AMES — Comparing any college basketball player to LeBron James would be somewhere squarely between silly and screwy.
But as Iowa State guard DeAndre Kane was at the foul line with 21 seconds left in the ninth-ranked and 14-0 Cyclones’ 87-72 belting of Baylor Tuesday night, a pocket of fans in Hilton Coliseum started chanting “MVP! MVP!”
It made you realize that if there’s been a collegiate version of James so far this season, it’s been Kane. The senior had a stat line from the book of King James.
On a court-full of big-time talent including Baylor’s 7-1 NBA lottery pick-in-waiting, Isaiah Austin, the 6-foot-5 Kane stood tallest.
“The size, the strength, the speed,” said Baylor Coach Scott Drew. “He affects the game in a variety of ways.”
Kane transferred to ISU from Marshall last off-season, eligible to play this season because he had graduated in four years.
“I’d heard he was good,” Drew said, “but I think he’s far surpassed what people might have thought and the impact he would have on their team.”
Cyclones Coach Fred Hoiberg summed up what everyone is saying about Kane: “He’s a mismatch nightmare out there.
“He plays with great pace. If we run with him, that’s when we’re at our best. I think tonight that’s when we had our best stretch of basketball, when we really got out and ran with DeAndre.”
Who gets 30 points and nine assists and eight rebounds and five steals in college games, let alone a game against a No. 7 team that has defeated Kentucky? Who in college ball averages 16 points and seven rebounds and six assists?
“He went off,” said ISU senior forward Melvin Ejim, who was really good himself with 18 points.
“He was dishing the ball, he was rebounding. When we really couldn’t get much (first-half scoring), he was getting everything for us.”
Baylor jumped to a 9-2 lead by hitting its first three 3-pointers. So Kane knifed for a basket, scored on a lob from Georges Niang, hit a 3-pointer, had a dunk after he stole the ball, hit another three, and drove for a 3-point play.
That was all in the game’s first 12 minutes.
Kane muscled in a basket on the last play of that sequence, then went over to a sideline and flexed his muscles to the adoring fans. But the Cyclones really flexed in the second half. Kane’s teammates got fully in sync with him at both ends of the floor, turning a 42-40 into a runaway eye-raiser over a big-time opponent.
It didn’t go unnoticed when Kane cast his lot with Iowa State, but if people here knew last May what they know now, they would have crowed as loudly as Kansas fans did when the Jayhawks signed high school phenom Andrew Wiggins.
Wiggins was the preseason college Player of the Year pick of many. But the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year so far is the monster Kane.
“I don’t really get involved in that,” Kane said. “I came here to do something special.
“I knew coming here with Georges and Melvin, we had a good frontcourt. I just wanted to be part of something special. Coach Fred is a great coach, a great man, a great dude.
“(It’s) the best start in school history, 14-0. But it’s not the last of this. We’ve got to keep going, and we’ve got a big game Saturday (at Oklahoma).”
Something’s happening here. Something good.