Monterrey Awaits Young Cyclones

It will be a big weekend in Ames as Iowa State's football team opens the regular season against Northern Iowa. But it will also be a big weekend for the Cyclones hundreds of miles away. Wayne Morgan's basketball squad opens a three-day, three-game tour of Monterrey, Mexico.

The added competition and 10 days of practice that preceded it have benefited ISU greatly. But moreso this year, as the Cyclones are still searching for themselves. A cast of five newcomers is joining a program that lost a pair of big-time contributors in Jake Sullivan and Jackson Vroman. Jared Homan, Curtis Stinson, and Will Blalock return to the mix, but will need to grow accustomed to a new set of teammates.

"It does a great deal," said Morgan of his team's trip south of the border. "It gives us a chance for the young guys to play with the older guys and see how they mesh. It gives us a chance to see things we're weak at and need work on. It gives us a chance to see things that are strengths. We're probably the most inexperienced team in the Big 12, but I think we have the talent. This will give us a better chance to come together."

While the players will enjoy the opportunity to compete against someone other than their teammates, the chance to practice with each other is a huge bonus.

"The biggest achievement is the 10 days of practice, and not so much the competition," Morgan said. "We're looking forward to the competition, but the practice is where we'll be able to learn some things. Once we get down there and play, you'll see some problems we'd better work on or some things we'll be able to exploit."

Practicing in August and September, and doing so with a basketball, was a welcome sight for the team. While other teams across the country not on preseason trips are going through repetitive drills in hot gyms unable to use a ball, Morgan's practices had an in-season feel.

"It was pretty nice because around this time all we're doing is conditioning and running the whole time," said returning point guard Will Blalock. "It is good to have a few preseason games. That way we get a feel for the new guys and they get a feel for the returning guys.

"We'll be ahead of a lot of schools, because they're not playing right now and are working on their games individually. We're a young team, so we've got to get to know each other. It's given us an edge right now."

A young and inexperienced Cyclone team is willing to take any edge it can right now.

ISU fans should be pleased with the rapid progress made by Morgan's program. Just over one year ago, head coach Larry Eustachy resigned and left the program in disarray. However, a 20-win campaign in his first season and solid recruiting class of five players appear to have righted the ship.

Morgan feels better about the situation, but realizes there will be some hurdles to clear as he enters season two.

"Last year at this point there were things you didn't have as good a handle on," he said. "You have a better idea now of what's going on. I just wish we had more guys returning. But the good news is we will in the future. After this year, where we'll be real inexperienced, over the next two years we're only going to lose four players. I think we'll do fine this year. Our future is really bright and I think we're getting better. The profile of this program is getting higher."

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