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Wildcats still searching for their identity

By Cole Manbeck

Kansas State has experienced a case of identity theft at times this season, and with only seven Big 12 games remaining before the postseason arrives, there’s not much time to rediscover the Wildcats’ personality.

“People around the country who speak basketball, over the last five years, when you say Kansas State basketball, the identity is they’re the hardest-playing team in the country,” K-State coach Frank Martin said. “That’s not me saying it, that’s the so-called experts that do the preaching. Well, right now this team doesn’t respect that identity because there are days we come out and we don’t do that.”

The Wildcats, who travel to Texas for a 1 p.m. tipoff against the Longhorns tomorrow, have played like a Martin-coached team at times. But then there are other moments, like the 65-46 victory against Texas Tech on Tuesday night, where they look flat.

Those inconsistencies are difficult to grasp for this team.

“I can’t explain it,” K-State guard Shane Southwell said. “It’s something we need to work on.”

Each individual in this world has its own personality — each journalist has a writing style of its own, individual coaches have their own coaching methods, comedians have their own ways of conveying humor. The key is being consistent with who they are on an everyday basis.

“In life you’ve got to have an identity,” Martin said. “Then it’s up to you to take pride in that identity to be who you are every single day, not just when the sun is out, not just when you’re in the mood. That’s what this team continues to struggle with is to be able to create (that identity).”

Since 2006, the Wildcats have built a culture of not accepting failure. In doing so, they’ve established a style with how they play. They get after it in practice, which has translated to the games. They attack the glass with relentless effort, play a style of defense that can make an opponent uncomfortable, and scramble for loose balls like it’s a round nugget of gold. The game is played at a frenetic pace, bodies are hitting the floor, and occasionally, there might a little blood left out on the court.

That’s what this team is hoping to get back to.

“We’ve created an identity when we’re good, but we refuse to live up to that identity every day we take the court,” Martin said. “Who are you? That’s the most frustrating thing for me in life, is when I meet people, trying to figure out who they are. Don’t change who you are today, tomorrow. I’m the same guy every day. I take pride in being consistent with who I am and the principles I try to live my life by and it’s what I try to get my players to play by.”

The Wildcats are young, with three freshmen averaging at least 13 minutes or more per game in Big 12 play. When teams rely on youth, inconsistency typically follows, and taking on that identity can take time. The fact that the Wildcats have shown glimpses of taking on the personality that’s been established is promising, but at the same time, equally frustrating.

“In Hawaii we were great,” Southwell said. “And we have times where we just get real inconsistent. It’s really frustrating because we know we can play a lot better. We know we’re a real good team and we’re one of the better teams in the Big 12 and in the country so it’s real frustrating for us.”

Probable starters

KANSAS STATE (17-6, 6-5)

  Yr.  Ht.    Ppg. Rpg.

G — Angel Rodriguez     Fr.    5-11   7.4     2.4

G — Will Spradling     So.  6-2     10.4     2.3

G — Rodney McGruder   Jr.    6-4   14.7   5.1

F — Jamar Samuels       Sr.  6-7   9.9     6.2

F — Thomas Gipson       Fr.    6-7   8.4     5.4


TEXAS (15-9, 5-6)

                                Yr.    Ht.  Ppg.  Rpg.

G — J’Covan Brown     Jr.    6-1     19.6 3.3

G — Myck Kabongo         Fr.    6-1     9.6     3.3      

G — Julien Lewis         Fr.    6-3     7.6     3.7

F — Alexis Wangmene     Sr.    6-7     4.6       4.5

F — Clint Chapman     Sr.      6-10   7.3   5.5

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