When Angel Rodriguez transferred in April, the Kansas State men’s basketball team was put in a pretty tough place.
The Wildcats had no point guard in line for the 2013-14 season, having pinned their hopes on having Rodriguez, one of the top point guards in the country, back for his junior season.
But with him gone — off to Miami — the Wildcats had to go another way. When coach Bruce Weber met with the media prior to practice starting on Sept. 26, he said they will lean on senior Will Spradling early.
Spradling hasn’t predominantly played point guard since his freshman season, when he was asked by then-coach Frank Martin to backup Jacob Pullen as the team’s primary ball handler.
That season he averaged 6.4 points per game and had 63 assists to 40 turnovers. As a sophomore he upped his assist-to-turnover ratio with a 91 assists to 54 turnovers. Last season he finished with 82 assists and just 34 turnovers.
But in Spradling’s only action at point guard last season, the Wildcats struggled to gain momentum at home against Kansas City, winning 52-44 with Rodriguez sidelined by injury.
Spradling spent the summer working at the point guard position, strictly playing it in Lithuania, and Weber said it was a valuable experience for the senior. But he said they will have to open up scoring opportunities for Spradling to be successful.
“We have to get Will (Spradling) some shots,” Weber said. “I know this summer Will played point guard overseas and I got calls from the coaches saying how valuable he was and how great he was, but he only had four or five shots every game. They won all of their games and the other team that played the same teams did not win all of their games.
“I have said it many times how valuable Will is, but as it goes on we have to find him ways to get some shots also.”
Spradling said he feels comfortable running the point, after doing it early in college, and having played it at different levels of his career. He pointed to his time overseas as his most beneficial time running an offense.
He doesn’t think setting up shots for himself will be tough, due to the way the motion offense operates.
“With the motion offense, you can get off of the ball and still get in the shooting guard position,” he said. “The motion offense opens up for everybody, so I will be fine. By the end of the season, we were really flowing well and we looked good in it. The biggest thing now is getting the younger guys into the offense and flowing with it also.”
Spradling is one of several players on the team championing the athletic ability of its players from top to bottom. But even the most athletic, talented teams can struggle if they aren’t backed by quality leadership.
Spradling said he knows there has to be strong leadership this season with several freshman looking to play a factor.
“I like the leadership role,” he said. “Obviously, we had three seniors last year that did a great leadership job. This year, Shane (Southwell) and Omari (Lawrence) have really stepped up and taken a big leadership role. Thomas (Gipson) has stepped in too, he is kind of more of our vocal leader — the three seniors last season were pretty quiet.”
Spradling might stick at the point guard spot all season, but he might also rotate to other positions on the court when the Wildcats get freshman Jevon Thomas eligible after the fall semester. Until then, freshman Nigel Johnson is the only backup at point guard.
Spradling said despite being picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Big 12, he thinks they have a team that could surprise the league.
“I mean that is normally what we do,” he said. “We are usually picked in the bottom half of the Big 12 and we normally come out and earn respect by the end of the year. That’s something we will just have to do again this year.”