The “Matchup Nightmares”

A little over a week ago I through this out on twitter (this is actually translated from twitter/abbreviated typing to regular English): “Royce White’s current per game stats: 13.4 points, 9.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.1 steals, and 3.9 turnovers. Can you guess who this player is that compares so closely: 13.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, and 3.1 turnovers?” (See, way more than 140 characters).
That tweet generated a few responses…a couple from the smart-asses over at which obviously have no reason to be taken seriously and a message from John Walters with an idea.
When the Godfather goes out of his way to address you there are only two things for you to do, and in this order; shut up and listen. So I did.
The Cyclones Voice’s idea was to put together a list of five players in the history of Cyclone basketball that were the biggest matchup nightmares for opponents. Not necessarily the best or the guys with the best stats but more the guys that had the versatility to make them very difficult to guard.
This is hard to do from a pure numbers standpoint because stats alone do not tell the story of a given player’s total package and attributes. It is also hard because if you try and use just stats you run into a few hurdles. Hurdles like the fact that turnovers weren’t recorded until the 1982-83 season, blocked shots and steals until the 1979-80 season, and assists started in 1973-74.
I have roughly 60 years of player stats by year and career catalogued at my disposal but only about 15-18 years have I been actually paying attention. So, I’m going to do two things…I will share John’s team with you and offer up a bit of commentary and then I will produce a separate team that is derived more solely from numbers, I’ll call it the “Stat Sheet Stuffers”. It is of a similar vein as the nightmare matchup squad but more quantifiable by the information I have at hand.
First things though, I must comment on the basis of John’s idea. I have long been intrigued by this sort of thinking. It must have been 8-10 years ago when I first heard the theory of Pat Riley of his perfect lineup. I don’t have great details but it was essentially expounding upon this thought; Riley wanted to be able to have five players on the court that would all be roughly 6’- 9” and completely interchangeable. All of them having complete skill sets that allowed them to play any position on offense and guard anybody on defense.
I clearly can’t say for certain but you must wonder how much of this thought was cemented with
 he emergence of Magic Johnson, who is essentially the epitome of that description. Guys that I think of in the current NBA that somewhat meet the requirements are guys like LeBron James, Lamar Odom, Andre Kirilenko, and Dirk Nowitzki. Probably none of them fit it entirely, but I think you know what I’m driving at.
Anyway, this was the “Matchup Nightmare” squad as submitted by John:
Royce White, LaFester Rhodes, Kenny Pratt, Julius Michalik, and Victor Alexander.
Royce has been well detailed so let’s start with “Fa La” LaFester Rhodes. For his career, Rhodes finished by averaging 11.1 points, 3.96 rebounds, 0.95 assits, 0.77 steals and 0.66 blocks. The interesting thing for Rhodes was his emergence as a senior.
In his first three seasons he started one game in total and only played in about half of the team’s games. He never averaged more than 4.3 points per game or 2.9 rebounds per game. However, in his senior campaign he made the single largest jump in one year in school history for scoring on a per game basis by shooting up to 22.5 points per game (featuring the 54 he dropped on Iowa in the classic overtime win of 1987).
In that same year he made the 9th biggest jump in one year in school history in rebounds per game with an increase of 5.32 rebounds per game. He totaled 720 points in that season which is the 6th highest single season total in school history, that season accounted for an astounding 79% of his career total 910 points.
The 6’-8” southpaw was listed as a center but registered 23 made 3-pointers in his final year en route to averaging 22.5 points, 7.16 rebounds, 2.25 assists, 1.31 steals, and 1.44 blocked shots.
There are just nine Cyclones in School history that have averaged 15+ points and 6+ rebounds for their career and Kenny Pratt is one of them. The “6’-5” power forward” (in quotes because it’s doubtful he was ever 6’-5”) was known for his circus shots, foot work, pump fakes, and ability to get his shots off amidst the trees he was surrounded by.
He was just 4-23 for his career behind the 3-point line (though one was a gigantic, momentum swinging shot in the NCAA tournament second round against Cincinnati in 1997) but he got to the free throw line 6.84 times per game in his career (4th most in school history behind Don Smith, Bill Cain, and Gary Thompson who all played prior to 1970) and made 4.3 of them per game (7th most).
Pratt was also the man that found Jacy Holloway for an open 3-pointer in the final Big 8 Championship game against Kansas in 1996. It was a pivotal three ball in the final minute en route to ISU laying claim to the tournament title.
For his career (just two seasons from 1995-1997) Pratt averaged 15.07 points, 6.33 rebounds, 2.09 assists, and 1.47 steals.
Julius Michalik was ages ahead of his time. He is the second lefty on this squad and the native of Prividza, Slovakia was an instant fan favorite as a part of the freshman class in 1991-92 that also featured Loren Meyer, Hurl Beechum, and that guy we call “The Mayor”.
Julo’s career numbers aren’t far off of the el
