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May 15, 2009

Lucca's coming back -- will it matter?

Good for Lucca.

By deciding to return to the Iowa State basketball team next season, Lucca Staiger is doing himself a favor. First, he'll have another year of classes toward a college degree. There's no guarantee he'll stick around long enough to actually get that degree, of course. But he'll be closer to it than if he had left school to play professionally in Europe. A little extra education can't hurt, no matter what you plan to do with your life.

Second, he'll have another year of seasoning in one of the nation's most competitive conferences. No, he won't be the star. Craig Brackins has that role all to himself. But you don't have to be a star to make yourself better. Staiger at least will have that chance.

Whatever Staiger decided, it wasn't going to make or break the Cyclones' season. He was inconsistent last season, struggled on defense and was strictly a one-dimensional player. And even when he shot it well, it didn't necessarily lead to a victory.  In his best game, Staiger knocked down eight 3-pointers against Drake. The Cyclones still lost.

Now, I'll cut him some slack. After the widely publicized battle with the NCAA over his eligibility, the expectations on him were over the top. It was asking too much for him to live up to all that hype. Plus, he wasn't healthy, which triggered the frustration that led him to think about staying closer to his family in Germany. So I'm willing to give him a chance to show what he can do, to see if he can make that jump you expect between Season One and Season Two. If he can expand his game a little, he could give the team a nice lift.

Brackins, for one, should be pulling for Staiger. The better the Cyclones shoot from the perimeter, the fewer double- and triple-teams he'll see.

After watching the team's leading scorer depart for one reason or another in each of his first three seasons, coach Greg McDermott finally has seen his luck change with Brackins and Staiger returning. Now the onus is on McDermott to produce.

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