Bob Sundvold Q&A

Iowa State is tied for first place in the Big 12 at 2-0. However, the Cyclones face their first road game in league play by travelling to Boulder to face Colorado. Can ISU snap that ugly 17-game road losing streak in the league? That, and other ISU basketball issues, were discussed on KXNO yesterday when assistant coach Bob Sundvold joined our publisher on the radio.

Deace: Let's take a look back at your win over Northern Colorado.

Sundvold:: Well, Northern Colorado came in and had some guys that were injured and hurt and didn't have their whole team, but they sure put it together early. We didn't start off like we would hope, but our guys hung in there and did some things to turn the game around and I think that's important too. Everyone can talk about how it was a great win against Missouri and Nebraska, but you know it was great against Northern Colorado because we found out we had to do some different things and we had guys off our bench. John Neil, for instance, came off the bench and did a great job of shutting down a guy that had made six threes and Damion Staple has continued to show some improvement. If we can build on our depth, whether it's a game against Nebraska or Northern Colorado, that's good for us in the long haul.

Deace: You mentioned Damion Staple. In the big win against Nebraska, he was joking afterwards that his goal was to finally beat Jake Sullivan into the gym which means he must have shown up around breakfast if he did that on Saturday.

Sundvold:: Yeah. That's a heck of a goal. In fact, Jake gets over here a lot. He's a senior so he only has to go to school about two days a week. He figures it out. Damien is starting to put a little time in. I think he's getting over that injury plus he's had a little success and that really helps a guy want to come in and practice. Coach Morgan kind of challenged him one day in front of the team. We got done with practice and I can't remember if it went good or bad, but Coach told him that we're waiting to see that guy that played at Hutchinson in the Junior College Tournament, we're waiting to see that guy that's a first team all-American and when he emerges, we will embrace him and add him to this program. In a way, it was a positive way to get a guy to play a little bit and he's certainly jumped in here the last three games.

Deace: Well, you've already got a proven one two punch down there with Jared Homan and Jackson Vroman obviously, but I imagine with their physical play, they're prone to foul trouble, so Damion can become a real x-factor here in the conference play.

Sundvold:: The season is long and you have to have people step up at different times and Damion is certainly a guy we counted on early in the year. The same is true with Marcus Jefferson who has been such a role model for our guys as far as accepting a role and he's going to be a guy that we will be counting on and then to have a guy like John Neil. Justin Fries played the other night and did a great job of moving the basketball for us. Maybe this weekend, Big Skogs will get a chance to help us against the big dominant center at Colorado so maybe we can find a place for everyone to help out.

Deace: You talk about guys stepping up. Curtis Stinson has just been phenomenal. Twice already been named Big 12 rookie of the week. Obviously, we're talking about a guy that didn't come in with the hype of a Lavender at Oklahoma, a Pagent at Kansas, or a Klisa at Missouri, or even his own teammate, Will Blalock, but he's actually been phenomenal for you for the last few weeks.

Sundvold:: We knew when Curtis was coming in we were having a guy that had some toughness to him. Coach Morgan talked about this last year in recruiting. This guy was a killer and just a guy that was so competitive and would do about anything necessary for his team whether it was defend, rebound, or score. We kind of knew that aspect to it. Whether or not a guy can jump in in the Big 12 and do some of those things, you never know, but Curtis has definitely met the challenge and taken advantage of an opportunity of playing time. Going back to Xavier game, I was really kind of amazed at some of the times in that game that he took it over and really forced himself in guarding Romaine Sodo and then also against Missouri, he made some big buckets for us to get us back into it. He's shown us something every game. He's got a chance to have the total package as a player and that is certainly fun to play with.

Deace: You guys are obviously off to a great start. You're at 10-2. You're 2-0 in league play. Wayne is the first rookie coach at Iowa State to start off in league play 2-0 since 1959. The last five Cyclone teams that started off 2-0 in league play going back to 1986 all made the NCAA tournament. Those are a couple of positive trends for you.

