Big 12 Campus Correspondent
After redshirting the 2010-2011 season, Iowa State redshirt junior Chris Babb has wasted no time making an impact on the court for the Cyclones men's basketball team this season. The Penn State transfer has played an active role in the 12-4 overall record that Iowa State has produced so far this season.
Babb, a native of Arlington, Texas, joined the Cyclones after averaging 9.3 points per game for the Nittany Lions during the 2009-2010 season. He also brings postseason experience to the Iowa State team after helping lead Penn State to the 2009 NIT Tournament title. In his two seasons with the Nittany Lions, Babb made 91 three-point shots, making him a key player in this season's Cyclone lineup.
Babb currently leads the Cyclones in three-point shots attempted with 109, as well as in three-point shots made with 43. He has made at least one three-point basket in 15 of the Cyclones' 16 games, with a season high seven three-pointers coming against Rice in the South Padre Island Invitational. Babb also had the hot hand behind the arc in Iowa State's Big 12 Conference opener against Texas, sinking five of the team's 10 three-point baskets. Babb again led the Cyclones in three-point shooting en route to a win on the road at Texas A&M, snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Aggies.
The Cyclones also look to Babb to be a leader on defense, as he usually carries the responsibility of guarding the opponent's best player.
"He was struggling (early on) with his shooting but he was still having a tremendous impact on our winning by defending," Iowa State head coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He takes pride in defending the other team's best player."
The responsibility isn't something new to Babb; he carried the duty while playing at Penn State.
"I like to think I had that role at Penn State," Babb said. "I guarded a lot of teams' best players. I guarded (current teammates) Chris Allen and Korie Lucious while they played for Michigan State. A lot of people say that I'm just a shooter and that's it, but I like to bring a lot of things to the table."
Babb also leads Iowa State in steals this season, tallying 20 in 16 games.
"Defense is a big part of my game," Babb said. "I've always been taught that when my shots aren't falling right to find other ways to help the team. Steals aren't necessarily a big statistic but in the end, I think it's something that people really look at. It can affect the flow and outcome of a game. I think the better I play defensively, the better my offense flows. I'll really do whatever I need to do to help the team."
Babb's efforts in non-conference action also gained him attention as he was named Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Nov. 28. The weekly honors came after the Babb led the Cyclones to the South Padre Island Invitational championship with wins over Western Carolina, Northern Colorado, Providence and Rice. During the tournament run, Babb averaged 15.3 points, shot 52 percent from 3-point range and was named to the all-tournament team.
As the Cyclones move deeper into the Big 12 Conference schedule, Babb will be relied on heavily at both ends of the court.
"He's already shown what he can do," Hoiberg said. "He got us off to a great start against Texas, hitting four three-point baskets in the first half and five by the end of the game. He's got that mentality of thinking it's going to go into the basket when he releases it from his hand. I think he'll continue to have a major impact on the offensive end and he's always going to be a defensive presence for us."
That confidence from Hoiberg, along with his teammates and the Cyclone fans, is a large part of what motivates Babb.
"I think it's a big deal for my teammates and coaching staff to have that confidence in me," Babb said. "What the fans think means a lot to me too. Seeing fans post on Facebook or Twitter how much confidence they have in me means a lot. When other people have that confidence in me and I can start knocking down shots, it helps my own confidence level."