Edwards, Bolden bring excitement to Wildcats

By Joel Jellison

As soon as this past season ended, Marcus Foster started to get excited for next season.

The Kansas State freshman, who led his team in scoring, made a bold prediction that transfer Justin Edwards would be next year’s leading scorer. Maybe even surpassing the production that Foster had on his way to becoming the Wildcats’ go-to guy.

K-State coach Bruce Weber knows he has talent in Edwards, and his excitement is just as high in fellow transfer Brandon Bolden.

Both will bring the team a different look, but both will add a piece the Wildcats probably could have used this past season.

Edwards, a transfer from Maine, will be a junior and is currently at 6-foot-4, 198 pounds. K-state fans got a look at him in two scrimmages and a dunk contest before the season, and Weber said the growth since then has been plenty.

“First thing you’ll see is his jumping ability — off the charts,” Weber said. “He’s gained some where between 16 and 20 pounds since he got here, and pretty much all muscle. The thing we really didn’t expect is he really shoots the ball well, especially from the 3-point line.

“He was a tough opponent on the scout squad. A lot of TV people that came to prep the day before, a lot would say, ‘dang, that guy’s good.’”

Weber said he thinks Edwards could play the 2 or 3 in the K-State offense, and will bring another threat, and versatility and depth to the guard positions.

Edwards said he will spend the offseason working to improve on his ball handling and his defense. Foster said, despite Edwards’ need for more work on his handle, even he could learn a thing or two from the moves he’s capable of making with the ball.

“I’ve definitely gotten better since I’ve been here,” Edwards said. “I work on the long ball with Coach Weber and Coach (Chester) Frazier. That’s a thing I’ve been working on, but lately I’ve been working with the coaches on ball handling and defense. I’m trying to get more flexible. I’m really inflexible for such an athletic guy.”

Despite his lack of flexibility, Edwards makes up for it with his leaping ability. Saying he’s still working to improve it, Edwards has a 42-inch vertical that was on display at Manhattan Madness when he won the dunk contest in runaway fashion.

Edwards said spending the last season watching from the bench was tough, but he knows he will carry lofty expectations into next season.

“Knowing you can help your team out and not being able to actually do it, it was tough,” he said. “I just used it to get better. I have high expectations for myself. I want to come in and do good and help the team succeed and hope we get a Big 12 championship.”

Bolden offers the Wildcats a new player in a spot that was extremely low on depth last season. K-State had only two true posts in Thomas Gipson and DJ Johnson and used Nino Williams in a position Weber often refers to as a hybrid-4.

Bolden comes in at 6-10, 217 pounds with more of a finesse style in comparison to the physical play seen by Gipson and Johnson.

“Brandon is as talented as anyone we have,” Weber said. “He can run very, very fast. He can jump very, very high. He’s got to gain some weight — he’s gained some weight — hopefully he can take another step, another 10, 12 pounds.

“It’s a big summer for him. Thomas had surgery, DJ had surgery and Nino had surgery. He’s our only big so he’s getting a lot of attention.”

Weber said he thinks Bolden could play at the 4 or 5 for them next season, depending on matchups.

Bolden came into K-State from Georgetown at less than 200 pounds, and worked most of his year to put on weight. Weber said it’s been a tough process for him.

Bolden described his style of play, as being athletic, fast-paced and playing above the rim — a stark contrast to Gipson and Johnson, and incoming junior college transfer Stephen Hurt.

Bolden said he used the transfer time to gain the weight and learn the offense.

“I just learned a lot about playing basketball,” he said. “I became a better basketball player overall.”

Bolden admitted his biggest worry about taking a year off will be developing rust on his game. But he’s hoping the amount of practice time he got in will help him avoid that.

When he was asked to think about what next season could be like, he just smiled.

“A lot of great players, a lot of crazy athletes,” he said. “We’re going to be competitive every night.”

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