Larry Bird’s not walking through that door…


Iowa State big man Royce White take a few free throws (one of the few things he doesn't do well: 49 percent) during the Cyclones workout Wednesday at the KFC Yum! Center. (Neill Ostrout photo)

The UConn players and coaches won’t meet with the media until after 6 p.m. here at the KFC Yum! Center. But the Huskies’ opponent in their NCAA opener, Iowa State, spent some time with press Wednesday afternoon.

Here are a few of the highlights:

— One of the most entertaining answers during the Cyclones time with the media Wednesday came from guard Scott Christopherson when asked if Iowa State might be intimidated by the Huskies.

“Kemba Walker’s not coming back, is he?” Christopherson said.

He was obviously joking and followed that up with words of respect for UConn.

“We know Connecticut’s one of the most storied programs in all of college basketball. We know they’re the defending national champs and have a ton of talent. We feel like we earned our way to be here, too,” Christopherson said. “We respect them but I don’t think there’s a fear factor with them at all.”

— The ISU players realize they can only aspire to be their fans’ second-favorite personality. Coach Fred Hoiberg is beloved like no one else in Ames, Iowa.

“They call him the mayor,” Christopherson said. “He probably could run for office in Iowa if he really wanted to.”

Michigan State transfer Chris Allen thought there was something wrong before one of his first games in Ames.

“He walks out on the court before the game, you’d think the game is over because everybody is just standing up clapping like we just won a game. And coach is just walking out,” Allen said. “The first time it happened I’m looking around like ‘Man, what’s going on?’ I see coach coming out and everybody giving him a standing ovation.”

— Both Allen and Christopherson have experience against the Huskies. Allen was at Michigan State and played in the 2009 national semifinal against the Huskies in Detroit. Christopherson began his career at Marquette and played in one game against the Huskies during the 2007-08 season (an 89-73 loss in Gampel), getting in for just one minute of action.

Neither of those experiences figure to have much of an impact Thursday.

“That was way too long ago. They’ve got a totally different team,” Allen said. “It’s all about preparation now and watching film and trying to get the ‘W’.

— ISU big man Royce White will obviously be tough for UConn to handle. He leads the Cyclones in every major category and is essentially a point center (sort of like Jeff Green when he was at Georgetown, though White is 270 pounds).

“The best thing about Royce is how difficult a player he is to prepare for,” Hoiberg said. “He’s such a unique kid as far as how he plays.

“I get asked all the time by people, people I worked with in the NBA, who do you compare him to?” Hoiberg continued. “I don’t know. He’s such a unique player and plays such a different style that it’s difficult to answer that question.”

White isn’t the only player that is difficult for an opponent to simulate, of course.

“We try to simulate Andre Drummond in practice. We can’t do it. We don’t have anybody that size,” Hoiberg said. “I’m sure they’re trying to simulate Royce White in practice and they can’t do it. Nobody can simulate what he does.”

— Hoiberg, a former NBA executive with Minnesota Timberwolves, was asked what he thought of Drummond and Jeremy Lamb, UConn’s two probably future pros.

“Big-time players. I think the sky’s the limit for both those kids,” Hoiberg said.

On Drummond: “He’s going to be a big-time pro just because of the size he has,” Hoiberg said.

On Lamb: “As far as Lamb, he’s a complete guard,” Hoiberg said. “He’s got the size, he’s got the length, he’s got the athleticism and he’s a tough kid to stop.”

Hoiberg called them both “future lottery picks.”

— Hoiberg called UConn coach Jim Calhoun a “legend” and said his team, although not intimidated, lacks the playing and coaching experience the Huskies have.

“They’ve got six players that played in the national championship game. They’ve got a coach who is coaching his 60th NCAA game,” Hoiberg said. “We’ve got one guy.”

Allen went to two Final Four’s with Michigan State. Incidentally, he’s played in more NCAA games in his career (14) than anyone else in the field this year.

“The experience advantage definitely goes to UConn,” Hoiberg said.



About Neill

Neill Ostrout covers the UConn men's basketball team for the Journal Inquirer in Manchester. He has been a member of the "Horde" for more than 16 years.
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