DaJuan Gordon (3) attempts a lay-up on a fast break during the second period.

Kansas State guard DaJuan Gordon (3) drives in for a layup on a fast break during the second half of the team’s game against Texas at Bramlage Coliseum on Feb. 22. Gordon said he plans to use last season as motivation.

When a team goes through the type of season Kansas State had in 2019-20 — the Wildcats set a program record for losses (21) in a single campaign — returning players can choose between two options.

They can use the pain and frustration as incentive to improve and avoid similar results going forward. Or they can chalk it up as a “bad season,” expunge it from their memories and move on.

DaJuan Gordon already knows what route he plans to take.

“I don’t think we want to put it in the past. It just wasn’t our best year,” Gordon, a rising sophomore guard, said during a Zoom video conference earlier this month. “But I don’t want to put it in the past, because if we put it in the past, when the hard times come, (last season) can motivate us to keep pushing and know we don’t want to have a losing season again. (We need) to keep pushing. ... We want to win and not be like last year.”

After a rash of departures since the end of last season — guards Cartier Diarra and David Sloan and forwards Levi Stockard, James Love and Nigel Shadd transferred, while Xavier Sneed and Makol Mawien graduated — there’s only one player on the roster who was part of the Big 12 regular-season co-champion squad of 2018-19: rising senior guard Mike McGuirl. He also was a member of K-State’s run to the Elite Eight round of the NCAA Tournament in 2017-18.

Yet the stark contrast between the last two seasons, he said, was jarring.

Simply put, McGuirl said, the Wildcats “lost our winning culture.”

Next season, whenever that starts given the uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic, McGuirl said the Wildcats will rediscover their winning ways.

“We have the right people in place,” McGuirl said. “I’m very confident with my teammates.”

Echoing Gordon, McGuirl said the disappointment of last season, when K-State finished in the basement of the 10-team Big 12, will fuel his internal fire.

“You can’t just sweep it under the rug,” he said, “because me personally, I’ve never had a year like that. It’s going to serve as a lot of motivation and it already has. We talked about it. It’s something we don’t want to allow happen again.”

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