Sundvold:: They are. I'm not a historian, so I didn't have a chance to look back like you. But, the other thing is, I think in college basketball, it's really important in scheduling. The two things are when and where you play someone. When in the season. The next time we play Missouri, they're likely to be a completely different ball club. We got to play them at home, so that was a big thing for us and we got to play Nebraska at home and to catch them on Saturday night. Maybe that was very important also. I don't want to discount the success that our guys are having and how they're playing because they are certainly worthy of some praise and some accolades, but yet I think coaches will understand this. You look ahead and we've got a stretch of games that are a gauntlet. I think our guys know it. We've got to work at getting better every day and we can't rest on whether Steve Deace says they're good and doing great. We've got to work at getting better. Coach Morgan and our staff, we're trying to make sure that our players understand it, but sure we're excited about being 2-0 in the league but whether or not we can hold form and get into the tournament, that will play out. But, for this young group and for these freshman and even for guys like Jackson Vroman and Jared and Marcus, the guys that have been here, to have some success early only allows them to be more confident as we get into the deeper part of the schedule.

Deace: If you are going to be in the NCAA tournament, that obviously entails that you win on the road. And one stat that I'm going to throw at you that you're not going to like that I'm getting tired of bringing up is seventeen straight losses on the road in the league.

Sundvold:: Sure. I've been here through two years of it, that's been sixteen of those. It's something you know it's there as a coach. Jared Homan and Jake are aware of it because they have been through it also and so has Marcus, but the new guys know the challenge of playing on the road and history is not a part of it. It's just a matter of going to Colorado on Saturday where they have two NBA prospects in their starting lineup. You've got to be able to handle the basketball and do some things that we are getting better at and make good choices that we didn't do at Virginia or San Diego State. We understand that and you've got to get your players to understand what's in front of them.

Deace: Well, Colorado moved forward here the last few games and really got off to a perplexing start and even losing a couple games at home where they've been phenomenal. They have four starters coming back from a team that played in the NCAA tournament and many folks had them as a preseason top 30. Really, the only news for the first part of their season was a player getting shot at a party and the academic situation with Michele Merandez, but now they've righted the ship a little. They've won two in a row even going to Nebraska and winning there on Wednesday night. You're going to face a hotter club and they might have the two best NBA prospects in the league.

Sundvold:: Well, I think without a doubt the talent is there. Every team has its time in the year that things aren't going to go according to the book. But, I really like their talent and the way they've put things together. They've got a great three-point shooter in Blair Wilson. He's about 6'7" and he can really get a shot off. Put him on the same side as David Harrison and you've really got trouble because you've got to guard both and Harrison has more room at the post. I think Merandez will start cutting it loose now because his academic difficulties are behind him and he is really a talent. I think the only question they have is what they're going to do at the point. They've got a couple guys, but last night they played Jason Obazawa. They played him for about 33 minutes so they may be settling there to him, but they have some definite talent. Like you said, they were in the NCAA tournament last year. Those guys have an idea of what they need to do and they've become a very good home team over the last couple years. We'll definitely have our work cut out for us and look forward to trying to get this road thing started and doing it right.

Deace: On the other side of the token, the athleticism is your backcourt when those two youngsters might prevent them some problems.

Sundvold:: Well, we hope. We like the way Will can bring the ball up against pressure and we like the way Will can break guys down. He's good with the dribble. Curtis Stenson has proven that he can battle just about any size or position. They give us a little bit different look than we've had the last couple years. I think when you get Curtis and Will out there and throw Marcus out there and you get another guy on the floor it changes the way our team can play. Hopefully, we'll give the Colorado Buffalos a few different looks and not just let them sinch in on one scouting report. They might have to prepare for a couple different ways of playing.

Deace: Despite the great start you guys are off to, you are a little unproven on the road. You had the Drake game where you had a huge lead and nearly blew that. Then you had the San Diego State and Virginia games where you led in the second half, they had big runs and you couldn't respond. You learned from those two games though and had a great game against Missouri. You came back and won the basketball game. What did those two road games teach you that your youngsters need to know on Saturday?

Sundvold:: I think one of the things that they taught the guys is that you can't take a possession off. You might have a seven or eight point lead and then decide that you won't pay attention on this possession and then you'll have a turnover and they dunk it on you. Now the momentum switches. There are approximately 70 possessions and you've got to play every one.

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