ST. LOUIS — Although Kansas State was disappointed with the end to its season, it was hard for the returning players to ignore what’s on the horizon.
The Wildcats will lose four seniors and just three contributors, while welcoming in two transfers and a junior college recruit that will instantly add size and depth in the post and another scoring option at the guard position.
“We’re going to be a pretty good team next year,” freshman Marcus Foster said. “I definitely feel we can do good in our non-conference and the Big 12, and hopefully win the Big 12 tournament and make an NCAA tournament run.”
The Wildcats were led this season by Foster, who averaged nearly 16 points per game, and surprised many recruiting experts with how fast he progressed to become K-State’s leading scorer.
When Foster committed to K-State last year, he was under recruited out of Texas, but did receive several notable awards, including Parade All-American status. But even his season was a surprise to him, and he’s already looking forward to how he can get better.
“I have to become a scorer and a passer,” he said. “I look at a guy like Marcus Smart. At the end of a game he’s got 15 (points), nine rebounds, six assists and like three steals. I need to stuff the stat sheets.”
Foster scored 15 points on Friday and added five assists and three rebounds while committing no turnovers. But he scored five of his 15 in the final minute, when K-State was desperate.
K-State coach Bruce Weber said Kentucky was able to disrupt him with their size and focus on him with their defensive scouting due to his role as the Wildcat’s leading scorer. But Weber thought his stat line showed he has a good future ahead of him.
And he was also excited for the development of his other freshman.
Wesley Iwundu scored seven points but guarded athletic guards with length and shooting ability, on top of NBA-level talent. And Nigel Johnson and Jevon Thomas have both made strides as they prepare to compete for the starting point guard role next year.
“Wes, Nigel, we have a good group of freshmen,” Weber said. “Jevon is going to be a heck of a player. I just feel he didn’t get to practice. That also I don’t understand the NCAA with that, but there is nothing you can do now. All you can do is keep his head up and keep working.”
The Wildcats will return Thomas Gipson to the post, along with post players Nino Williams and DJ Johnson. Added to the post will be Georgetown transfer Brandon Bolden and junior college transfer Stephen Hurt, who will both instantly be the two tallest players on the roster.
Along with all the freshmen guards, the Wildcats will add Maine transfer Justin Edwards, who already has Foster excited for how well the motion offense might run.
Foster said Friday night he thinks Edwards will lead the team in scoring.
“Just watching him from the time he stepped into Manhattan to now, he’s progressing,” he said. “He scores at a high level. It’s hard to stop him. It’s going to be very fun. You might want to watch your head because there’s going to be a bunch of dunks and alley-oops.”
Weber said K-State will have a strong team next season, but it will all depend on how the players come together and how the seniors lead the team.
“Our group coming back, Thomas has to be our leader, with Nino, and set the example and make sure that we have a great off-season and see if we can make some strides next year,” Weber said. “Not only get in the tournament, but go somewhere.”