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Transfers key Iowa State’s success; K-State looks to rebound on the road

Arne Green, The Salina Journal, Kan. –

Frank Martin has had some success with transfers during his Kansas State coaching career.

Denis Clemente and Curtis Kelly both were key contributors during the Wildcats’ NCAA Elite Eight run in 2010.

But Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg has taken it to a whole new level.

When K-State visits Ames, Iowa, for today’s 8 p.m. game at Hilton Coliseum, it will face a Cyclone lineup with three new transfers in the starting lineup. A fourth, senior guard Scott Christopherson, played a year at Marquette but predated Hoiberg’s arrival last year.

Hoiberg, who has two more transfers sitting out this season, has seamlessly integrated the newcomers into his system and the Cyclones have responded with a 15-6 record, including a 5-3 Big 12 mark.

Minnesota transfer Royce White, a 6-foot-8, 270-pound powerhouse, leads the team with 13.6 points and 9.6 rebounds a game. Senior guard Chris Allen from Michigan State adds 11.7 points and junior guard Chris Babb, who played two years ago at Penn State averages 9.1 points.

While brining in that many transfers can be a challenge, Martin said the NCAA rule that forces them to sit out a year helps the transition.

“If they come in and they’ve got to play immediately, that can be difficult,” Martin said. “But when they get to sit out all together and learn how you want them to play, then as a coach you learn about your players.

“You learn how to use them, how to put them in places to be more successful.”

Clemente, who played point guard for two years after two seasons at Miami, was a case in point.

“When I had Clemente here for a whole year, he learned to play the way I needed him to play, within our structure and our culture,” Martin said. “But I learned what he’s real good at and how he could help us.”

It doesn’t hurt that all the new Iowa State transfers can play. A fourth, 6-9 Southern Illinois transfer Anthony Booker averages 12.4 minutes and 4.0 points a game off the bench.

The Cyclones, fourth in the Big 12, a game ahead of K-State (15-5, 4-4), are coming off a 72-64 home upset of Kansas on Saturday

“They’re good,” Martin said. “Everyone was surprised about (Saturday’s Cyclone victory over Kansas), but I wasn’t. They’re a good basketball team.”

K-State, which dropped a second league game at home Saturday, falling 63-60 to Oklahoma, is looking to get one back on the road. It was the Wildcats’ second loss in two weeks to the Sooners, though they had won three straight in between.

“They’re going to be ready,” K-State guard Rodney McGruder said of Iowa State. “They’re going to be with a lot of confidence.

“We just can’t go out dwelling on (the Oklahoma) loss. We have to try to get over it and just prepare for them and get ready for the challenge.”

The Wildcats struggled offensively against OU, particularly from the perimeter, where they were 3 of 17 on 3-pointers. McGruder was 1 of 6 outside the arc but did score 19 points to raise his average to 15.7 a game.

“You can’t lose at home,” Martin said. “If you want to compete for a conference championship, you can’t lose at home.

“We had a great opportunity (Saturday) to solidify ourselves as a top-third part of the league somewhere and we gave one away.”

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