With new faces on the court and a familiar face on the bench, Iowa State has orchestrated an all-time turnaround season
CHICAGO, Illinois (KCRG) - When you take a team from two wins to 22 wins, and a Sweet 16 appearance, you’re probably a candidate for national coach of the year. Such is the case for Iowa State’s T.J. Otzelbeger.
His revival of the program is coming full circle. The last time the Cyclones made it to the Sweet 16 was back in 2016, when Otzelberger was an assistant coach.
“We had a group of guys that were very offensively inclined and guys that had earned it through their work ethic over time. (Guys like) Georges Niang, Monte Morris, Matt Thomas,” Otzelberger said. “With our group this year, entirely different starting point. A group of all new guys, a team picked unanimously last in our league this season, a team that nobody expected to be here.”
Otzelberger said both times he has been fortunate enough to have a group of players who embrace their roles, do their job, care about the team’s success and work hard at it.
“I love being the caretaker of this program, I love Iowa State,” Otzelberger said. “Having Iowa State playing in the Sweet 16 and keep moving forward, whether head coach or assistant, it’s pretty awesome.”
Six Cyclones transferred in for this year. Although they had different paths to Ames, the players all came for coach.
“Really just the coaching staff and coach T.J.” said senior Gabe Kalscheur. “Just the trust and knowing that the pieces that he was putting together, sky’s the limit.”
Their buy-in was a big reason for the team’s regular season success, and why they continue to march on.
“Their lack of recent success really hadn’t scared me off too much because as far as I was concerned, that was a whole different team,” said senior Izaiah Brockington. “I mean it was a whole new coaching staff. There’s different players. I saw an opportunity to do something special here.”
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