Mike Jacobson says it’s about the Iowa State bottom line and not about how many minutes he plays
Randy Peterson, email@example.com
The Register sat down with Iowa State assistant coach Daniyal Robinson to discuss all things recruiting: signees, a miss down South, remaining plans for 2019, approach to landing elite in-state talent, keys to building a Florida pipeline and much more.
On Marcedus Leech
Of Iowa State’s 2019 signees, Leech might be the most intriguing. The 6-foot-5 scorer was once a five-star prospect before he suffered a gruesome leg injury last August.
Robinson first watched Leech a year prior, as he was entering his sophomore year.
“And it was like, ‘Oh my god — this kid is ridiculous,'” Robinson said. “Shortly after that, I think Kansas came in, Kentucky and all that. But what happened there was those guys kind of came and went (after the injury), and we continued to keep tabs on the kid. (Assistant) coach (William) Small did a good job of just checking in.”
Leech first announced he was committing to Iowa State via Snapchat in May. While the Cyclones always maintained their recruitment, they waited until they could see Leech play and see that his health checked out before officially accepting his commitment.
They saw what they needed — and then some — in July.
“I was hoping no other coaches were watching him,” Robinson laughed, remembering how Leech easily scored 18 points in the first half of the game he watched. “When all those people went away and we were still checking in, we were still there for him, I think you can trust that.
“He is definitely a diamond in the rough. You haven’t seen his best basketball. You’ve seen flashes. I think he’s going to continue to get stronger. I think he’ll fit in with what we’re doing because he’s lightning-quick. He’s cat-quick.”
On Tre Jackson
Another potential diamond in the rough, Jackson didn’t even have a 247Sports or Rivals recruiting profile when Iowa State offered him in August.
When assistant coach James Kane joined the staff, he suggested they go watch Jackson in July.
“And then once (head) coach (Steve Prohm) and I saw him — I can’t remember what gym it was in — but, man, you saw his range, you saw his athleticism and then his energy,” Robinson remembered. “He’s the energy guy. Man, he had some passes there where he had great vision, as well.”
Iowa State offered a few weeks later. Soon, South Carolina jumped in. Robinson thinks they were able to hold off Jackson’s home-state school for several reasons.
“It goes back to relationships. And then, sometimes, I think in a situation like that, he had been around South Carolina so much, so much, that the opportunity to get away and experience something different, I think he took advantage of it,” Robinson said. “Also, I think our style of play really has been appealing to most kids, and he’s one of those guys — from being able to play multiple positions and what coach Prohm has done with guards.”
On Luke Anderson
Robinson foresees Luke Anderson, a 6-foot-8 forward out of Florida, developing into a positionless stretch guy in Ames.
The Cyclones got in early, becoming Anderson’s first high-major offer last August. Even though local schools such as Florida State, Georgia and Georgia Tech later got involved, Robinson thinks the early interest paid off.
“Local schools had been (showing some interest), but Small did a really good job cultivating a relationship,” Robinson said. “And then the key for us is always getting guys to campus. He fit. I think they really liked our culture. Our guys did a really good job with him. Once he got to campus, I think the environment that we had there was something that drew him to us.”
What’s the plan for a fourth scholarship?
You can just about pencil in Lindell Wigginton declaring for the NBA Draft after this season, so Iowa State is keeping its eyes open for a fourth 2019 scholarship.
“You just have to see how the season plays out. Over the course of the season, every year, sometimes your needs change. Guys may develop,” Robinson said. “In Lindell’s case, man, hopefully he’s great and we win a lot of games and he has an opportunity, because we all know that’s what his dream is. So, for us right now with the fourth scholarship, we’ve got our radars out. We’re just kind of casting a wide net, keeping tabs on what’s out there.”
High school seniors, junior college prospects, sit-out and graduate transfers — everything is being considered.
“It’s hard. You can’t go all-in on a kid right now if you don’t have a scholarship,” Robinson said. “That’s not how we operate. We’re just keeping tabs.”
Might there even be a fifth scholarship?
“It’s hard to say,” Robinson said. “Every college program goes through it — whether a guy goes to the NBA or not. That’s why I say you never know what’s going to unfold throughout the season. We like our guys. We think if we can keep this group together, man, we’ve got a chance to do some special things with the incoming guys and the young guys now getting experience that are ahead of schedule.”
