NBA, NCAA

The 35 Iowa State Players That Played in the NBA (and the 5 Best NBA Cyclones)

Iowa State basketball has never been a school that the best high school recruits place at the top of their wish list yet the smaller university has produced a lot of very good players over the years. From Marcus Fizer to Fred Hoiberg to Jamal Tinsley.

Considering the size of the program, it’s not a surprise that the state school has never won an NCAA Championship. The team hasn’t reached a Final Four since 1994. Part of the reason is because Iowa State competes in a tough Big 12 conference, sharing the stage with Blue Bloods like of Kansas and bigger name universities such as Baylor, Kansas State, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Texas. Other well-regarded programs in the Big 12 are TCU, Texas Tech, and West Virginia. 

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Despite not being a well-known college program, Iowa State have had several high profile Cyclones that have been drafted into the NBA. The development staff at Iowa State has has helped multiple players play professionally domestically and overseas. As far as the Iowa State players that have moved onto the NBA, there are currently 35 former Iowa State Cyclones that have put on an NBA jersey where ten of them drafted into the first round. Here’s the full list.

The Best NBA Players from Iowa State
Player Pos Drafted NBA Teams Years Games Points Rebs Asts
Tyrese Haliburton PG 2020 IND SAC 2 148 14.88 3.67 7.24
Jeff Hornacek SG 1986 PHL PHX UTH 14 1077 14.54 3.39 4.9
Monte Morris G 2017 DEN WAS 5 295 10.44 2.41 3.79
Marcus Fizer F 2000 CHI MIL NOP 6 289 9.63 4.64 1.22
Talen Horton-Tucker SF 2019 LAL UTH 3 147 9.14 2.8 2.63
Zaid Abdul-Aziz FC 1968 BOS BUF CIN HOU MIL SEA 10 505 9.02 8.05 1.19
Victor Alexander PF 1991 DET GOS 6 286 8.89 4.84 0.9
Jamaal Tinsley PG 2001 IND MEM UTH 12 547 8.5 2.93 6.09
Price Brookfield GF 1947 INJ ROR 2 61 7.8 0 2.25
Sam Mack SF 1992 GOS HOU MIA SAN VAN 8 259 7.76 2.06 1.3
Dedric Willoughby G 1997 CHI 1 25 7.6 2.04 2.64
Jeff Grayer GF 1988 CHA GOS MIL PHL SAC 10 438 7.44 2.95 1.45
Stacey Arceneaux GF 1961 STH 1 7 7.14 4.57 0.57
Wesley Johnson GF 2010 LAC LAL MIN NOP PHX WAS 9 609 6.95 3.16 1.06
Georges Niang F 2016 IND PHL UTH 6 319 6.19 2.02 0.81
Justin Hamilton C 2012 BRK CHA MIA MIN 3 113 6.08 3.57 0.81
Mike Taylor PG 2008 LAC 1 51 5.67 1.71 2.08
Bryce Dejean-Jones G 2015 NOP 1 14 5.64 3.43 1.07
Kelvin Cato C 1997 DET HOU NYK ORL POR 10 541 5.47 5.31 0.45
Fred Hoiberg G 1995 CHI IND MIN 10 541 5.44 2.66 1.56
Loren Meyer F-C 1995 DAL DEN PHX 5 140 4.61 3.43 0.55
Abdel Nader SF 2016 BOS OKC PHX 5 202 4.58 1.86 0.54
Lindell Wigginton SG 2019 MIL 1 19 4.21 1.32 1.21
Matt Thomas G 2017 CHI TOR UTH 3 126 3.98 1.23 0.48
Jackson Vroman FC 2004 NOP PHX 2 87 3.28 3 0.59
Diante Garrett SG 2011 PHX UTH 2 90 3.2 1.24 1.68
Marial Shayok G 2019 PHL 1 4 2.75 1.75 0.25
Deonte Burton F 2017 OKC 2 71 2.62 1.2 0.37
Paul Shirley PF 2001 ATL CHI PHX 4 18 1.83 1.06 0.39
Will Blalock G 2006 DET 1 14 1.79 1.07 1.21
Craig Brackins F 2010 PHL 2 17 1.76 1.12 0.53
Naz Long PG 2017 IND UTH 3 20 1.65 0.65 1.15
Chris Babb G 2013 BOS 2 14 1.57 1.21 0.21
Barry Stevens GF 1985 GOS 3 2 1 1 0
Royce White PF 2012 SAC 2 3 0 0 0

Current Iowa State Cyclones In The NBA

Going into the 2022-23 season, there are four active ISU players in the league.

