There have long been flashes of Shane Southwell’s ability on the court. But until Saturday, the Kansas State junior had never had such a complete game.
At the start of last season, Southwell began to receive more minutes, and even started twice. But by the time Big 12 Conference play hit, Southwell often struggled shooting the ball, and saw his playing time decrease significantly.
His talent was highly regarded among the coaching staff, with then coach Frank Martin even comparing his passing ability to that of NBA legend Magic Johnson.
On Saturday at West Virginia, Southwell showed just how well-rounded his abilities could be, scoring 17 points and blocking the potential game-winning shot, while grabbing four rebounds and dishing three assists.
Southwell, who made his sixth straight start for the Wildcats, said he has gotten better with each game this season.
“I’m getting confident, and I’ve always been a little bit confident in my ability — I know what I can do — I’ve just never put it all together and been aggressive,” he said. “And I’m still having trouble with that, getting more aggressive, but the coaches let me play through my mistakes a lot so it’s hard not to get confident.”
If there was ever a knock on Southwell, it would be in his shooting abilities. As a sophomore, he shot 37 percent from the floor and just 24 percent from the perimeter.
On Saturday, he was solid from the floor, making 5-of-7 shots, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range. He also made 5-of-6 shots at the foul line, including the final two points for the Wildcats in the 65-64 win.
Southwell is averaging career highs in points, rebounds and assists, shooting 50 percent from the field and a team-leading 45 percent from the perimeter.
The junior said he’s spent a lot of time working on improving his shot.
“Everyday I’ve been shooting,” Southwell said. “I was in during the summer taking a lot of shots to get my shot right, working a lot with a medicine ball. It improved my shot and I’m a confident shooter, I feel like I can make any shot.”
Of course, Southwell’s favorite attribute of his own game is the ability to throw passes that few can replicate. It’s an ability that he said came natural to him, and one he takes pride in.
His passes are so deceptive sometimes, that his own teammates don’t see them coming.
Southwell joked that he tries to address the issue with his teammates.
“I talk to them everyday about that in practice,” he said. “(Jordan Henriquez) told me in a huddle once, ‘I didn’t know you were going to pass it,’ and I just looked at him like ‘yeah you know I’m going to pass it? That’s something I’m going to do.’ They’re all getting better though.”
K-State coach Bruce Weber wasn’t surprised by Southwell’s performance against the Mountaineers, nor was he surprised by the 12-point, six assist game that Southwell had against South Dakota in the non-conference finale.
Weber said everyone sees what Southwell possess — it’s just about getting it to translate out on the court.
“Shane is talented,” he said. “I think anyone that’s watched him, there is no doubt about that. He has very good skills, he has length, probably not as tough or strong as you’d hope he would be, but he spreads the defense, he’s a good passer and he’s got a nice little pull-up jumper.”
His teammates see his ability too. Angel Rodriguez, who said Southwell bailed him out on the final play of Saturday’s game with the block, said the Wildcats’ offense is designed for any player to have a big game on any night. Saturday, he said, just happened to be Southwell’s game.
“He’s very talented, I think he’s just got to be more consistent, then again our offense isn’t really for one person, it’s just for whoever is playing well that day,” Rodriguez said. “I think it makes it hard on our opponents to actually focus on all of us and not just one because it could be me today, Rodney (McGruder) tomorrow, Shane, Nino (Williams) —ß whoever.”