Bumped from the diaries.
In his novel 1984 George Orwell wrote, "If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face...forever." Well, that was the first quote that popped into my head when I heard that Wesley Johnson was transferring.
It seems that ever since 2001 Cyclone basketball has been nothing but a glimmer of hope followed by the ever familiar boot stamping on our faces once again. A second consecutive Big 12 championship is followed by flameouts to Baylor and Hampton. Watching Jake Sullivan gamely try to run the offense from the point guard position can pretty much define the next few years of bad to below average teams who had a few moments but could never do better than the NIT.
Throughout it all there was always the same refrain, "yeah, but look at the incoming players. We'll be decent next year, good the year after that, and the year after that...look out." The thing is, players like Jerome Harper or Chris Alexander or the Russian dude either never showed up or disappeared as soon as they did. Just when the next supposedly great class was coming in we had the humiliation of the Eustachy pictures and it felt like we would never win a game again as coach after coach turned us down and an entire class threatened to never set foot in Ames.
Eventually we settled on Wayne Morgan and that class did show some promise, making a run to the NIT Final Four and the NCAA tournament 2nd round before crashing and burning just when expectations were beginning to be raised in that infamous "look out!" third year. The defections continued unabated as Morgan was canned after that season.
McDermott was brought in to bring stability to the program and return it to the tournament. I wasn't nearly as ecstatic about the hire as some people but I was willing to give him a chance because what other choice did we have? Unfortunately the list of players leaving continued to grow longer. We watched as players like Tasheed Carr and Shawn Taggart made valuable contributions to other schools at positions where we desperately needed the help. Despite all of that we were once again hearing the familiar refrains of "we'll be better next year, good the year after that, then we'll bring in Harrison Barnes and look out!" During this season I said that the biggest factor in McDermott's success or failure at ISU would be if he would able to keep players in the program.
You know it's spring when two things begin to pop up: dandelions and transfer rumors at Iowa State. The familiar rumor cycle began, "I heard from a friend of a friend..." followed closely by "I'll believe it when I see some proof..." Unfortunately, more often than not, these rumors have been spot on. This morning I saw the rumors and this afternoon I saw it was official. Just like that Wesley Johnson was gone, taking with him almost any bit of optimism a Cyclone fan could muster.
This may have been the cruelest of them all. Here was a kid who came out of nowhere who suddenly was dominating at every position he played. He was an athletic freak who could out jump the big guys and out shoot the guards. The type of player who could be the difference maker or the spark to reignite a program. It was just a week ago that I looked at who was coming back in the rest of the Big 12. Despite all of my built-in defense mechanisms I actually began to think that maybe we could actually get into the top half of the conference with a few breaks. "If Wes could stay healthy, if Lucca is as good as people say, if Brackins develops...if, if if."
Ha, I should have known. Lucy will once again pull the football away from Charlie Brown, the boot will stamp on that face, and Iowa State basketball will always be three years away from "look out!" Well, I'm still looking.
So, the question is, where do we go from here? McDermott has done nothing to convince me that my earlier concerns were unfounded but I don't see firing him now as accomplishing anything. Iowa State once again finished in the top 25 for basketball attendance but how long will fans show up for a crappy product? Unfortunately, transfers like this keep pushing back the timetable of when actual results will be seen and it's getting tougher and tougher for me to see things ending well. All I see is that damn boot.