CHICAGO -- Cyclone fans were excited to hear that their team would be playing in nearby Chicago, but for fans living in the Chicago area, the news was even better.
The Sweet Sixteen is a treat for loyal fans, an honor for Cyclone players, and a homecoming for one of them.
“It's a great feeling, just knowing I can play in front of my family and friends and be around the community I grew up in,” said Abdel Nader.
Nader, a Chicagoan, hopes to have enough tickets for all his loved ones Friday, but the one he cares most abut, his older sister, Sheri, was present for practice Thursday.
“She’s my hardest critic. She's my best friend. She's big-time in my life and, shoot, I don't know if I'd even be here without her. She basically raised me, so it's a great feeling having her here,” Nader said.
When Abdel considered his transfer from Northern Illinois to Iowa State, it was Sheri who had the final say.
“Because it was all or nothing at that point. You're going to transfer one more time and that's about it. So I wanted to make sure that the school was the complete opposite from what he came from. Because it took a mental toll on him, which affected his playing. He really didn't want to be there,” Sheri said.
It has all worked out. Iowa State is in the Sweet Sixteen, and the Naders have come full circle.
“We were talking about it earlier when we found out that they would be having the Sweet Sixteen and Elite Eight here, and all of our friends were like, how sweet would it be for him to really come back out here?” Sheri said.
Sweet, as in “Home Sweet Home.”
Nader was born in Egypt, but he grew up in Skokie, Illinois. On Friday, he'll be one of the Cyclones faced with defending All-American Malcolm Brogdon, of Virginia.