K-State freshmen bracing for Allen Fieldhouse

By Joel Jellison

Kansas State’s Basketball Training Facility was filled with unusual sounds Thursday afternoon.

During the K-State men’s basketball team’s practice and preparation for Saturday’s game against Kansas, the gym’s speakers were pumping out simulated crowd music at near-deafening levels.

The coaching staff was looking to prepare the team, especially its freshmen, for the environment they can expect inside Allen Fieldhouse, which was just named the loudest, most intimidating arena in college basketball by NCAA.com last month.

K-State coach Bruce Weber said the simulated noise was something he’d never done before.

‘The noise matters, but you have to play whether it’s there, Oklahoma State, Iowa State — I hope it motivates them,’ he said. ‘The biggest thing is you’ve got to keep your poise. They heard every word I said at TCU and they won’t hear any words at Kansas. We did the football thing — we turned on the music, loud — and made them play without us talking, just to give them that feel of what it’s like.’

Saturday’s game at Kansas will be the toughest road challenge for the Wildcats so far this season, and something it’s group of four freshmen has likely not seen in their young basketball careers.

Sure, the Wildcats have played on the road this season, but the crowds at the Puerto Rico Tip-Off were extremely small, as was the crowd against Tulane in New York City. And this past Tuesday’s game at TCU, will probably be the smallest crowd they play in front of the rest of the season.

The Wildcats will be playing front of a crowd of 16,300 on Saturday, in an arena that has loud fans, and louder music piping through its speakers.

K-State’s veteran players have offered their personal advice to Wesley Iwundu, Marcus Foster, Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson.

‘Just keep playing,’ senior Shane Southwell said he told the freshmen. ‘It’s going to be loud, they’re going to make runs, they’re a great team, just keep playing. It’s something you’ve never experienced, but cherish the moment.’

Junior forward Thomas Gipson had similar thoughts for the freshmen. Gipson has struggled with foul trouble in his trips to Allen, but he said you have to stay focused as a team and overcome it.

‘I just tell them don’t worry about the crowd and just stay together as a team,’ he said. ‘As long as we’re together and everybody’s on the same page, we should be fine. Don’t worry about the crowd, don’t worry about the calls that we might get. We’ve just got to play hard.’

While none of the freshmen have likely experienced anything like they expect to on Saturday, Johnson might be the most experienced with the Kansas roster.

Two summers ago, Johnson played AAU ball with Kansas guard Frank Mason — a fellow Virginia native. And during his senior season in high school, his team faced Andrew Wiggins’ team.

Johnson admits they have no way to really know what to expect, other than what they’ve heard from teammates and seen from film.

‘We just know from what the older players tell us, but we haven’t experienced it, so we don’t know exactly what it will be like,’ he said. ‘From what they tell us, and how we’ve seen it in the past, we have a good idea what it’s going to be like.’

Despite the weight of a Top 25 showdown with a rival, Johnson said the freshmen feel pretty confident right now.

‘It makes me a little more excited,’ he said. ‘At the end of the day it’s just basketball, so we’re going to play how we play. They say it’s a loud place to play, there’s nothing like it. It’s a great experience.”

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