Column: Melvin Ejim Crucial To ISU's Success

As the calendar turns to February, it's Melvin Ejim who might be most important to the Cyclones' cause

The first three months of Iowa State's basketball season belonged to DeAndre Kane, the graduate transfer filling box scores and Twitter feeds, the latest successful Fred Hoiberg import.

As the calendar turns to February, it's Melvin Ejim who might be most important to the Cyclones' cause.

The senior forward, overshadowed this season by Kane's excellence, scored 22 points and grabbed a career high 16 rebounds in Saturday's 81-75 win over No. 23 Oklahoma at Hilton Coliseum.

"Story of my life, right?" Ejim said afterward. "I really don't care [about headlines], it is what it is. I just want to win, go as far as we can, be successful as a team. I'm just going to continue doing what I do and try to get better and show I've improved.

"It doesn't matter who's in the headlines as long as Iowa State wins, right? I try my best to be humble, something I was taught by my parents. I really do think you get rewarded doing the right things."

Kane was good in his own right Saturday — nine assists and one turnover evening out a 2-for-8 shooting performance — and Georges Niang poured in a career-best 27 points, but it was Ejim who was key for the Cyclones adding two blocks and two steals.

"Ejim's had a terrific season," OU coach Lon Kruger said. "Very good player, very versatile. A tough matchup. He's doing a great job for them."

As Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart scored 15 points in a loss to Baylor early Saturday, Ejim keeps a tight lead on the conference's scoring race (18.1).

"I don't even know where to start," Niang said. "I've never played with someone that just brings for it every night. He doesn't ask for you to tap him on the behind and say 'good job.' I'm blessed to play with somebody like him."

Ejim is ego-less when it comes to his role within the team, but he does care what the national pundits think. When CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein put him on a list of "top glue guys" — a label for under-the-radar grinders who do the little things — Ejim shot back on his Twitter: "Since when do glue guys lead the league in rebounding & double doubles?"

His rebounding numbers this season have taken a hit with Dustin Hogue and Kane crashing the glass like wild animals — Ejim entered the game 10th in the Big 12 in rpg. The double-doubles aren't as frequent (15 a year ago, six this season).

But few have been as steady as Ejim, who missed the first two games of the season with a knee injury — he came back weeks earlier than expected — and has scored in double figures in all 18 appearances. Dating back to the 2013 Big 12 tournament, Ejim has hit double digits 22 consecutive times.

Ejim's worst single game field goal percentage is 33.3, a low he's scraped thrice. There have been no real clunkers: Kane has done worse than 33.3 six times, Niang has twice. Ejim is the same guy at home (48.7 field goal percentage) as he is on the road (54.5) and at neutral sites (53.5).

Keep the "KANE IS ABLE" stuff coming and don't discount what Niang is doing — he's been masterful all season long. Ejim will keep humming along quietly, hopeful to be rewarded in accolades at the end of the campaign.

"Sometimes it takes time," Ejim said. "Eventually people are gonna see the work that I've been doing here and the role I've been playing on this team and this program."

Just don't mention the "g" word.

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