By Mike Green
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
If you look at the top of the NCAA and Big 12 assist totals right now, Iowa State fans will notice a familiar name in Diante Garrett. Garrett, a junior from Milwaukee, Wis., is in his second season as the Cyclone point guard and he is showing all signs of making an emergence as one of the best floor leaders in the Big 12 Conference.
Simply known as D.G. by his teammates, Garrett lets his numbers do the talking. He currently ranks first in the Big 12 and ninth nationally in assists (6.6). And he’s also been efficient. The lanky guard has an impressive assist/turnover ratio at 3.3. Six times in his career, twice this season, Garrett has dished out 10 or more assists in a game.
Garrett’s success didn’t come overnight. He’s had to learn on the job so to speak, going through growing pains along the way in his first two seasons. But the Cyclones have upgraded their talent this season, giving Garrett more options and allowing the team to get out on the fast break more often. Garrett likes the cards he’s been dealt.
“Last year was sometimes a struggle but we have a lot more pieces in place this season,” Garrett said. “Having an All-American type player like Craig (Brackins) in the middle and other good players around him has really made my job a lot easier.”
Garrett was one of ISU’s top reserves as a guard in his rookie season in 2007-08, averaging 6.3 points and 2.8 assists. He began to show much promise in his sophomore campaign when he started all 32 games and ranked third in the Big 12 and 36th nationally in assists (5.0 apg).
There has been a change in Garrett’s approach this year from seasons past. Maturity and experience has improved his confidence, and with more scorers in the arsenal, scoring is no longer his first option and distributing passes for easy buckets has become his No. 1 priority. His early-season success has already catapulted him up to No. 11 on ISU’s career assist chart with 305 dimes.
“I set a goal at the start of the year to concentrate more on getting guys open,” Garrett said. “We have a lot more weapons on our team and they have been doing a real good job of knocking down shots. It’s important to keep those stats up and get more W’s.”
Being the Big 12’s leader in assists was a goal Garrett wrote down at the beginning of the season. His great start has made believers out of many critics. Mark down his head coach Greg McDermott as a believer in Garrett’s potential.
“Experience is really important for any college basketball player, especially a point guard,” McDermott said. “You can see the maturity and improvement Diante has made this season because he has a couple of years of experience in our system under his belt. Overall, he’s been making the correct reads and has been huge in getting our guys open.”
For now Garrett is enjoying the ride. The Cyclones are 6-2 and scoring a lot of points with a ramped up fast-break offense. It’s the most fun he’s had playing basketball in a long time, but he’s still trying to get used to seeing McDermott waving his arms to push the basketball fast up the court.
“It’s been different for me,” Garrett laughed. “Usually we’ve had to slow it down and play to our strengths, but this year he has been letting us loose and telling us to get it up and down the court because we have a team that can do it. I think it has been paying off.”
“I like playing that way, playing fast,” Garrett added. “I love throwing alley-oops to Craig and Marquis (Gilstrap) and getting guys open threes in transition.”