During a team meeting Monday, Bruce Weber reiterated one of his deeply held beliefs: that Kansas State's men's basketball program is successful because of selfless players.
"We've got guys who want to be here (and) want to be part of Kansas State basketball," he said.
Before the meeting concluded, he made an announcement: Pierson McAtee is now on scholarship. The move now means K-State has filled all 13 scholarships for its 2019-20 roster.
Shortly after the news was revealed, McAtee shared a heartfelt phone call with his mother, Kim McAtee.
"That's so awesome, Pierson," she said. "I've been thinking about you today, so that's the greatest news."
Pierson's father, Dr. Jamie McAtee, is the longtime orthopaedic surgeon for the K-State athletics department. He also reveled in the news.
"Really proud of Pierson’s dedication& perseverance!" the elder McAtee wrote on TWitter. "Even more proud of his academic excellence. He’s been a quiet leader for the teams he’s been on @ KSU and he’s the #1 supporter of all of his teammates!"
Really proud of Pierson’s dedication& perseverance! Even more proud of his academic excellence. He’s been a quiet leader for the teams he’s been on @ KSU and he’s the #1 supporter of all of his teammates! #EMAW #hardworkpaysoff https://t.co/pzBK9ik7Hp— Jamie McAtee, MD (@orthodoc4u) August 26, 2019
A Manhattan High alum, McAtee walked on to the team prior to the 2015-16 season. He is one of three seniors who will depart after next season, joining Xavier Sneed and Makol Mawien.
McAtee hasn't seen much playing time the past three seasons after redshirting as a freshman. He's played in 40 games, totaling 20 points in that span. But his contributions never have gone unnoticed by Weber.
“He’s an unbelievable, quality young man," Weber told The Mercury in March. "He’s really been a good leader, a quiet leader. He comes every day. He has such great passion and love for K-State, for K-State basketball. He’s been a ball boy, he’s watched it through the years. He just takes so much pride in it. ... From his freshman year when he was about 160 pounds and I could knock him over to now, he’s made a lot of improvements.”
As a senior at Manhattan High, McAtee led the team to a school-record 18 wins and the first Centennial League title in program history. The Indians advanced to the semifinals of the Class 6A sub-state tournament that year, with McAtee earning an all-state honorable mention accolade for Class 6A by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association.
Though he had opportunities to go elsewhere, McAtee said he couldn't imagine not playing for the Wildcats. He "loved" his decision.
Even if it means his contributions rarely are reflected in the stat sheet.
“It’s not a glorious job, it’s not one that’s necessarily easy to do year-round,” McAtee said. “Especially once it gets to the season. But everybody’s got their role. I know my time will come when it comes, as it has with the guys before me. Just kind of got to keep plugging away.”
That hard work paid off Monday.
Watch the announcement of McAtee's scholarship and the emotional aftermath in the embedded tweet below.