Monday Musings

This week our publisher hands out final grades for the men's basketball season and also announces a new feature on our message boards.

Last May, in honor of the late, great Pete Taylor, we here at CN Magazine devoted our entire year-end issue to his legacy with our "Mr. Cyclone" publication. To this day, it is still the issue I get asked about the most from Cyclone fans who treasure Pete's memory.

Clearly no Cyclone was more deserving of such an honor, and perhaps no one in recent memory had done more for the cause of Iowa State athletics than did Pete. This year, as a small way of keeping that legacy alive, we are going to start a new tradition with our year-end, summer issue of CN Magazine.

Thus, we have decided to name a "Mr. Cyclone" after each school year in each of our year-end issues, think of a Time Magazine "Person of the Year" that specifically relates to the Cyclones.

The staff at CN, including myself and Bill and others who contribute, will have final say in who is named each year. But we'd still also love to get your take. The "Mr. Cyclone" award will go each May to the person(s) whom over the course of the past school year or their careers/lifetimes have done the most to further Iowa State sports.

To vote, just click on the "Mr. Cyclone 2004 Voting" forum link on the message board index page of this site. Hit reply to my introductory message in that forum and tell us whom you would like to see win the award and why. If you're post is the best written, you will end up being published in the year-end issue of CN Magazine. Thanks in advance for your contribution. Stay tuned for the next issue of our magazine, due out in late May, to see who won this year's award.

This year's nominees are:

Wayne Morgan, men's basketball coach
In his first season taking over a program whose image had taken a hit over the past two years, Morgan made ISU basketball fun again. Defying lowly preseason expectations, Morgan guided the Cyclones to a solid 16-11 regular season record that included wins over Northern Iowa, Xavier, Iowa, Kansas, and Texas. Morgan then led ISU through an impressive march to the NIT semifinals. However, Morgan's biggest contribution came during a tumultuous offseason where he helped hold the program together during some rocky times.

Curtis Stinson, men's basketball player
Not even Wayne Morgan that he would be this good this fast. Nonetheless, this largely unheralded recruit took Ames by storm, producing arguably the finest freshman season in Iowa State hoops history. Stinson broke Jeff Grayer's scoring record, won Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors, and was named a first team Freshman All-American as well. Who can forget his second half performance against Rutgers in the NIT semifinals?

Zach Roberson, wrestler
Not much was expected of the Iowa State wrestling team this winter after the Cyclones struggled to replace Cael Sanderson the previous year. However, ISU was one of the surprise teams in the nation, climbing as high as the number two spot in the national polls after ending a 17-year losing streak to the Hawkeyes. The senior Roberson was the steady hand of a group that finished seventh at the Nationals, ending his career in style by winning the national championship.

Steve & Debbie Bergstrom
The latest jewel of the athletic department's crown bears their name, and that says all. They didn't ante up the entire $9.3 million price tag for the new indoor, multi-purpose facility, but their gracious donation was the catalyst that finally made Dan McCarney's long-awaited dream a reality. The impact of that building on the prestige of ISU football and the recruitment of student-athletes is immeasurable.

Final Grade for Men's Basketball

Now that the season is officially over for the Cyclones, it's time to hand out report cards.

For Curtis Stinson, he gets a solid A for his exceptional, clutch work all season long. With the exception of a failed free throw trip late in the infamous road loss at Kansas, Stinson delivered every time he was asked to when the team needed him most. Nobody saw this kid coming before the season. That won't be the case next season because he will be a marked man. Something, though, tells me that Stinson wouldn't have it any other way.

For Wayne Morgan he gets an A- for steadying a rudderless ship, establishing legitimacy in his program in his first season, personalizing relationships, and for having a keen eye for talent (both coaches and players). Because of our high standards we couldn't give him a straight A because of the ongoing conference road losing streak and lack of a NCAA Tournament appearance. But if this season is any indication of what Cyclone Nation can expect from his program once he brings in a full class of his type of players, then we'll all have a lot to look forward to.

For the assistant coaches they also earn an A-. Bob Sundvold helped hold down the fort with Coach Morgan last summer. Damon Archibald is one of the architects of ISU's improved defensive play, and could land himself a head coaching job this offseason as a result. Fred Quartlebaum's reputation as an exemplary recruiter while at Notre Dame and North Carolina was well earned. The staff also provides geographical balance. Morgan is an East Coast guy. Quartlebaum is an Atlantic Coast guy. Archibald is a West Coast guy. And Sundvold is a Midwestern guy. We certainly want to see each of these guys reach their professional goals, but wouldn't it be great to keep them together for a while?

Jake Sullivan earns a B+ for his clutch shooting at home, leadership, character, and epitomizing what the term student-athlete is all about. A good friend of mine who coaches over at the University of Iowa has on more than one occasion sung his praises to me over the past two years because of those qualities. Is Jake a defensive liability at times? Yes. Was his shot maddeningly inconsistent away from Hilton Coliseum the past two years? Yes. And that's why he didn't grade out higher, despite being one of my favorite players I've had the pleasure to cover the last four years in radio. Chances are he'll be replaced by a player more athletic next season, but his intangibles will be tough to replace and I know that I will miss him.

Jared Homan grades out as a straight B, but he could've been given higher marks if not for being hampered by an ankle injury since midway through the season. He's demonstrated his toughness but battling through it, and at the end he was finally starting to get back to where he was in January when he was's National Player of the Week. If he can develop as much this summer as he did over the course of the last one he could be the X-factor in getting the Cyclones back to the NCAA Tournament.

Will Blalock receives a B- after not quite living up to the preseason hype. Don't get me wrong, I love his quicks, hops, and better-than-advertised perimeter shot. But remember it was he, not Stinson, that was drawing the advance rave reviews. Blalock was brilliant at the beginning and end of the season, but his three-week wall in the middle kept his final grade down. I can't wait to see what he and Stinson will do as full-time running mates next year.

John Neal receives an A+ because as a walk-on from Winterset he got to live the dream against the Hawkeyes on January 21st. Bottom line: the Cyclones don't win that rivalry game without Neal's impersonation of Jimmy Chitwood down the stretch, and that's something he'll take with him the rest of his life. So how did Mr. One Shining Moment celebrate his day in the sun? By hitting the local Culver's with his parents afterwards. If that's not an Iowa boy, I don't know what is.

Marcus Jefferson and Damion Staple each receive the grade of C+ for their efforts. Jefferson never did give the Cyclones the slasher they were looking for, but he did provide some pivotal play down the stretch while overcoming some very personal adversity. Staple entered school as a second team JUCO All-American, but his progress was slowed by a knee injury early in the season. He played some key minutes midway through the season, but struggled to find his niche in the rotation as the season wore on. He, along with Reggie George, need to join Homan by spending every waking moment in the weight room this offseason.

Finally, I'm giving Jackson Vroman an Incomplete pending how he finishes school this semester. The decision to give Vroman a third chance was controversial at the time, and I'm still concerned about the precedent it set. Heck, I talked to members of the athletic department who didn't agree with it at the time. There are some measures Vroman was asked to take in order to remain with the program that for issues of privacy I won't divulge, and I applaud him for making the most – thus far – of the grace he was shown. On the court, he probably played his way into hearing his name called in the second round of June's NBA draft. Can you imagine how good he would be an ISU uniform next season if he had one more year? If Vroman can maintain his life away from the court between now and the end of the school year, then he'll receive a final grade of B+ from me, or an A if he gets his degree.

(Steve Deace can be heard on the radio in Central Iowa each weekday from 3-6 p.m. on 1460-KXNO, the flagship of the Cyclone Radio Network)



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