AMES – Iowa State men’s basketball coach Steve Prohm introduced a game called the “H-game” to build team chemistry and allow his players to get to know each other better.
Players have to tell their teammates about their six “h’s” – history, hero, hope, highlight, heart break and honey.
This was senior Nick Weiler-Babb’s.
History: “I was born in Topeka, Kansas, I moved to Texas when I was young. I went to Arkansas my first year of college and transferred here.”
Hero: “My brother (Chris Babb) is playing overseas. He’s taught me so many things over the years and he’s always been there for me.”
Hope: “For the team to all stick together through the highs and the lows. And after college, I hope to invite them to my wedding, whenever that may be.”
Highlight: “When we won the Big 12 Championship – that was big time in my life and it was the first time I got a ring, so I can’t top that.”
Heart break: “When my grandmother died when I was younger. That was tough to get over, but it was something that built my character.”
Honey: “I have a girl, but also my mom because she’s always been there for me though the highs and the lows.”
Weiler-Babb likes the game.
“I think it’s just a good thing to get to know each other,” he said. “There are always some things about teammates that you don’t know and it’s just good to hear some things like that. Opening up to teammates, you gain trust in each other.”
Weiler-Babb’s “hope” is exactly why Prohm introduced this game. Last season’s team didn’t have chemistry. It seemed like a hodge podge of pieces that never meshed.
Sophomore Lindell Wigginton thinks because last year’s team never really hung out together off the court. But he also said he’s not really sure, either. It just didn’t work.
Prohm and the players are taking the necessary measures to improve the chemistry for this 2018-19 team.
“Last year was miserable. Just miserable,” Prohm said. “I haven’t been through anything like that before in a long time. That was miserable. I learned a lot from it, I grew from it, and hopefully these guys have, too. Winning gives everybody opportunities and increases your platform. Winning will do remarkable things for those guys.
“What we have to preach to these guys is the end result has to be more than just you. It has to be more than what’s important you to. You have to be invested in your teammates, in this program and you have to be invested in making a difference. If you are invested, good things will happen.”
Iowa State lost four players from that team and added four new freshmen and a sit-out transfer.
The “H-game” is one way the team is getting to know each other better. But the team also spent the summer hanging out with each other.
They’d play softball or kickball. They’d go to a movie together.
Even now, every Thursday night a lot of the team goes to Jethros for bar-be-que.
“We just chill of the court and have fun and create a bond and hang with each other as much as possible off the court so that can translate on the court,” Wigginton said.
The amount this team hangs out is similar to how much the 2016-17 Big 12 Championship team that Weiler-Babb mentioned hung out.
Hanging out off the court doesn’t immediately and absolutely translate to success on the court, but it does help with chemistry and trust, which are vital. And Prohm knows that.
“I think our chemistry is 10 times better than it’s ever been,” the fourth-year Cyclone coach said. “You talk to these guys and they’ve been together more this year than anytime they have been in the past over the last two years. We’ve done different things as a team throughout the summer.
“That doesn’t mean things are going to be perfect – we’re going to be tested, we’re going to be put through some adverse situations. But that’s good. We’re going to be challenged in this league and at this level. It’s our job to continue to grow.”
The 2017 team is the footprint Prohm wants this team to follow.
“Nick talked to the team last night (Wednesday) about how close that 2017 team was,” Prohm said. “It was the closest team he’s been around. The way they interacted, the way they competed, the way they played together. That team had to take time to form. That team took a while to form, then they became one of the top teams in the country, without a doubt. If this team is going to emulate anybody, it needs to emulate that team.”
Wigginton wasn’t on the 2017 team, but he’s noticed a chemistry gap from this year’s team to last year’s team.
“It’s just different,” Wigginton said. “Everybody bonds on and off the court. It feels like everybody loves each other and wants each other to succeed. That’s the feeling I get.”