There won’t be any down time for the Kansas State basketball freshmen. DaJuan Gordon, Antonio Gordon and Montavious Murphy claimed three roster spots left by the large shoes of Barry Brown Jr., Dean Wade and Kamau Stokes, who all graduated in May.
The incoming trio accepts the challenge.
“I feel like we want to have an impact on the program as much as those guys did, but we want to do it in our own way,” Antonio, a 6-foot-9 inch forward out of Lawton, Oklahoma, said Wednesday. “Just coming into a program that was highlighted by them, I feel like that is special. We are going to try and do it our own way.”
Not that head coach Bruce Weber expects his freshmen to carry the Wildcats next season. That’s why he’s been preaching consistency to veterans like Xavier Sneed, Cartier Diarra and Makol Mawien. When things weren’t going right last year, Weber said, Brown, Wade and Stokes would bail them out. The baton has passed as it always does when talented senior classes leave a school.
But these three freshmen still will have a sizable role to play next season.
“Those young guys, if we are going to be good, they have got to give us something and contribute,” Weber said. “When you talk about the USA basketball thing, and I talk so much about what NBA guys talk about, (it’s), ‘Are you going to be a role player? Are you able to accept being the role player?’
“And all of the sudden these guys are just stars. We told them, ‘You are not going to average more than 20 minutes a game. You are not going to average more than 12 points a game.’ We had nine guys average eight or above. To me that was a part of our success.”
While all three have a lot to learn, Weber said he’s enjoyed the progress he’s seen so far. Antonio and Murphy, a 6-foot-9 forward from Spring, Texas, have length and can develop the ability to play multiple spots on the floor, Weber said.
DaJuan, a 6-foot-4 guard out of Chicago, played at the USA basketball camp in attempt of making the 19U team that Weber coached to a gold medal July 7. DaJuan, Weber said, is a player who shouldn’t be over-coached.
“He’s a hooper and he plays,” Weber said. “The little things are not important. It’s good. I don’t want him thinking and getting tight, but I want him to think about things a little bit. He’s really good in transition and good at getting offensive rebounds.”
The Wildcats still have one more scholarship available, but once schools starts in August, Weber doesn’t expect to fill it.
Until then, Weber said he and the rest of his coaching staff are keeping their eyes and ears open for options.