Offense improving as Thomas learns ropes

By Joel Jellison

Jevon Thomas wants to score, but Kansas State coach Bruce Weber was just as happy with what he saw out of his freshman point guard on Saturday.

Staff photo by Sarah Midgorden
(Kansas State freshman point guard Jevon Thomas defends West Virginia’s Juwan Staten on Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum).

Thomas was just 1 of 6 with two points for the Wildcats in 32 minutes against West Virginia on Saturday, but his line of eight assists and no turnovers was the one that had Weber the most happy.

“I know he wants to score, but if he can get eight assists and no turnovers, that really helps us,” Weber said on Saturday. “He’s somebody that can get by and get it to people and exploit defenses. We can go a possession and not get anything done, and then he gets in the lane and gets it to Shane or Nino — it makes it a lot easier on our offense and on the coaches.”

The Wildcats (14-4, 4-1 Big 12) will head out for their third road game of league play on Tuesday, facing a Texas (14-4, 3-2) team that’s coming off an upset win over Iowa State on Saturday in Austin.

As the Wildcats continue through league play, Thomas’ development could be important to the long-term success of the team.

Take what he’s been able to do in his short time with the Wildcats. Nearly every player he guards, he takes out of the game. Against Kansas, he frustrated Naadir Tharpe into scoring just four points. Tharpe has led Kansas in scoring each game since.

On Saturday, guarding the top scoring point guard in the league, Thomas forced Juwan Staten to commit a career-high seven turnovers.

Weber said his ability to frustrate Staten had a lot to do with why Thomas played 32 minutes.

“He’s good, and he got a little tired, but we left him in there,” he said. “He just needs playing time. I think both of them wore each other down. Staten, pretty good numbers, but the turnovers — I think we wore him down and Jevon was a major part of that.”

The Wildcats have four more games before they get their bye — not playing a weekday game — between their games at West Virginia on Feb. 1 and at home against Texas on Feb. 8.

After that Texas game, the Wildcats will host the Jayhawks in the rematch at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 10.

Weber said the next few games, and that built-in break bye Big 12 play will be an important time for Thomas.

“If we can get him to screen a little bit in some motion and in some plays (he’ll be better), and I hope that will come,” he said. “I don’t know when our bye is, but that will be a key time for us taking a step. Our whole team, but him especially, just to get some practice reps.”

The Wildcats have another big road test on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on ESPN2, looking to show they’re capable of winning on the road against a tough team in Texas.

K-State will have two chances on the road this week, traveling to Iowa State for another tough one on Saturday, but Weber said they have to stay focused on the Longhorns.

“Worry about Texas, they’re much better than a year ago,” Weber said. “(Coach Rick Barnes) has got them playing hard. It’s going to be a test for us, we’re going to have to play good basketball. We had a rude awakening at Kansas, now it’s another chance on the road.

“We get done with that, who ever is next after that we’ll worry about them, but right now it’s worrying about the Longhorns.”

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