AMES, IOWA — The last 11 days have taken an adjustment for Jameel McKay amidst the final portion of his senior season at Iowa State.
The 6-foot-9 center and cog in Iowa State’s rotation, was forced to find ways to cope with the anxiety of his team’s late-game dealings in the past week while watching from afar back home in Ames. Serving what proved to be a two-game suspension for a violation of team rules stemming from a practice, McKay struggled to watch his team play without him.
He turned off ESPN score alerts when Iowa State squeaked out a road win against Oklahoma State and turned away from the television in the second half Wednesday when Iowa State fell narrowly in overtime at Texas Tech.
Saturday, McKay returned to action, and his performance off the bench helped lift the Cyclones to a top-25 victory when they pulled away late to defeat Texas, 85-75.
“What did I finish with?” McKay wondered aloud afterward. “Eight [points], seven [rebounds] and four [blocks]? I think today was probably my best game since non-conference.”
Monte Morris agreed.
“It was big time,” Morris said of having his roommate back. “He looked healthy. He was jumping everywhere. And he got some key rebounds down the stretch that helped us. We’re just happy to have him back. He’s focused and when you’ve got a focused Jameel McKay, he’s big time.”
McKay, who admitted he deserved to be suspended but didn’t elaborate on the reasoning for the two-game ban, feels Iowa State would have entered Saturday on a two-game winning streak had he played in his team’s three-point overtime loss against Texas Tech on Wednesday in Lubbock, Texas.
Still, he and Iowa State are now looking forward.
“I think me being suspended those games will help us in the long run, I can tell you that. I think it was more of a positive than a negative,” McKay said. “I got my knee back healthy. Today was as good as I’ve felt on the court other than just getting a little fatigued.”
McKay’s four blocks Saturday night moved him to No. 7 all-time at Iowa State with 100 blocks in his nearly two-year Iowa State career. More importantly, his performance off the bench helped Iowa State keep pace in the Big 12.
“His attitude was terrific, he listened, he was focused, his energy was great and he played like he was capable of,” coach Steve Prohm said. “We can’t be special without him. That’s what I told him in the locker room afterward.
"That’s the Jameel McKay we need going forward.”