A College Bkb Report
Jan. 21, 1992
AMES, Iowa (AP) _ Some new faces have revived the old ways at Iowa State. The Cyclones are running - and winning - again.
Two freshmen and two junior college transfers have teamed with veteran guard Justus Thigpen in a startling success story. At 13-3, Iowa State has won more games than it did all last season and is off to its second-best start in coach Johnny Orr's 12 years at the school.
Before an 85-67 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State on Saturday, the Cyclones were ranked 24th nationally. They're undefeated at home, they won at Minnesota and they held high-scoring Oklahoma 30 points below its average in winning that game.
''To have four players who never played Division I ball before, it's been a total surprise to us that they've jelled like they have and have been as successful as we've been,'' Orr said. ''We never anticipated that.
''I expected us to be more roller coaster, to be up and down. I didn't know how soon they'd come together.''
The ride has been smooth because the team has been unselfish and versatile.
All five starters have double-figure scoring averages, led by Thigpen at 16.3. If someone has a bad game, the others pick up the slack. If a team keeps the Cyclones from getting the ball inside, they take it outside. That includes 6-foot-11 center Julius Michalik, a freshman who is third on the team in 3- point baskets.
''I think one of the big keys was that we really had a good preseason program. That brought everybody together,'' said freshman forward Fred Hoiberg, who last year received a petition from 1,000 fans urging him to sign with Iowa State.
''Plus, coach Orr has stressed playing as a team. He knows the reason he didn't have winning seasons the last couple of years was that he didn't have that team togetherness.''
The Cyclones also are quicker than they've been in recent years, when the offense was built around massive center Victor Alexander.
The 6-9, 290-pounder was a good scorer (23.4 average) and accurate shooter (66 percent). But teammates had to wait until Alexander lumbered down the floor before they could run the offense. He also was a liability on defense.
This season, the Cyclones wait for no one. After going 10-18 and 12-19 the last two seasons, Iowa State is playing more like the swift, lean teams that Orr had in the mid-1980s, when the school made four straight NCAA tournament appearances.
''We've changed everything,'' Orr said. ''We've adjusted to our present material and talent. The big thing is, the guys we have now are more conducive to the way I like to play and how the good teams of mine used to play.
''It's no knock on anyone, but we have different kids, different kind of players. So far, they've been very good.''
Thigpen, Hoiberg and Michalik are joined in the starting lineup by junior college transfers Ron Bayless and Howard Eaton. Bayless is a 6-1 guard who can penetrate or shoot the 3-pointer equally well. Eaton, a 6-6 forward, leads the Cyclones in rebounding and is their best defender.
Two other freshmen - Loren Meyer and Hurl Beechum - are making valuable contributions. Meyer started the first six games at center, then gave way to Michalik, a native of Czechoslovakia who has been the biggest surprise.
A left-hander with a soft shooting touch, Michalik is Iowa State's No. 2 scorer (13.2) and rebounder (5.4). He's shooting 59 percent from the field and has made nine of 23 3-point attempts.
''He's really turned out to be their key player,'' said Morningside coach Jerry Schmutte, who saw Michalik score 16 points and block three shots against his team. ''He's a 6-11, two guard, maybe point guard. Seriously, he handles the ball pretty well. He makes good passes. He plays with a lot of poise and composure.''
The new blood has rejuvenated the 64-year-old Orr. He steps livelier and pumps his fist with more vigor during his pregame ritual of strolling the floor while the band plays the ''Tonight Show'' theme.
After the disappointing records the last two seasons, many thought Orr was on the verge of retirement. And now?
''I'll keep going as long as I feel good,'' he said. ''These are great kids. You tell them to do something, boom, they do it. You don't have keep on them.
''Goodness gracious, they've done things already that we never anticipated. I think they'll continue to work hard. If we continue to get that kind of effort, you never know what may happen.''