Clay Custer building block for Cyclones

The Iowa State Cyclones are building something in Ames. Yes, Fred Hoiberg went the junior college and transfer routes to jump-start the program, but that was simply to plug the holes. Now the Cyclones legend is making inroads with talented high school players. In this case, he has gained a pledge from a player who ignites winning.

Point guard Clay Custer (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley NW), a junior, committed to the program following an unofficial visit to Ames last weekend. Custer is the point guard for Mokan Elite, an AAU program that consistently kicks out high-caliber talent, and is the next building block in what could become a Big 12 power in the coming years.

Royce White started it all. His transfer from Minnesota in 2010 played an integral part in helping Hoiberg get back on the map of college basketball recruiting. He was a player who came with some baggage, but nothing a former NBA executive hadn’t seen before. White and Hoiberg raised the profile of the program. What followed was a 2012 commitment from Georges Niang, the sidekick to Nerlens Noel at Tilton (N.H.) and on the BABC travel team. Niang is everything you’d want in a recruit, plus he comes built in with a chip on his shoulder that drives him.

Niang’s pledge, fueled in part by the success of White, helped the coach with Matt Thomas (Onalaska, Wis./Onalaska), the No. 34 overall recruit in the Class of 2013. Joining him next season is ESPN 100 prospect Monte Morris (Flint, Mich./Beecher), a combination guard who can get it off the bounce.

Each of the past two recruiting seasons, Hoiberg has added a piece from the high school ranks. He’s took Niang and will surround him with a shooter and a driver next season. Then he’ll welcome in a guy who can steer the ship long term.

It’s the evolution of a winning program, year by year, piece by piece. Going forward, each piece must fit and see the greater plan. You can bet Custer will know his role: feed it to Niang; funnel shots to Thomas.

Things are progressing in Iowa State, each year with an eye on building. Piece by piece, block by block, or in this case, guard by guard.