By Anthony Hanson, KURE 88.5 Sports Reporter
AMES—Iowa State men’s basketball has nine newcomers and only one returning starter.
If it sounds familiar, that’s because it is.
Iowa State and head coach T.J. Otzelberger’s group of new transfers and freshmen made its debut Monday night at Hilton Coliseum with an 88-39 win over the Summit League’s Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI).
Last season on opening night, the Cyclones took the court with seven newcomers during a win against Kennesaw State. And while Otzelberger isn’t interested in comparing this year’s squad to last, the similarities might be too loud for Cyclone fans to ignore.
Monday night, an Iowa State point guard took the court for his first time at Hilton Coliseum. Jaren Holmes, a transfer from St. Bonaventure, orchestrated the Iowa State offense and answered Iowa State’s biggest preseason personnel question.
Since Jeremiah Williams suffered a torn Achilles tendon prior to the season tip-off, the Cyclones have been without a definitive starting point guard. Otzelberger said at the team’s media day in October that Holmes, freshman Tamin Lipsey and freshman Eli King would all receive an opportunity to take point this season.
It was Holmes, however, who filled the role for a majority of minutes on Monday night. The senior from Romulus, Michigan impacted the game on both ends of the court with 23 points and three steals in 24 minutes.
All three steals from Holmes came in the first half.
Last season when the Cyclones and Otzelberger debuted, so did true freshman point guard Tyrese Hunter.
Hunter, like Holmes, made an immediate impact in game one. He later became Iowa State’s x-factor during an unexpected run to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament.
With Hunter taking to the transfer portal and playing elsewhere this season, this year’s team is a totally new group with a totally new set of variables, according to Otzelberger. But for the second straight year, a newcomer at point guard will make his mark for Iowa State.
“It was truly a surreal experience,” Holmes said postgame. “With all the people that came here from Michigan, I’m right along those guys. I can say that I scored at Hilton Coliseum just like Monte [Morris] or Will Clyburn.”
The rest of Iowa State’s newcomers helped create another striking similarity to last season’s Cyclone squad. The defensive identity that defined the 2021-22 season was back on display in Hilton Coliseum.
Down low, graduate transfer Osun Osunniyi and senior Hason Ward went from squaring off against each other in the Atlantic 10 conference to protecting the paint together.
Osunniyi tallied two blocks and a steal on defense, including an emphatic block with 10:55 to go in the first half. The transfer from St. Bonaventure added 10 points to his box score, with two of his four field goals being dunks.
Ward, a transfer from VCU, spent over 12 minutes on the court but made his presence felt with three steals, seven rebounds and two dunks of his own.
“He made a monster impact in that 12:35,” Otzelberger said. “He plays with such terrific energy at all times. We saw him making many impactful plays tonight. We’re going to need to continue to count on him to do that moving forward.”
Iowa State will next face North Carolina A&T next Sunday at Hilton Coliseum.