10 Positives about Cyclone Athletics

In his debut column for CN, columnist Marty Gallagher says that despite all the recent controversies swirling around Iowa State sports, there's still plenty of reasons for optimism for Cyclone fans.

As we hit the middle of summer, it's almost a case of "no news is good news" for collegiate athletic programs. If Iowa State athletes or coaches are making the headlines right now, there is a pretty good chance that it's not for positive reasons.

Given the fact that Cyclone fans have had to deal with far too many negative issues and events in the last six months, I'm going to share 10 positive thoughts about the ISU athletics.

Here goes…

1. Coach Dan McCarney and his staff have done a terrific job of in-state recruiting.

Take a look at ISU's potential starters this fall and you'll find several athletes who prepped in Iowa, including:

  1. Lane Danielsen (Dike)
  2. Jack Whitver (Grinnell)
  3. Casey Shelton (West Des Moines)
  4. Luke Vander Sanden (Inwood)
  5. Cale Stubbe (Cedar Falls)
  6. Aaron Brant (Dubuque)
  7. Seth Zehr (Fort Dodge)
  8. Tyson Smith (Des Moines)
  9. Jordan Carstens (Bagley)
  10. Tim TeBrink (Alton)
  11. Joe Woodley (West Des Moines)
  12. Troy Blankenship (Cedar Rapids)

Ten years ago, it seemed that the program in Iowa City got 90% of the top Iowa preps that it wanted. Obviously, that's not the case anymore. Which is a big reason for ISU's success in recent seasons.

2. Coach Wayne Morgan has put together what appears to be a very good coaching staff in his first couple of months on the job.

Morgan retained assistant coach Bob Sundvold and added two new full-time assistants, Damon Archibald and Fred Quartlebaum.

Archibald comes to Ames from USC, where he was responsible for the Trojans' defense and recruiting. Quartlebaum was an assistant at North Carolina the last three years, where he developed a reputation as one of the nation's top recruiters.

In addition, Morgan will have Jeff Grayer – ISU's all-time leading scorer – as a student assistant. Grayer is a native of Flint, Michigan, a hotbed of basketball talent.

3. John Walters has been named the new "Voice of the Cyclones."

Walters, the Sports Director at WOI-TV, is the perfect choice to replace the late Pete Taylor as the radio voice of ISU sports. I have always enjoyed listening to Walters call a game and I know that he will work very hard at doing the best job possible for Cyclone fans.

4. A fast-paced style of basketball will return to Hilton Coliseum this winter.

Although I've always admired and appreciated the coaching styles of Tim Floyd and Larry Eustachy, I've heard from many ISU fans that were hoping to see a more up-tempo style of basketball. With Coach Morgan at the helm, I think the pace of the game will be turned up a notch.

5. Iowa State is shooting for its FOURTH straight bowl appearance this season.

Considering where this program was 10 years ago, that's borderline miraculous.

I was at the game in Ames when Terry Allen's Northern Iowa Panthers knocked off the Cyclones in the early 1990s. Not too many ISU fans were thrilled with Jim Walden on that day.

And NONE of them believed that three consecutive bowl seasons could be a reality within 10 years.

But here we are in 2003, looking at a Cyclone team that could be headed to its fourth bowl game in a row. While the schedule is anything but easy, at least ISU doesn't have to play AT Oklahoma, AT Texas, AT Kansas State and AT Colorado in a five-week stretch.

6. Iowa State's football team will be bigger, stronger and better in the trenches this season…on both sides of the ball.

This should help the Cyclones improve their running attack and their run defense, two phases of the game that must be ready to go for the Big 12 opener against the Sooners.

7. Sean Devereaux did not host any parties this summer.

As far as we know, anyway.

8. Bill Fennelly is a fantastic women's basketball coach.

He remains one of my favorite coaches in the state; any sport, any level. After taking over a program that was really struggling eight years ago, Fennelly has won 70% of his games at ISU. He's also guided the Cyclones to six NCAA Tourney appearances, including an Elite Eight berth in 1999.

9. We'll finally get to see what Stevie Hicks can do this fall.

Nothing against the abilities of Hiawatha Rutland, Michael Wagner or Brian Thompson, but I'm curious if Hicks can live up to the hype. The redshirt freshman from Omaha has plenty of expectations to live up to, that's for sure.

10. You can turn a men's basketball program around pretty quickly.

While the ISU roster may have plenty of question marks right now, if Coach Morgan and his staff can bring in two or three of the right players, the Cyclones could find themselves back in contention for the Big 12 title sooner than you think.

(Marty Gallagher founded the popular website IowaSportsOpinions.com. His columns for CN online are published each Tuesday and Friday. You can e-mail him at Marty@IowaSportsOpinions.com.)

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