ite bar that Pratt just cleared that was noted above. For his career he tallied 14.48 points, 5.29 rebounds, 2.44 assists, 1.06 steals, and 0.65 blocked shots. Michalik was also 71-213 from behind the arc for his career.
If you look at any stats for most assists, steals, or made 3-pointers by guys taller than 6’-8” in ISU history, across the board it is Michalik that is either currently holding those records or was until guys like Craig Brackins and now Royce White came along. Julo is still 6th on the all time career scoring list with 1,825 points.
Known simply as “V” you would see fans throughout Hilton emphatically holding each arm up at a 60 degree angle to make the letter with their arms. He was known for his soft hands and great touch while being a mountain of a man. In Ames from 1987-1991 and a native of Detroit, MI, Alexander was another fan favorite. He was listed at 6’9” and 265 pounds though that weight seems a bit low looking back.
He played sparingly as a freshman in 23 games but only enough time to rack up 39 points on 18-30 shooting from the floor. However, Big V made his impact known as a sophomore. In that season he skyrocketed to an average of 19.9 points, 8.68 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 0.9 steals, and 1.03 blocked shots.
It was more of the same for his next two seasons as a Cyclone. He’s still 4th on the all-time scoring list with 1,892 points while averaging 17.05 pts, 7.3 rebounds, 1.07 assists, 0.7 steals, and 1.08 blocked shots.
While John’s list is a good one and what I will dub as the first team, I gave everyone’s good buddy Brent Blum a chance to put the second team together. Here is what he came up with:
My man Johnny Jams Walters has some solid choices. In order to get a bit of a different perspective, I chose five other fellas.
G- Curtis Stinson. Stinson was a tremendous combo guard. At 6’3 215, he could over-power the smaller guards and his patented floater finessed its way over the timber in the middle. By his junior year he even developed a solid post game and was always a threat to make a pass if you sent two guys at him. Too bad he didn’t have a lot of help in the post once Homan left.
G- Kantrail Horton. As Jon Gruden would say, “THIS GUY is one of my all-time favorites.” His spacious Charles Barkley like back-side could clear guards out with no trouble. He had almost no lift at all, but he paved his way to five rebounds per game over his career. And if you stepped off him, he would drill a set shot in your face. Everyone remembers Tinsley being undefeated at home in his career, but Kantrail Horton was undefeated as well.
F-Shawn Bankhead. I’m picking Mr. Bankhead for his defensive match-up night mare ability.
Bankhead was vital as the lead defender for Iowa State’s “Renegade” squads of the mid-90’s. He would eliminate the other team’s best scorer, whether they were a guard or a forward. He shut- down Cal’s 6’9 Shareef Abdur-Rahim in the 1st round of the ’96 tourney. Abdur-Rahim had put up 22 points per game as a freshman and Bankhead held him under 10 points.
F- Marcus Fizer. Easy choice here. Fizer came is as a goggled freshman and played with a reckless abandon from the start. He was pretty one-dimensional, hoisting just two threes during his first year. He developed a versatile game and became unguardable his junior (his last) year. 22.8 points and 8 rebounds as a Junior. He shot almost 60 percent from the field and upped his three point percentage to 36 percent as well. In a six game stretch in February/March 2000, he put up 33.5 points and shot 65 percent from the field against Big 12 competition. It was the most dominant stretch from a Cyclone I can remember. Nobody could touch him.
F- Craig Brackins. Not since Big Vic was there an offensive player as skilled as Brackins. Fantastic touch from the low block out to the three point line. He could post you up and then step out on the next possession and drop in a contested three. His 42 point/15 rebound game against KU in 2009 remains one of the marquee performances in Cyclone history. If only he would have played in Fred Hoiberg’s system….OH MY.
Now, briefly let’s look at the team of “Stat Sheet Stuffers” that I have thrown together. The brief requirements for eligibility based off of career numbers. Players had to have averaged at least eight points per game and five rebounds per game.
A problem arises that was alluded to earlier with the fact that assists, steals and blocked shots weren’t in play for everyone back in the day. So, I’m going to acknowledge those that excelled in scoring and rebounding but my team will be made up of guys that played starting in the early 70’s to present day.
Here are those guys that excelled in scoring and rebounding and played largely before the other
stats were kept (except Dean Uthoff). This list includes the only four players in Iowa State

history that have averaged a double-double for their careers:

Also, players had to have played more than one season. No Jake Anderson, Marquis Gilstrap, Sam Mack, or Robert Wislon (for the six of you that have heard of him). Here is your all “Stat Sheet Stuffing Team”:

I left White off for now but it is likely he could be the headliner of this team by the time his career at ISU is over.

Within this article you have seen the most versatile and productive players in the history of Iowa State basketball. From the all time greats in the 50’s and 60’s to Royce White who is just a sophomore on this year’s squad. Among all of them, these are the guys that have stood out as “Matchup Nightmares”.

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