ISU Hopes Degand is Heir Apparent (UPDATED)

Although Iowa State hopes to keep point guards Will Blalock and Curtis Stinson around for as many years as possible, the Cyclones went a long ways toward finding their heir apparent in the backcourt by getting a commitment from Boston (Mass.) O'Bryant standout Farnold Degand.

Farnold Degand gave ISU head coach Wayne Morgan a verbal by phone Wednesday night after a lengthy recruitment.

"I think he felt comfortable with Iowa State, their level, and I think they did a good job recruiting him," said Degand's AAU coach Leo Papile, who also tutored current Cyclone guard Will Blalock.

"The biggest thing he's got going for him is that he's still 16 years old and has already graduated to the level where a Big 12 school will recruit him. He won't be 17 until 2005, so a lot of kids his age are playing their sophomore or junior years. He has a whole lot of upside."

Just a few weeks ago, Degand appeared ready to take official visits to a select few programs, including ISU's.

But as he prepared for his senior year of high school, Degand decided that the Cyclones were his team of choice and that no other visits would be necessary.

"I finally realized it was the place for me," Degand told Thursday night. "I felt comfortable with the coaching staff and I like the players. I feel I can get better there. I felt like this was the place for me. If you feel that way about a school, why wait?"

ISU's second commitment for the fall signing period also had scholarship offers from Baylor and James Madison. Villanova, St. John's, Boston, Rhode Island, Northeastern showed extensive interest in Degand.

Papile says the Cyclones got on the 6-foot-4 guard's recruiting trail very early.

"Those guys do a good recruiting," he said. "I think it goes back to Blalock. They probably noticed (Degand) when he was younger at practices or games, recruiting Will from our program. He was out there for a camp to visit Will last year. He didn't really have an official visit, but he had a chance to go to the camp. That gave him a chance to look at the place."

ISU's newest addition averaged 21.5 points, eight rebounds, and three assists as a junior for O'Bryant, but much of his attention came the past two summers as a member of Papile's BABC team.

While he's probably not in the mold of a Blalock, Degand has shown the ability to develop into a point guard down the road. For now, Papile characterizes him as a scoring machine that can break down defenses off the dribble.

"He's primarily a two-guard, or a wing guard right now," Papile said. "He's very fast and has good straight-ahead speed. He can really finish and get to the basket. He's got a decent mid-range and 3-point shot. What he'll be is an off-the-ball scorer.

"He's a much different player than Will Blalock. Will is more of a quarterback, half-court guy. Degand has a good up-and-down game and his speed is phenomenal. He can really get out on the break, force the break, and get to the rim."

According to his AAU coach, Degand compares favorably to former St. John's slashing guard Felipe Lopez, who played for the NBA's Minnesota Timberwolves.

"Although he wouldn't be as good at this point, coming out of high school, Farnold would be like Felipe Lopez," Papile said. "He's that type of player. He's very good off the dribble and getting to the rim. I would draw the most comparisons to him."

Rumors had surfaced throughout the summer that Degand could be headed for a fifth year of high school at a nearby prep program. His summer coach said there was some thought given to that idea, but in the long run Degand will be better off joining a Division I program next season.

"The difficulty with him doing a post-graduate year is that academically he's so advanced that there may not be a whole lot of academic challenge for him in a fifth year," Papile said. "He's in a very good school and is probably about a 1,200 or 1,300 SAT guy already. The fifth-year academic thing didn't really make sense for him."

Spending five years at ISU could be a better idea, though. Papile believes that would afford Degand, who doesn't turn 17 until next year, the opportunity to mature as a basketball player.

"I would think he could be a five-year guy because of his age, but that will depend on the need," Papile said. "If Iowa State has a chance to let him grow physically, down the road it would have more long-term benefit by sitting him a year. That would let him get caught up, class-wise. It's not like he wouldn't be able to play right now, but over a five-year period he has a very high upside."

Although he'll have one season of high school ball remaining this winter, Degand can't wait to begin his ISU career and be Blalock's understudy in the backcourt.

"I want to be around Will and learn from him," Degand said. "My main goal is to keep improving as a player and to win."

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