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Otzelberger a star behind ISU’s scene

April 30, 2010
By TRAVIS HINES

AMES - The name T.J. Otzelberger wouldn't have meant much to even those with more than a passing interest in Iowa State men's basketball as little as a week ago.

But since rumors of former head coach Greg McDermott's departure to the hire of Fred Hoiberg on Tuesday, Otzelberger has suddenly become one of the focal points of the Cyclones' program.

Retaining the Milwaukee native, known to some as one of the nation's top recruiters, was one of Hoiberg's top priorities after taking the helm in Ames. Keeping the 32-year old in the fold wasn't just about building the program's future, but was also instrumental in keeping Iowa State's 2010 recruiting class intact.

"I think they (the recruits) are all on board. We'd like to go out and see those guys and sit with them face to face, and we'll look at doing that this week," said Hoiberg on Wednesday. "I think the fact that T.J. is still on board really helped with that. T.J. is the guy that recruited those guys, and the fact that T.J. was on the phone with me talking to those guys, that really helped."

That recruiting class includes Marshalltown Community College sophomore DeMarcus Phillips, who, like Otzelberger, is one of Milwaukee's native sons.

"I've known DeMarcus for quite a long time. I've seen him play at a young age and had a lot of confidence and belief at what he's able to do as a player," said Otzelberger. "In the state of Wisconsin, for somebody to be the (Milwaukee) Player of the Year and the state Player of the Year is a tremendous, tremendous feat. And since he's gone on to Marshalltown, he's continued to produce.

"I think we've maintained a very close relationship and have a very strong bond."

In an interview on Tuesday, Phillips said that one of the deciding factors in his decision to stay at Iowa State would be Otzelberger's presence on the staff.

The two kept in close contact during the whirlwind three days that saw McDermott leave for the head spot at Creighton and Hoiberg return to his hometown where he's known simply as 'The Mayor.'

"We spoke everyday and just kind of kept him in the loop of the process, how things were evolving and what that meant to him," said Otzelberger.

Hoiberg expressed the importance of this year's recruiting class for his program after a number of defections this offseason has left the Cyclone roster depleted.

"I sat in the room last night (at a team meeting) and there were five guys in there. We're going to need guys to come in here," said Hoiberg. "They're going to have to play. They may not be ready, but there's some (incoming players) that are going to be thrown into the fire just because we have a need.

"We got to get guys out there. It's a good opportunity."

The journey from little-known assistant to associate head coach after a very public process has Otzelberger adjusting to the new-found media attention.

"I'm more of a low profile guy and that's usually not my whole job (to be getting) attention and the media, but I understand the circumstances, the situation," he said.

"It's good to be in a place where you feel wanted, and through this process I felt Coach Hoiberg, (athletics director) Jamie Pollard and (Iowa State) President (Gregory) Geoffroy have made me feel like I'm an important part of this equation, and I'm really excited about that."

 
 

 

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