The Dynamic Duo

Juniors Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock combine for one of the best backcourts in the nation.

The Bronx and Boston. The Yankess and Red Sox. The Knicks and Celtics. But for Curtis Stinson and Will Blalock, it's Yin and Yang.  If the ISU men's basketball team wishes to be successful, this dynamic duo must continue find ways to compliment each other and thankfully, that's not a problem.


The two are better described as friends rather than teammates and brothers rather than friends.


ISU assistant coach Damon Archibald noted that there are times in your life when you have two or three friends who are close to you and are like family and that's a bond these two share.


"I would say at this time in their life they're like family," Archibald said. ""They're family. They're as close as you can get, they probably know things about each other that just the two of them know."


The two are roommates and they do everything together; head coach Wayne Morgan said sometimes it's like they all share one mind.


"A lot of times I'll be talking to one of them and he'll say ‘I was talking to Curtis about that last night' or ‘oh me and Will just talked about that,'" Morgan said. "They're very close."


Along with being the best of friends, to say they're pretty good on the basketball court would be an understatement.


"I would absolutely say Curtis and Will are one of the best backcourts in the country," Morgan said. "There's no question about it and they really complement each other terrifically. Will's a great athlete, has great speed and quickness and Curtis has a great strength and determination in addition to his power."


After an amazing freshman performance Stinson continued his solid play last season. He was a first-team all-Big 12 pick by the Kansas City Star and a second-team all-Big 12 selection by the AP and coaches his sophomore season.


Stinson led Iowa State and ranked No. 8 in the Big 12 in scoring at 17.2 points per game and became the third fastest player in school history to reach 1,000 points, it took him only 60 games.


"I think my freshman year was harder," Stinson said. "I hit the wall, but it wasn't a big thing. I started my sophomore year as a better player. I became smarter and tried to let the game come to me."


With Stinson producing consistently, Blalock had a breakout year for the Cyclones. He averaged 12.3 points and 3.2 rebounds; while his 4.8 and 2 steals per game were good enough for fourth in the Big 12 in both categories. Blalock was named to the Big 12 all-underrated team and Stinson couldn't agree more.


"I think he doesn't get the respect that he should," Stinson said. "He's a great, great player and I don't think anybody in the NCAA can guard him. He's a great player and I go against him every day and I'm like ‘wow, I'm glad he's on my team.'"


Coach Morgan and his staff are glad to have both of players on their team. The two are doing exactly what has been asked of them and more. Since their freshmen season Archibald said he's seen the players start to hold their more teammates accountable.


The coaching staff holds the players responsible if they're late or miss a class, practice, etc. but this preseason that wasn't even a concern.


"I have never had a team that we've never had to run anybody in the preseason," Archibald said. "We haven't had one player late for class, miss a class, be late for a lift or miss a lift, or be late to a practice or miss a practice for any reason.


"We've had an extremely professional approach to our student-athletes and I think it starts with Will and Curtis. I think that Will and Curtis have done a tremendous job of leading and talking about some of the things they've done in the past and this is what has to be done in the feature. They do a great job of painting the picture for our guys."


Archibald said there are times as a coach when they don't need to say things because Stinson and Blalock are going to say it for them. Whereas the coaches have to be a bit more political and polite, Stinson and Blalock don't have to do that.


Archibald said Stinson is more the vocal leader and Blalock is more of the action leader.


"They complement each other extremely well and it's unbelievable how much they've grown," Archibald said. "You can see the results in their personal life and you can see the results of their maturity on the court and with their grades. It's unbelievable how much progress they've made as young men and it's exciting to see that."


If you go into Archibald's office there's a picture of two wolves on his wall.


"That's Curtis and Will," said ISU assistant coach Mike Mennenga. "All I can say is those guys are the leaders of the pack. Probably the most impressive thing is they're instilling those leadership traits to Tasheed [Carr], Rahshon [Clark] and even some of those new guys coming in."


Mennenga said that beyond those words their actions speak at a much higher value and Stinson just has a presence about him.


"Coach Morgan always says something about Curtis and I agree 100 percent," Mennenga said. "You don't find very many people where they can make themselves 10 feet tall."


The coach says the two have that presence about them when adversity strikes or when good things start happening and the Cyclones get on a roll.


"Curtis has a way of making himself 10 feet tall and Will is starting to take that on as well and that's probably the most exciting thing," Mennenga said. "Those guys are pleasures to coach; they're some of the finest basketball players in the United States."


With Stinson attending Winchendon Prep and Blalock at Notre Dame Prep the two knew each other before they stepped foot on the ISU campus, in fact Stinson burned Blalock's team for 25 points, 12 rebounds and 12 assists.


Even though the two knew each other they didn't talk about going to Iowa State together.


"We never talked about coming here," Stinson said. "If I saw him were never talked about school, we were just enjoying the prep school life and when we got here we became closer friends."