Georges Niang Taken in the second round with the 50th overall pick in 2016, Georges Niang has made a living out of being a solid rotation player in the NBA. He barely played for the Indiana Pacers and Utah Jazz, and spent most of his time in the G-League with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Santa Cruz Warriors, and Salt Lake City Stars.

Niang was quite an accomplished player during his days with the Cyclones, earning Big 12 tournament MVP honors and being named twice to the First-Team All-Big 12 and once to the Third-team All-Big 12. However, it wasn’t until 2021 that he could establish himself in the league.

Playing at both forward spots, Georges Niang is a valuable asset for the Philadelphia 76ers. He can stretch the floor with his shooting, rebounds the ball well for a guy his size, and he’s not a liability on the defensive end of the floor.

Monte Morris Monte Morris doesn’t get enough credit for his impact on the floor. Still, truth be told, he’s one of the most serviceable low-profile point guards in the league and, according to ClutchBet.com, one of the best basketball players of all time coming from Iowa State college. Monte is a steady playmaker who doesn’t make many mistakes and takes good care of the ball.

Morris was taken with the 51st overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Denver Nuggets, where he spent five years alternating between the first team and their G-League affiliate, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers.

He continued to climb his way up in their rotation, even becoming a starter for most of the 2021-22 season. Now, he’s starting at point guard for the Washington Wizards, taking some pressure off Bradley Beal’s shoulders as their primary ballhandler. 

Talen Horton-Tucker The Los Angeles Lakers had plenty of hopes for Talen Horton-Tucker and even refused to trade him despite having multiple offers for him a couple of seasons ago. However, he failed to step up when given a chance, so he was eventually dealt to the Utah Jazz in the trade that sent Patrick Beverley to Los Angeles.

Horton-Tucker was taken 46th overall in 2019 by the Orlando Magic and then immediately traded to the Lakers. He spent the 2019-20 season with their G-League affiliate, the South Bay Lakers. 

Despite his shortcomings, there’s still a chance that Horton-Tucker turns out to be an explosive scorer in the NBA. He just needs to get more touches, and playing for a rebuilding team like the Jazz will help him.

Tyrese Haliburton Tyrese Haliburton is the latest Iowa State Cyclone to make the league. He’s also the third-highest draft pick in program history, as he was taken with the 12th overall pick by the Sacramento Kings in 2020. The Kings had him next to De’Aaron Fox during his rookie season, and the two coexisted perfectly in the backcourt. Then, shockingly, he was traded to the Indiana Pacers alongside Buddy Hield and Tristan Thompson in return for Domantas Sabonis. Haliburton is leading the NBA in assists per game in just his third season in the league. He’s a special talent and has already blossomed as an efficient scorer from all three levels, and could be an all-star candidate for years to come.

The Best Iowa State NBA Players

Speaking of Haliburton, we consider the young point guard to be one of the best Iowa State players to ever put on an NBA jersey.  The Cyclone that became the most-successful player in the NBA is Jeff Hornacek. He was an NBA all-star with the Phoenix Suns before sharing the backcourt with John Stockton during the Karl Malone-led Jazz teams that made the NBA Finals in 1997 and 1998. After Hornacek, we would place Jamaal Tinsley in second place, The point guard was a core piece of several strong Indiana Pacer teams.

In third place is Zaid Abdul-Aziz (formerly Don Smith) who played from the late 1960’s to late 1970’s for five NBA teams; nearly averaging a double double for his career.

We think Haliburton is already fourth on the list and has the potential to surpass Tinsley and Abdul-Aziz if he plays a few more seasons at the level he’s progressing at.  After that, we pay respect to Kelvin Cato and Fred Hoiberg who both carved out roles in their 10 season NBA careers for Portland and Indiana respectively.

Though ISU hasn’t developed an NBA superstar yet, the program has grown their overall visibility enough to the point in which Iowa State will the program’s highest-ranked recruiting class ever coming in for the 2023 NCAA season.

 

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