MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – This time last season Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton was not a name to be feared in the Big 12.
On the season he averaged 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.6 assists, not bad numbers for a true freshman from rural Wisconsin, but nothing too special. In two games against West Virginia, one win and one loss, he scored 17 points with six rebounds and seven assists. For comparison, West Virginia’s own Wisconson newcomer, Jordan McCabe, averaged 10.1 points and 3.3 assists in 15 starts as a true freshman last season.
This season, however, Haliburton has broken out, becoming one of the best players in the Big 12 and one of the highest-rated prospects for the 2020 NBA draft. He leads the Cyclones in scoring (15.5 points), rebounding (6.0) and assists (6.3). A surprise break-out to some, but not to McCabe, who knows better than anyone what to expect from the Iowa State sophomore.
“I know Tyrese really, really well. I know his family really well. He grew up 20 minutes from me, I grew up 20 minutes from him,” McCabe said. “We actually played conference high school basketball together.”
McCabe grew up in Kaukauna, Wisconsin, a 20 minutes drive from Oshkosh where Haliburton is from. McCabe said Haliburton is a sure-fire top pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
“He’s a lock lottery pick. If he doesn’t go in the lottery, I’ll be throwing something at the TV,” McCabe said. “He’s very, very good. He’s done everything that hard-working guys from Wisconsin do. They go into a place where people might not think they have a chance to be successful or say this or that, try to knock (him) as much as they can and he’s worked so hard, I know he has.”
When Haliburton and the Cyclones (9-13, 2-7 Big 12) came into Morgantown Wednesday night, the Mountaineers (18-4, 6-3) were less focused on praising Haliburton and more focused on figuring out how to stop him. Tuesday before the game WVU head coach Bob Huggins said the gameplan was simple to keep the ball out of Haliburton’s hands and the man for the job was to be senior Jermaine Haley.
At 6-foot-7, Haley has size and length that can give opposing guards fits when he is guarding them. Guarded mainly by Haley and bench guard Chase Harler, Haliburton scored 12 points on 5-8 shooting with six rebounds and three assists in the 76-61 loss.
Haley said he was satisfied with the job the Mountaineers did guarding Haliburton but knows they could have done even better.
“I think we did a good job on him and we executed what we had to tonight,” Haley said after the game. “I feel like my size bothers a lot of players, bigger or smaller, so I think I did a decent job on him tonight. Could’ve did better, he finished with 12 points, he averages 15.”
Huggins and Iowa State coach Steve Prohm agreed that Haley guarded Haliburton well.
“Jermaine was fine. We wanted to put some size on (Haliburton). I thought Jermaine did a pretty good job, actually,” Huggins said. “Maybe his best all-around game. 4-5 from the field, 0-1 from three, 3-6 from the foul line, seven rebounds, 11 points and he guarded the best player in our league, most talented player in our league, most NBA-ready prospect. He had a pretty good day.”
“I thought (Haley) did fine,” Prohm said. “I think he did a better job going to the glass on offensive rebounds, to be honest with you. Tyrese was 5-8, had 12 points, didn’t have a lot of assists but the way they play, it’s probably a low assist game because you’re attacking space and driving…Haley’s got good length, but I thought offensively, I was more impressed with him because I thought he made some really big efforts to go to the glass and get some second-chance points.”
For Haliburton, he knows that teams are going to try and keep the balls away from him.
“That’s kind of what everyone’s done these last couple of games,” Haliburton said. “Especially since conference play started. It’s kind of what to expect at this point.”
The Mountaineers will see Haliburton and the Cyclones at least one more time this season when they travel to Ames on March 3. McCabe said he is excited to play against him one more time before he leaves for the NBA. McCabe also said he has been keeping score against Haliburton ever since high school.
“He’s really, really good man, there’s no other way to put it,”? McCabe said. “I’m happy for him, excited to play him one more time then send him off into the NBA because that’s where he belongs…By the way lifetime series, we split in high school and we split last year so I just went up one.”