Added Blalock: "We like the same stuff, we do everything the same and we dress the same pretty much."


And that connection on the court is felt off the court and vice versa.


"Off the court it helps us because we always talk about what we need to do and how we need to fix things on the court," Blalock said. "We just carry it over to the court after we figure it out off the court."


Being that close-knit and knowing each other as well as they do definitely has its advantages. Archibald said Stinson and Blalock know what the other person is going through and it's not so much knowing where they are on the court, it's knowing each others psyche.


"There are times during games and you know this is when Curtis goes ‘I'm going to take over the game' and you need to know to get Curtis the ball like at Kansas [last season]," Archibald said. "They understand that more than anybody else. Will's been running the point for 15 minutes and all of a sudden Curtis is running the point and as a coaching staff it's not a coaching adjustment, it's a player adjustment and you realize something is going on."


Stinson said the two are both quick learners and that's also helped them understand each other more quickly than other teammates.


"We'll give each other the eye and it's like ‘all right, let's go; it's your turn or it's my turn or let's do this together,'" Stinson said. "It's just amazing how we know each other."


The ability to read each was pivotal last season when Stinson was battling a hand injury. Blalock would make a point to deliver the ball to Stinson's opposite hand so that he didn't hurt his hand worse.


"That's what makes him a good player and a smart point guard," Stinson said. "He knows what our weak points are and where it hurts so, so he delivers it where you know you can catch. He knew my hand was hurting and stuff and he'd throw a bullet and make sure it'd get to my right and not my left one. He helped me get through it a lot."


On the court the two are serious; off the court they're a little more light-hearted.


"When it comes to their games they're serious on the court and off the court," Mennenga said. "But when it comes to every day stuff, they tell jokes, they've got opinions, they're really funny and I've really, really enjoyed getting to know them."


Stinson said that's the way it's got to be.


"That's the only way you can get through this," he said. "You have to have a time where you joke around have fun. On the court you got to be serious, it's not personal, it's business. Everybody's trying to get better and get to the next level and go further in the NCAA's, so that's why we take this so serious."


When Blalock moved halfway across the country, he didn't do it all by himself, his mother Sheila also relocated to Ames.


"I think it's helped a lot," Morgan said. "I think simply because Will can get a home cooked meal and he can drag Curtis. They can have fried chicken or whatever and that's a nice situation.


In a way she's become the teams ‘mom.'


"She cooks for us, she's like the mom," Stinson said, "She's just there for us and if we need her she's there."


Added Blalock: "Financially it helps me out because if I'm broke she can help me out."


This summer Blalock went back to Boston and Stinson home to New York to battle on the storied grounds of Rucker Park. Blalock made a point to make it to some of Stinson's games. Stinson's team made it to the championship game, but lost by a point.


Other than that it was a normal summer, spent conditioning and preparing for the next season.


"I worked on pretty much all of my game," Stinson said. "Mostly I worked on my jump shot, 600-700 shots a day, just working hard. When I got back from surgery I just tried to work on conditioning and work on being a smarter basketball player and making the right decisions."


Maybe the biggest impact that Stinson and Blalock have made at Iowa State could be the future, not for just these next two seasons they have left, it goes beyond that. It goes to the heart of recruiting, back to those playground in New York and Boston.


"It's really interesting how things piggy-back," Morgan said. "One of the reasons Curtis Stinson liked Iowa State is because of Jamaal Tinsley and now there are kids on the East Coast watching Curtis playing and are saying ‘I want to go there, I want to play like Curtis Stinson,' so there's carry over there."


Iowa State is already able to reap the recruiting benefits of the two.


"I think the most impact we can see is the fact that [freshman] Farnold Degand is here," Morgan said. "Farnold is friends with Will and he admired the success Will had here. Initially he didn't want to go far from home, but as a result of the success and comfort that Will has had here he felt this would be a good situation for him."


If ISU men's basketball team is an ecosystem and Stinson and Blalock are the wolves, Mennenga said Morgan is the shark. His intangibles along with his East Coast roots make it ideal for players wanting to feel at home in the Midwest.


"The way I describe Coach to people and it's because of a very unique trait that he has," Mennenga said. "He's like a shark that can swim in all waters. He can be in a real down home rural situation and be just as comfortable and open. At the same time you can take him to Brooklyn and it's just the same.


"A lot of people can't do that, it's very hard to do and find comfort zones in those two different types of settings."


And that is what made both Stinson and Blalock take to the head coach.


"Coach had a big influence on me," Stinson said. "You only get that once in awhile where the coach is where you're from and plays the style you want to play. It helped me out a lot and he's a real big reason why I'm here and I'm glad I made the decision."


Morgan agreed that all three share a lot in common.


"I think they understand that as their college career goes on I can relate to them off the court and I may be able to relate to them better than somebody else," he said.

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