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Clyburn leads way for Iowa State

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Clyburn leads way for Iowa State

AMES, Iowa (AP) For Iowa State to live up to its potential, senior transfer Will Clyburn has to play like a star.

On Saturday, Clyburn showed just how good the Cyclones can be when they follow his lead.

Clyburn torched then-No. 11 Kansas State for 24 points and 10 rebounds as Iowa State held off the Wildcats 73-67 for their first win over a ranked opponent this season.

It was a win the Cyclones (14-5, 4-2 Big 12) badly needed after an ugly loss at Texas Tech, and it kept them afloat in the upper half of the league ahead of Wednesday's game at Oklahoma State (13-5, 3-3).

Clyburn on Monday was named the Big 12's Rookie of the Week after posting back-to-back double-doubles - an honor made for some good-natured ribbing by Clyburn's teammates considering that he's 22 and at his third college.

But those same guys also know how important Clyburn is to everything they do.

``Will is one of the most versatile players in the country, in this league. We know what he can do every night, crashing the glass, scoring points,'' Iowa State senior Korie Lucious said. ``"He's in the gym every day working on his game, so 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) is expected from him.''

The Cyclones knew they'd never be able to replace the production of Royce White, who led the team in all five major statistical categories in his only season in Ames.

But Iowa State figured they'd be able to replicate much of White's scoring, rebounding and rotation flexibility with the 6-foot-7 Clyburn, who starred in his only season at Utah in 2010-11 after starting out at Marshalltown Community College.

Fortunately for the Cyclones, Clyburn has been the star they thought he could be.

He's blossomed into the leading scorer on the Big 12's highest scoring team - and its most versatile player.

Clyburn is averaging 14.4 points, and he has scored in double figures 15 times in 19 games with five double-doubles. Though he was held scoreless in a loss at Iowa in early December, Clyburn shrugged off that bad outing and with at least four buckets in every game since.

Clyburn has shown a remarkable ability to affect games in multiple ways, which allows coach Fred Hoiberg to be creative when Clyburn is on the floor.

``The biggest thing we talk to Will about all the time is, `You've got to manufacture your own.' Whether he gets a defensive rebound and pushes out, gets us into an offense or goes and crashes the offensive glass, those are ways that Will can really get himself involved,'' Clyburn said.

Clyburn has also been remarkable steady in Big 12 play.

The soft-spoken Clyburn is sixth in Big 12 league games in both scoring (15.2) and rebounding (8.2), and he's fifth in shooting percentage at 47.1.

``It's going out there and trying to play hard and letting the game come to me,'' Clyburn said. ``When you play hard, usually good things happen.''

Clyburn has also served as a constant for a team that's continued to evolve, even as he's played everywhere from point guard to power forward.

Forward Melvin Ejim has become the Big 12's best rebounder, with at least 10 in eight of his last 10 games. But the minutes for big men Anthony Booker and Percy Gibson have diminished as freshman Georges Niang has blossomed, changing the team's dynamic on both ends of the floor.

None of that has affected Clyburn, who has quietly put together one of the more valuable seasons by anyone in the Big 12.

``Not many guys have the versatility to play four spots,'' Hoiberg said. ``Will is able to take advantage of some mismatch situations when he's at (point guard) by posting and going around some bigger guys at (power forward). It's a great luxury to have.''

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Follow Luke Meredith on Twitter: www/twitter.com/LukeMeredithAP

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Isaiah Thomas wants to make it clear that Marcus Smart flops

Isaiah Thomas wants to make it clear that Marcus Smart flops

When you know, you know.

Washington Wizards starting point guard Isaiah Thomas gave his take on former teammate Marcus Smart's reputation for flopping. Spoilers: he flops.

Thomas, who is returning to Boston on Wednesday for the first time as a starter, was teammates with Smart during his run with the Celtics from 2014-17. He didn't hold back from interrupting reporters to make sure everyone knows that Smart flops. (See the entire sequence play out in the video above.)

Despite being familiar with Smart, don't expect Thomas to know everything about how the Celtics will prepare for the Wizards. Thomas pointed out that only two of his former teammates are still with the team.

His history with Boston means a lot to Thomas, but his only focus on Wednesday will be earning the victory.

"The love is genuine between me and the city," Thomas said. "Hopefully we can just win the game. That's the most important." 

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Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

Lamar Jackson’s play this season has begun to make some analysts and fans backtrack 

OWINGS MILLS, Md. — Lamar Jackson is starting to make people reconsider what they think of him. 

After the Ravens’ 49-13 win over the Bengals on Sunday, the rest of the NFL is starting to take notice about Lamar Jackson’s status in the NFL. Especially considering his spin move through the Bengals defense.

Hall of Fame NFL general manager Bill Polian recently admitted that he was wrong when he said that Jackson should be an NFL wide receiver during his draft process in 2018.

“I was wrong, because I used the old, traditional quarterback standard with him, which is clearly why John Harbaugh and Ozzie Newsome were more prescient than I was,” Polian told USA TODAY Sports. 

Jackson is currently building an MVP case for himself and is on-pace for over 30 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards of total offense. 

It’s a nice change of pace for the 22-year-old quarterback in his second year as a pro. Jackson had to face heavy criticism after he left Louisville for a variety of reasons headed into the draft. Even after he took over as the Ravens quarterback, those evaluations persisted. 

“We always knew what he was about,” Ravens center Matt Skura said. “We always knew his ability to make plays and all that stuff. I think it’s just people right now seeing it on a much larger scale and it’s just getting the attention now.”

At this point, however, it’s clear that not only is Jackson a quarterback, he might even be the MVP of the league.

Of the five quarterbacks drafted in the first round of the 2018 Draft, only four are starting and just two have led their teams to a winning record. Jackson leads all of his draft counterparts in total yards and total touchdowns. 

But as anyone in the Ravens’ locker room will say, the accolades don’t concern Jackson — only the record does.

“I think he’s more concerned with winning than anything,” Orlando Brown Jr. said. “As individuals, we’ve all got people to prove wrong and things that we used to put a chip on our shoulder. At the end of the day, I know he’s more concerned with winning more than anything.”

Still, it’s noteworthy that it only took Jackson a complete season of starts, through two partial seasons, to begin the backtracking across the NFL landscape.

“If you watch ESPN or you watch TV, it’s going to come up no matter what,” Skura said. “Even on your Instagram feed it’s going to come up. I think for a lot of us, just in one ear and out the other as far as people pumping us up. You’ve kind of got to stay level-headed and ride the rollercoaster, so to say.”

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