Ejim injury could spell changed approach for Iowa State

Melvin Ejim(USATSI)
Iowa State's Melvin Ejim was a preseason All-Big 12 selection (USATSI)

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Small ball will likely be coming back to Ames.

After the news came down Thursday that Iowa State forward Melvin Ejim will miss the next 4-6 weeks with a knee injury, the complexion of the Cyclones' shifted in one direction.

A smaller, quicker more skilled lineup.

The one thing Iowa State lacks this season is quality depth and in an effort to put his best players on the floor, Cyclones coach Fred Hoiberg will now likely use 6-6 junior college transfer Dustin Hogue at power forward up front next to sophomore Georges Niang.

Hogue has yet to play a game for Iowa State but he immediately made an impact upon his coach when he arrived on campus.

"I'm impressed with how hard he goes after the ball," Hoiberg said about Hogue recently. "He gives us the ability to go small because of his ability to rebound."

And that's exactly what will happen now with Ejim, a Big 12 preseason first-team selection on the shelf for at least the first month of the season.

Last year, Hoiberg regularly went to a smaller lineup featuring Korie Lucious, Tyrus McGee, Chris Babb, Ejim, and Niang in an effort to speed up the game and he'll likely go the same route now.

Marshall transfer DeAndre Kane and freshman Matt Thomas will occupy two of the perimeter spots on the floor and sophomore Naz Long will likely now see an expanded role as well.

The 6-4 Long only played 6.9 minutes per game last season but impressed Hoiberg in the preseason with his ability to guard multiple positions.

"He has the chance to have a big role for us off the bench," Hoiberg said of Long, who the coach compared to Babb because of his defensive capabilities.

Hoiberg has proven he's an innovative enough coach to manufacture offense regardless of personnel, but losing Ejim -- a player who averaged 11.3 points and 9.3 rebounds per game will severely test the Cyclones.

Any hopes this program has of reaching the NCAA Tournament for the third consecutive year hinges on what it does in the non-conference portion of their schedule, and Iowa State will likely face both Michigan and BYU in November without its starting power forward.

The home game against the Wolverines on November 17th will highlight one of the bigger weekends in Cyclones basketball history. In addition to facing a team that played for a national title last season, Iowa State will also host Marquette transfer Jameel McKay and Rashad Vaughn, one of the top players in the Class of 2014, on official visits.

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