On the approach to landing elite in-state talent
College coaches can’t publicly comment on prospects until they sign their National Letter of Intent. But Robinson did address how Iowa State is trying to bring this state’s elite talent to Ames.
“We’ve got to do everything we can,” he said. “We’ve got to be aggressive with our approach, and I think we have with the guys that we feel like are our level. We’re doing everything we can with those guys.”
On maintaining pipeline in Chicago
Robinson and the Cyclones made a major splash in Chicago last year by landing Talen Horton-Tucker, Zion Griffin and George Conditt. The city’s 2020 and 2021 classes look strong.
How can Iowa State keep up its fledgling pipeline?
“Continue to go,” Robinson said. “You have to go back, continue to be visible in the state, and we are. There’s a ton of 2021 talent in the state. A handful of 2020s, as well. But I think just being visible. Getting those guys over to some games, hopefully. Just having those Chicago guys on the roster right now and actually getting in the games and playing a little bit, they see them (on TV), so that helps out a ton.”
On creating pipeline in Florida
Combine Small southeast connections and the addition of Kane, who’s from Florida, and it’s clear Iowa State will try to create a stronger foothold in that state moving forward.
“For sure,” Robinson said.
The Cyclones have already offered three 2020 prospects from Florida. Four of their six 2021 offers are to Florida prospects, too.
“Coach Small does a great job in the southeast region. And James being from there, he’s got built-in relationships, personal relationships, where he’s been a known guy for 20-plus years,” Robinson said. “And everywhere he’s been, he’s got guys from that state. We’re definitely going to continue to recruit the state.”
On missing on Kira Lewis
Iowa State was in the picture for several blue-chip 2019 recruits, maybe none more so than Alabama five-star point guard Kira Lewis. He wound up re-classifying to 2018 and committing to the home-state Crimson Tide.
But the thought is that Iowa State was among his final few choices.
“That played a huge factor, being able to, a 2018 kid, move up a class. That was the major key,” Robinson said. “We were as strong as we could possibly be in there. I think the kid felt strong about our staff. I think he liked what coach (Prohm) has done in the past with point guards. I think we were a major player. He’s doing well right now. He’s playing a lot, so good for him.”
On NCAA rule changes
Before NCAA rule changes, Division I coaches had five evaluation periods in which they could go watch high school prospects at various AAU tournaments — two in April and three in July.
Now, there are only two evaluation periods that allow coaches to go watch AAU ball — one in April and one in July.
“You’ve got to do your work early,” Robinson said. “You can’t just go out anymore and try to be your first time evaluating kids (at the AAU events). You have to do your work in terms of the intel you get on the kids, whether you’ve seen them on tape or you’ve seen them personally. You have to do a much better job of your intel leading up to the recruiting periods now.
“I think that’s where the NCAA is trying to go back with having the high school coaches involved. But the high school coaches haven’t been involved in so long. They’ve got to get back into it. It’s going to be interesting.”
Did poor 2018 season affect 2019 recruitment?
“It didn’t really. There’s different ways to look at a down year,” Robinson said. “We had a ton of things that didn’t go right last year in terms of injuries and those type of things. And we lost so much from the year before. Obviously, we want to be better.”
What is Robinson’s favorite part of recruiting?
Robinson still remembers recruiting Zach Norvell, who wound up picking Gonzaga. But he remains close with Norvell and his dad. Those relationships helped Iowa State get footing with Horton-Tucker, who’s also very close with Norvell.
“Oftentimes, you don’t get a lot of kids you recruit. But you build relationships. If you’re doing it the right way, you build relationships that go beyond a kid playing for you for four seasons,” Robinson said. “It’s changed for me over the years. Now, it’s more like I see where my own kids are. My daughter has been through the recruiting process. My sons are 9 and 12, about to be 13.
“So you want to be an example for kids. You look at (prospects) as not just potential student-athletes, but you look at them as kids, as part of your family.”
Want more stories like this? Subscribe to the Des Moines Register today.
Matthew Bain covers college football and basketball recruiting for the Des Moines Register. He also helps out with Iowa and Iowa State football and basketball coverage for HawkCentral and Cyclone Insider. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MatthewBain_.