These are busy times for Fred Hoiberg. The coach of the Iowa State Cyclones, who has become one of the more sought-after commodities in the NBA, is off to Greece to get a close look at recent signee Georgios Tsalmpouris. But while Hoiberg and his staff were flying across the ocean, two of his players were grounded. According to the Des Moines Register, sophomore guard Matt Thomas was arrested over the weekend for operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
Iowa State’s chances of returning to the Sweet 16 and pounding next year’s NCAAB betting lines just got a little bit smaller. Thomas has been suspended indefinitely; so has junior forward Abdel Nader, a transfer from Northern Illinois who was also arrested for OWI back in April. Can Hoiberg get the Cyclones (28-8 SU, 18-16 ATS last year) back on the right track? He’s faced tougher challenges in his life.
Take the Bus
Thomas (9.6 PER) was reportedly stopped early Saturday morning by Ames police because of an improper brake light, at which point he was also charged with OWI, earning himself a short stay in jail before his brother bailed him out. The Cyclones suspended Thomas for violating the school’s code of conduct for student-athletes – as they did with Nader (14.6 PER in 2012-13), who has pled not guilty to his OWI charge. Nader is due to appear in court on June 24.
Hoiberg reportedly met with his players on Saturday to talk about the situation, before leading a group of about 5,000 participants at the American Heart Association’s annual Heart Walk. The former Iowa State and NBA swingman is the co-chair of the Heart Walk; he’s been wearing a pacemaker since undergoing surgery in 2005 to correct an enlarged aortic root. Hoiberg also makes annual trips to Camp Odayin in Bloomington, Minn. to visit children with heart disease. These OWI arrests are a serious matter, and obviously ripe for gossip, but they shouldn’t faze Hoiberg.
NCAAB betting has always been more of an exercise in handicapping coaches over players, and that’s only become truer now that student-athletes are quicker to transfer from program to program. Thomas is eminently replaceable after his disappointing freshman campaign – he came out of high school ranked No. 51 on the ESPN 100, but only started the first 15 games for Iowa State before giving way to Naz Long (12.1 PER). Both Thomas and Long will likely be supplanted this year by UNLV guard Bryce Dejean-Jones (19.3 PER), who will be eligible to play immediately as a grad transfer.
Nader’s situation is a bit more pressing. The Cyclones lost senior forward Melvin Ejim (23.2 PER) to graduation, and Nader was/is expected to play a significant role on the Iowa State frontline. But again, Hoiberg has plenty of options at his disposal, thanks to his success on the recruiting trail. Former Marquette signee Jameel McKay might be good enough to start for the Cyclones; at worst, McKay should be an impact player off the bench behind senior forward Dustin Hogue (20.1 PER).
Then there’s the aforementioned Tsalmpouris. The 7-foot-1 center, who turns 18 on Sunday, put up ridiculous numbers for the Greek U-17 team: 27 points, 17 rebounds and 10 blocks per game. McKay won’t be eligible until Dec. 20, so Tsalmpouris should have the opportunity to step in right away and give Hoiberg and the Cyclones some rim protection. Expected starting center Percy Gibson was Iowa State’s tallest player last year at 6-foot-9. Keep an eye on Tsalmpouris later this summer as he plays for Greece at the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup.