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Tourney Talk: CHD sits down with Iowa State players Will Clyburn and Melvin Ejim

On Friday Iowa State lost to Kansas in the Big 12 conference tourney semis, but still earned an at-large bid to this week’s NCAA tournament.  The Cyclones made the NCAA tourney in 2012 and did so again in 2013.  Earlier today Jon Teitel got to speak with Will Clyburn and Melvin Ejim about what it feels like to be back in the tourney.

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Will Clyburn

You transferred from Utah to Iowa State in 2011 after leading the Utes in scoring and rebounding: why did you decide to transfer, and does making the NCAA tourney validate your decision? There was a coaching change in the program and I just thought I needed to be somewhere new. It is nice to be part of a winning program and make the tourney.

Your career 40.3 3P% ranks 10th all-time in Utah history, and this season you shot 47% from behind the arc – what is your secret for being a great three point shooter? You just have to put in the time with repetitions and have the confidence to knock down the shot.

You have beaten a bunch of tourney teams this season (Southern/North Carolina A&T/Florida Gulf Coast/Kansas State/Oklahoma/Oklahoma State): which of them impressed you the most? All of those wins were pretty significant and we played great in those games, which tells us that we can play with anyone in the country.

You also lost three times to Kansas since New Year’s Day, what makes them so good, and how far do you think they can go this spring? They are a very good team with size and shooters and are well-coached, so they always have a chance to go far.

Coach Fred Hoiberg has played in three NCAA tourneys and is now coaching in his second straight NCAA tourney.  What makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He is a players’ coach so he understands us. He puts us in situations for us to achieve and do great things.

Tyrus McGee was named Big 12 6th Man of the Year earlier this month, what makes him such a good spark off the bench? We know that Tyrus will shoot the ball, give us instant offense, and stay confident.

Korie Lucious transferred from Michigan State and has plenty of tourney experience (he made a three point shot at the buzzer to beat Maryland in the 2010 tourney and scored six points in a loss to North Carolina in the 2009 title game).  Have you talked to him at all about what it takes to perform well in the tourney? Not yet, but I am sure he will give us something before we play. He is a good captain so he will let us know what we need to do.

You play Notre Dame on Friday in Dayton, how do you feel about getting a #10-seed, and what do you know about the Irish? I have no problem with our seed. Notre Dame is a well-coached team that rebounds the ball well and is very smart.

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Melvin Ejim

You were born in Toronto: when did you 1st get into basketball, and how did you end up at Iowa State? I started playing in the eighth grade and later played with some great guys like Anthony Bennett and Andrew Wiggins. I ended up at Brewster Academy and eventually developed a great relationship with the Iowa State staff.

You had nine rebounds in a loss to eventual champion Kentucky in the 2012 NCAA tourney.  What did you learn from that loss that you think will help your team this time around? I learned how important every possession was. We started off well but they broke away from us in the second half.

You have beaten a bunch of tourney teams this season (Southern/North Carolina A&T/Florida Gulf Coast/Kansas State/Oklahoma/Oklahoma State): which of them impressed you the most? All the Big 12 teams are very impressive, we have a really good conference where you have to come ready for every game. I think that we can play with anybody.

You also lost three times to Kansas since New Year’s Day: what makes them so good, and how far do you think they can go this spring? They know their roles and step up to make big plays. They have a lot of size and can get the job done, even though we had a couple of good chances to beat them. They are as good as anyone in the country so it just depends how well they play.

Coach Fred Hoiberg has played in three NCAA tourneys and is now coaching in his second straight NCAA tourney, what makes him such a great coach, and what is the most important thing that you ever learned from him? He really allows us to come in with whatever skill set we have and gives us the confidence to do well. He is not a “yeller”: I can easily communicate with him.

Tyrus McGee was named conference Sixth Man of the Year earlier this month and turned 22 on Thursday.  What makes him such a good spark off the bench, and did you guys do anything special for his birthday? The special thing we did for his birthday was to beat the Sooners! He is one of the best shooters in the country, if not the best. It is great to have someone coming off the bench who can knock down any kind of shot.

Korie Lucious transferred from Michigan State, and has plenty of tourney experience (made a three point shot at the buzzer to beat Maryland in the 2010 tourney and scored six-points in a loss to North Carolina in the 2009 title game).  Have you talked to him at all about what it takes to perform well in the tourney? Definitely: he always gives us his opinion about the tourney, and we look to him for leadership.  He tells us that we need to rev it up and play our heart out, and he will give us some poise in the tourney.

Last week you received the inaugural Big 12 men’s basketball Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, primarily due to your 3.74 GPA: how are you able to balance your work on the court with your work in the classroom? It is just about time-management. I value my education and I take advantage of all the resources that are available to me. Even after a tough game you have to be able to sit down and study and do your homework. I have had a lot of people throughout my life that helped me do so well.

You play Notre Dame on Friday in Dayton: how do you feel about getting a #10-seed, and have you talked to any of your former Brewster Academy teammates who ended up in the Big East (CJ Fair of Syracuse and Austin Carroll of Rutgers) for some insider information about the Irish? I have not talked to them yet but I probably will. CJ has had a great year and Austin is a smart player who can shed some light. We are excited to go out there and just play.

If you beat the Irish, how big of a home-court advantage do you think the Buckeyes will have if they end up playing you in Dayton? I think they would have a big-time advantage, but it is no worse than when we had to play the Wildcats in Louisville last year. We will just deal with it and treat it like a road game.

JonTeitel