On Thursday there were basketball’s bouncing about on the south side of the Basketball Training Facility. The men’s basketball season is officially underway.
That might seem early, but earlier practices are something Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has been pushing for, and something that has benefitted women’s teams now for two years.
Weber explained just how much it can help a team.
“It’s something that I have been part of fighting for us to have for many years,” he said. “We went from two hours of basketball to 20 hours of basketball in a week over night (the old way). The injuries, the fatigue, the bad play early in the season — we just kept asking, ‘Why can we not do something different?’ And I am not sure who came up with the idea, but it’s great to finally be able to have it.”
The earlier practices have been cause for excitement around the nation, too, as Weber said he’s encountered other coaches everywhere he goes who are asking the questions, “how are you going to handle it? And what are you going to do?”
Weber said his goal is to practice a few days and then have a day off before they go again. The team is required to have 12 days off before the start of full practices on Oct. 25, when the Wildcats will hold Madness in Manhattan inside Bramlage Coliseum.
That will be the first opportunity for K-State fans to see what will be a new-look Wildcats’ team with several fresh faces around the program.
K-State graduated three key seniors in Rodney McGruder, Martavious Irving and Jordan Henriquez, while star point guard Angel Rodriguez, and reserves Adrian Diaz and Michael Orris all transferred.
That leaves seniors Shane Southwell and Will Spradling and junior Thomas Gipson as the primary scorers left from last year’s Big 12-champion team.
Weber said returners Nino Williams and Omari Lawrence will also be key players this season.
“I have said this to other people before, but they are probably the ‘X-factors,’” he said. “Omari has not played a lot. He has had a couple of good games, one against Texas here last year and a couple moments where he helped us. But now it’s up to him, he is a senior. Go beat the freshman out. Do not even make it a choice for us, but he has got to do it.
“Nino has lost some weight. We need him to play smarter, have a little better motor, and be that undersized mismatch guy. Nino has taken the challenge and we have been on him pretty hard.”
The new faces for the team will include freshmen guards Marcus Foster and Nigel Johnson, and forwards Wesley Iwundu and Jack Karapetyan. Freshman point guard Jevon Thomas won’t be eligible until the end of the fall semester.
Southwell said they will all need to be role players and some will need to be key contributors for the team to be successful. Overall, the whole team has to stick together through any adversity it might encounter.
“We just really have to keep the team together especially when times get hard,” he said. “I mean, the freshmen have not been through college, or a college season like this. When times get hard, you tend to break away and tend to kind of do your own thing. We have got to make sure to keep everyone together.”
The team will be looking to identify its leaders early in practice and in the season, but Spradling said the three seniors have taken it upon themselves to own those roles so far. Spradling said Gipson has also been a strong leader, and takes the more vocal approach to his leadership.
Gipson said leadership will be key to getting the freshmen players acclimated early on.
“It’s really important because we have to show the freshman the ropes, how to overcome adversity, and show them how to do things right on the court and off of the court,” he said. “I think that all three of us are really good leaders, so I think we will be good at that.”
The Wildcats open their season on Nov. 1 with an exhibition game against Pittsburg State.