K-State looks to push ball vs. Hornets

By Joel Jellison

Bruce Weber said his team would look to push the ball this season. After one exhibition game, that appears true.

As Kansas State goes into today’s game home against Emporia State — beginning at 1 p.m. — the Wildcats will look to solidify the lineup and keep gaining more experience in their new offensive set.

K-State’s offense has evolved quite a bit since Frank Martin’s pinch-post philosophy. Weber brings the Wildcats a motion-oriented attack that’s designed to open up shots all over the floor.

But what Weber really wants to see is his team using its tough-defensive-minded philosophy of the past to create transition opportunities on offense.

“I told them I want to push the basketball if I can, but you still have to guard, you use your defense to create offense,” he said. “A lot of that mindset is in place, little different defensively, some technique, some system a little different, but we’re still going to guard hard like they did in the past, and hopefully we can get some transition out of that.”

One major change is in who handles the ball. Last season, whoever was the point guard was tasked with getting the ball and running the offense.

Under Weber, junior guard Will Spradling said any player who gets the ball can get the offense rolling.

“Me and Angel (Rodriguez), we play a lot of whoever gets it goes,” he said. “Last year it was more of, if you were the point guard, you had to get the outlet pass. This year, whoever is closest just gets it and it’s getting us into our transition quicker and opening up a lot more.”

Rodriguez started 17 games for the Wildcats last season, averaging 8.3 points per game and dishing 101 assists. But as the changes to the offense came, a change also need to come to his game.

Weber said it was a need to move him past his high school mindset, and make him a productive college basketball player.

“He’s got to break that high school habit,” he said. “You watch high school point guards, they try to make a play, they pass it and then they stand there until they get it back, he’s got to get more involved.”

Rodriguez said those improvements appear to have taken place, as he worked to improve both physically and mentally, becoming a more mature player. Part of that maturing was becoming more concerned about his turnovers.

Another part of his game that Rodriguez wanted to see improve was his shooting. So, during the summer, he said he put a lot of attention on getting better than the 36 percent he shot from the field last year.

“I spent a lot of time working on that,” Rodriguez said. “It feels great, my confidence right now is at a high level and it will continue to be. Even when we aren’t practicing I will come back at night, whenever I’ve got a chance, so I can have success with that.”

Another thing Weber has been looking for in his guards is leadership. Senior guard Martavious Irving already provides leadership with his tough style of play, but Weber said he is looking for more out of players like Spradling and Rodriguez, and even freshman Michael Orris.

Spradling is one player Weber said might lead by example through his knowledge of the offensive system.

“Will is really quiet, but at the same time, Will probably understands our system better than anybody,” he said. “We say something and boom. He has a great feel of the game.”

Another way the coaching staff has looked to improve the team is through more competitive practices, mixing up the rotation for scrimmages rather than playing with the starting five against the rest of the roster.

Weber said the practices make the team more competitive, while helping it learn the offense and earn minutes through individual play. K-State keeps stats in the practices to let the players know how they’re doing and where they could improve.

Rodriguez said its been a learning experience.

“It’s interesting, it’s something, we’re not used to it,” he said. “It’s more of a challenge to try and win everyday, regardless of the players you have on your team, that’s how I see it. I’m sure that’s how they see it to.”

The Wildcats took the court against Washburn with a starting lineup that included Spradling, Rodriguez, Rodney McGruder, Adrian Diaz and Jordan Henriquez.

Rodriguez said with new coaches and new practicing styles, everyone will still have to earn those positions in the lineup — evidenced by Thomas Gipson’s seven minutes in Tuesday’s contest.

“New staff, new year, whatever happened last year, the minutes you had last year, doesn’t mean anything this year,” Rodriguez said. “We compete everyday regardless of the team we’re playing in, and it’s always an opportunity to earn some minutes.”

The Wildcats open the regular season Friday at home against North Dakota, beginning at 8 p.m.

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