Cats set for Christmas in Hawaii

By Cole Manbeck

While people around the country gather with their families and friends for the holidays this weekend, Kansas State will be working to become a better basketball team.

“The one thing we’ve done consistently here for the last four years is we’ve become a better team over Christmas break,” K-State coach Frank Martin said.

The Wildcats are currently practicing in Hawaii, where they will play in the Diamond Head Classic beginning on Thursday. The tournament, which is played in Honolulu, consists of eight teams. K-State (7-1) will play Southern Illinois (3-5) Thursday at 3:30 p.m. (CST) in a game televised on ESPNU. The winner of that game will advance to take on the winner of UTEP and Clemson on Friday.

The other side of the bracket consists of 14th-ranked Xavier (8-1), Auburn, Hawaii and a talented Long Beach State squad. The tournament championship will be played on Christmas night, meaning every school involved will play three games in four days. That presents challenges and a learning experience with the quick turnarounds and preparation required, something that will help the teams down the road if they are selected for the NCAA tournament.

“It’s something this team hasn’t done,” Martin said. “We’ve got to be intelligent in how we go about our preparation to play three games in four days.”

K-State players were given five days off over Thanksgiving break, allowing them to go home for a few days. Martin said he gave them that time off because of this tournament.

“That’s why we did that at Thanksgiving,” he said. “That might have hurt our progress as a team — that we took those five days off so early in the year. But most of our guys aren’t from around here and I’m about family. It wouldn’t be right for me to keep them here throughout the Christmas break and Thanksgiving break. They deserve the right to go home to see their people.”

So instead of spending Christmas with their families, the Wildcats will be together over the holiday as a basketball family. It’s an opportunity they hope to seize.

“We’ll do everything in our power to take advantage of three days to become a better team again,” Martin said.

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