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Former UVA player Shayok flourishing for Iowa State

January 7, 2019
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Iowa State guard Marial Shayok reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

AMES, Iowa (AP) — Iowa State brought in Virginia’s Marial Shayok as a one-year transfer with the thinking that the Cyclones’ free-flowing offense would free him up to score like never before.

So far, it’s working out better than either Shayok or the Cyclones ever thought it would.

Shayok is averaging 20.1 points a game after perhaps his best performance yet in Saturday’s 77-60 blowout of Kansas. Shayok scored 24 points on 9 of 12 shooting — including 5 of 5 from 3-point range — as the Cyclones pulled away in the second half of a stunning rebuke of the 14-time league champions.

Iowa State (12-2, 2-0), which made its season debut in the Top 25 on Monday at No. 20, travels to face Baylor on Tuesday.

“I just wanted to play my game, to play confident and play free. Just play to my strengths. It’s working out so far,” said Shayok, who on Monday was named the Big 12′s player of the week for the first time.

The 6-foot-6 Shayok spent three productive seasons at Virginia, topping out at 8.9 points per game as a junior in 2016-17. Shayok didn’t feel like the Cavaliers’ slow pace suited his style, and he opted to sit out a year just to play one year with the up-tempo Cyclones in an effort to showcase his abilities.

“I just knew we were going to get a really good player from an elite program that was well coached on both ends of the floor,” Iowa State coach Steve Prohm said. “He can score in a couple of different ways, in transition, from 3s, off pull-ups and attack the basket a little bit. Defensively, he’s got good length and size.”

Shayok didn’t change much during his redshirt year. Instead, Shayok used the time to get up as many shots as possible. Shayok’s hard work has continued to this season, as he playfully chided an Iowa State staffer on Monday to make sure he didn’t lose his spot in the gym while he chatted with reporters.

“It’s something I learned as a young player. You just can’t cheat the game,” Shayok said.

Iowa State entered this season in desperate need of a veteran perimeter scorer with size like Shayok after a dismal 13-win rebuild a year ago.

Wing Nick Weiler-Babb had become a hybrid point guard in 2017-18 and Lindell Wigginton, a traditional lead guard, was expected to provide scoring. When Wigginton went down with a foot injury, Shayok stepped up to give the Cyclones a major scoring boost.

Shayok has scored at least 14 points in all 14 games this season — and it’s not as though he is just chucking the ball toward the rim as often as possible. He is shooting a career-high 51.5 percent from the floor and a career-best 85.7 percent from the line. Shayok is also averaging 5.6 rebounds, by far the most of his career.

Wigginton, a preseason first-team All-Big 12 pick, has since returned to the rotation. But Iowa State’s starting five, led by the Shayok, has been so impressive that Prohm has been content to bring Wigginton off the bench.

“You could just tell the guy was motivated and ready for this season,” said junior center Michael Jacobson, a Nebraska transfer who joined Shayok on the sidelines last year. “I don’t think to us or anyone inside the program that it’s any surprise what he’s doing.”

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Iowa State guard Marial Shayok reacts after making a three-point basket during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Kansas, Saturday, Jan. 5, 2019, in Ames, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)