Iowa State will rely on youth

Saturday, November 10th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

AMES, Iowa (AP) _ With eight freshmen and sophomores and just one senior, Iowa State's long-term future in basketball is bright.

The short term is less certain.

``We could be starting three sophomores and two freshmen,'' coach Larry Eustachy said. ``That could be interesting.''

Iowa State is coming off back-to-back Big 12 championships. The Cyclones' 57 victories the last two years are exceeded only by Duke (64) and Michigan State (60), the last two national champions.

But most of the players responsible for that success are gone and youngsters will have to take their place. That doesn't mean the Cyclones are just biding their time this season and hoping for better things down the road.

``This isn't a throw-in season,'' Eustachy said. ``We're going to try real hard. I think we'll surprise at times and disappoint at times. We set our sights on the ultimate goal every year.''

Sophomore guard Jake Sullivan is the only returning starter and he's playing a new position. A shooting guard last season, all Sullivan had to worry about was getting open and waiting for Jamaal Tinsley, the Big 12's player of the year, to get him the ball.

Tinsley is now starting for the Indiana Pacers and Sullivan will be the new point guard. Sullivan won't look anything like Tinsley out there, but he can shoot and has almost unlimited range.

``I've got to use that as my main weapon,'' Sullivan said. ``That's what I worked so hard at, so I don't think it's going to affect my number of shots. But I've got to be a leader at the point. I just can't spot up. I've got to create stuff for other people, too.''

Freshman Ricky Morgan, a true point guard, will back up Sullivan. Or he could end up starting, which would put Sullivan back on the wing.

Senior Tyray Pearson and sophomore Shane Power, both role players last season, will be expected to do more, Power on the wing and the slender 6-foot-7 Pearson inside.

Eustachy also is counting on 6-5 Marcus Jefferson, eligible now after transferring from Providence, and 6-7 junior Omar Bynum, who played in only 12 games last season. Tommie King, a 6-6 transfer from Western Nebraska Community College, has talent but got into Eustachy's doghouse early because of poor work habits.

Pearson could become a key player, though Eustachy said he has struggled in practice. He averaged 8.4 points and shot 64.5 percent last season while playing just 15 minutes a game.

``He led our team in points scored per minute,'' Eustachy said. ``The problem was, if you don't defend, you don't get a lot of minutes and he fouled and broke down defensively.

``But he was getting pretty good at the end. He made 28 of his last 31 shots and really got to where he was guarding the post. I look for him to have a big year. He has to or it's going to be a struggle.''

Size will be a concern. Freshman Adam Schaper and Jared Homan both are 6-9, but can they hold up to the night in, night out banging in the Big 12? Sophomore Andrew Skogland is 7-1 but has been slow to develop.

Of greater concern for Eustachy is his frontcourt players' strength.

``Our perimeter guys are stronger than our frontline guys,'' Eustachy said. ``I've set a deadline with four of our big players that they've got to have the strength in mid-December or they won't play.

``They really have to work hard to gain a lot more strength in order to hold the post and guard somebody down low.''

Iowa State has some difficult tests early. The Cyclones could play Big Ten favorite Illinois at a tournament in Las Vegas and they have a Dec. 11 date at Boston College. That comes three days after they play Iowa, another Big Ten title contender.

``We've got freshmen and sophomores, which would be a negative or you could look at it as a positive,'' Eustachy said. ``I look at it as a real positive. They're great guys who want to work hard and get better.''