and play to my strengths,” Shayok said. “It’s working out so far and I’m glad we’re winning.”
Winning wasn’t something Iowa State did a lot of last season while Shayok and fellow transfer Michael Jacobson sat out. Last season, Iowa State didn’t win a single road game.
During those trips, since transfers who are sitting out aren’t allowed to travel, Shayok and Jacobson would get in the gym.
“I tried to shoot as much as possible before and after practice,” Shayok said. “Obviously, I sat out last year, so I just stayed in the gym and tried to perfect my craft. I stayed in the gym every day, especially when they’d leave for road games, I’d try to get as much work in as possible.”
Jacobson could tell Shayok was motivated by this season.
“He was going to make sure all parts of his game were right,” Jacobson said. “He’s always here once or twice a day extra (outside of practice) to get shots up on his own and to work on stuff. I don’t think this is any surprise what he’s doing.”
Shayok’s constant presence in the gym has trickled down to the younger players.
“Tyrese (Haliburton) has already been in the gym, Talen (Horton-Tucker) was getting there when I left,” Prohm said. “That’s the biggest thing we’ve taken a big step in — win, lose or draw — and I credit Fred (Hoiberg) for this. He had a really good NBA mentality here with understanding how hard you have to work. Not just within the confines of practice but how hard you have to work on your own at this level.
“We lost that last year when we lost so much experience and maturity. We kind of had to reteach that. We’re getting to a good place in that area now and that’s important.”
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Jacobson transferred in from Nebraska and he’s been impressed with the work ethic from this Iowa State team.
“It’s part of the culture here at Iowa State,” Jacobson said. “That’s one thing I’ve noticed is just how much guys are in the gym. Whether you play 30 minutes or 10 minutes, you’re here the next day working on stuff and trying to get better. The gym-rat mentality, you reap what you sow, so if you put in the work, hopefully it’ll work out in your favor.”
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