Players, Weber look forward to getting in the gym together

31 Mar

Martavious Irving is not particularly worried about those who criticize the hire of Bruce Weber as Kansas State’s new head basketball coach. The senior-to-be is just waiting for the season.

“Once we start winning, I don’t think it’ll be a problem anymore,” Irving said.

Illinois, where Weber coached from 2003 to 2012, finished ninth in the Big 10 conference last season and ended the year on a 2-12 slide. Weber attributed the struggles there to a young team – “six freshman and one returning starter” – and the disheartening effect of one close loss after another.

Point guard Will Spradling seems to be buying into the coach’s potential.

“He’s got four championships; he’s got two Big 10 championships and two Missouri Valley championships … he’s a winner,” Spradling said. “Last year he might have just had a rough year. Everybody kind of has those years. I’m excited to have him as a coach.”

As is obvious from those comments, Spradling will not be transferring, as some reports had previously indicated. While it sounds like he considered leaving, and although he said “it helped a little bit” that Frank Martin is no longer the coach, Spradling said he thought he would have stayed at Kansas State regardless.

“I needed to just think about the season and about what I needed to do to improve, but I never really felt like I wanted to leave Manhattan at all,” Spradling said. “I love K-State. This is where I want to be.”

Like Irving, Jordan Henriquez will be sticking around for his senior year. By his account, Weber made a positive first impression.

“Just by him speaking to us, speaking to me, I know he’s a great guy,” Henriquez said. “Just watching him as I was growing up, a Final Four team, I know he’s a great coach.”

Players will work out with the new coach for the first time on Monday. Weber said he looks forward to getting to know the players and see how he can help them improve. How those initial interactions play out will likely determine how many players stay and how many will go.

“First thing, I met with them as a team and tomorrow I will meet with them as individuals and we will get on the court on Monday,” Weber said. “Slowly but surely the way to develop a relationship is one-on-one. You communicate and talk with them to show them that you care … and get to know them as a player and as a student.”

Building trust is important for Weber, but he hopes to have at least one staff member who already has the players’ trust. He said he wanted to retain at least one current Kansas State assistant coach who knows the lay of the land and has existing relationships with players.

“I have done that before when I went to Southern Illinois; I kept the Rodney Watson. When I went to Illinois I kept Wayne McClain,” Weber said. “They stayed the whole time while I was there and both are great friends and people that have become very good coaches. I think that is a possibility, and hopefully I have a chance to sit down with them whether it is Brad (Underwood) or any other former players.”

In the meantime, the players appreciate the speed with which the administration conducted and completed the coaching search.

“It’s better than sitting around for a bunch of weeks where we’re not doing anything,” Spradling said. “It’s nice to know that we get to go into the gym and work out with the coach on Monday instead of going out and working out on our own because it’s not the same.”

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