Kansas State got a winner in Weber

10 Mar

After the Wildcats’ loss to No. 13 Oklahoma State on Saturday, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber figured the team had also lost its chance to finish tied for first in the Big 12 standings. All No. 4 Kansas had to do to keep the championship away from the Wildcats was beat unranked Baylor.

As it turned out, No. 9 Kansas State got a share of the title despite its loss, and Weber released this statement.

“Obviously, I’m elated for our players, staff and the entire K-State Nation that we were able to win a share of the Big 12 Championship.  I know how much time our team put in to getting to this point.

It’s not an easy thing to do and it’s not exactly the way we planned the day to go. However, to get a trophy and to get to hang a banner is special.  K-State hadn’t done that in men’s basketball in 36 years and I’m happy that our team was able to end that streak.

It’s been a gutsy season for our kids and I’m just really, really excited for our team and in particular our seniors.”

Easily lost in the excitement of the first basketball title for Kansas State since 1977 is the man who brought them to this point: Weber. Many Wildcat fans were skeptical when he was hired, but the players bought in early. Weber credits much of that to senior Rodney McGruder,who put faith in the coach after the shock of former coach Frank Martin’s departure to South Carolina.

“When that happened, a lot of stuff is going through your mind,” McGruder said. “You don’t know what to expect. When Frank first left, you didn’t know who your coach was going to be, but then the program went into Bruce Weber’s hands, and you saw the things that he accomplished at Illinois. You knew that big things could happen because I knew we were a pretty good team last year, but we had some plays that slipped away from us, so I knew that we could be good.

Bruce has proved that this year,” McGruder added.

The Wildcats’ success is a testament to the kind of coach Weber is. He has earned the trust of his players, not least when he got ejected for defending them in an exhibition game in Brazil. He has the respect of his assistants, who praise his work ethic and willingness to hit the recruiting trail. He has been awarded Coach of the Year awards before, so none of this should be surprising, and yet, it is.

No one saw this coming. Who could have known Weber would surpass Bob Huggins for the most first-year wins ever by a Kansas State coach? Who believed the Wildcats would win the Big 12 championship? Who thought Kansas State would be in position for a 3-seed, or, depending on how the Big 12 tournament goes, maybe even a 2-see in the NCAA tournament?

It is not a stretch to say that few outside the new basketball practice facility anticipated this.

The least people can do now is recognize him as Big 12 Coach of the Year. Weber and the Wildcats could not beat rival Kansas in the regular season, but with a share of the championship in hand and the Big 12 tournament quickly approaching, anything can happen, and Weber is a big part of that outlook.

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