LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Upon Iowa State’s arrival to the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in as many season’s -- a program first -- Monte Morris and Jameel McKay sported golden highlights in their hair.
“I’m going for that Odell Beckham look,” Morris said, referring to the New York Giants wide receiver. “Jameel, he wanted to do it, too.”
Morris has said he likes to stick out in March, and now there is no mistake about it. On the court, Morris has been hard to miss, too.
In Iowa State’s last 10 games, the sophomore point guard has averaged 14.7 points, 4.6 assists, 3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game to help lift the Cyclones to a second consecutive postseason conference title for the first time in school history.
Iowa State will need that production from Morris to continue as March moves along if it is to make the NCAA tournament run it has clamored for.
“A lot of people think we’re sleepers. A lot of people have us going far. A lot of people have us exiting in the Elite Eight, even Barack Obama,” Morris said. “We just have to go out and either mess people’s brackets up or help them.”
It turns out, that starts with a new look.
“I feel like I’m going for the look, but at the same time, we’re trying to get that gold, that trophy,” Morris said. “My hair represents that. That’s my mission.”
Fred Hoiberg has been asked often in the last five years about what is means for him to return to his hometown to coach the Cyclones. When he returns to the national scene during the postseason, that question is a certainty, and it came again Wednesday when he was asked what he loves about Ames.
“What do I not love about Ames? It's God's country. It's a place that was phenomenal to be raised in. My dad took a job in Ames, Iowa, when I was 2 years old. He had two job offers. One was at Kansas, and one was at Iowa State. He moved the family to Ames from Nebraska, and it was just I grew up four blocks from campus. I used to walk to the basketball games, walk to the football games. I was a ball boy for both programs and just fell in love with Iowa State athletics. My kids grew up huge Iowa State fans. My parents still live there. My in laws still live there. My brother lives there. Just have so many connections and ties to that town.”
UAB coach Jerod Haase played at Kansas for three years, where he competed against Hoiberg. Wednesday the two will compete against each other again when their teams match up. Here’s what Haase said about Hoiberg on Wednesday.
“Fred was an unbelievable player. Even in college, he had the nickname the mayor, and I didn't have any good nicknames in college. I jokingly say that I put him in the NBA because he had so much success when I was guarding him that he ended up having a great NBA career, and my career fizzled out right after I was done with college. He was always a very, very smart player. I always remember Coach Williams talking about, outside of his current team, he probably liked coaching against or maybe had the greatest deal of respect for Fred Hoiberg. I think, because he did it the right way, because he was smart, because he played hard, and those are the kinds of things he's taking into this Iowa State program now as a head coach.”