Tag Archives: Angel Rodriguez

No. 10 Kansas State handles Baylor 81-61

16 Feb

Coming off a blowout loss in Allen Fieldhouse against a motivated Kansas team that had lost three straight games for the first time since 2007, No. 10 Kansas State played some of its best basketball all season in an 81-61 victory over Baylor in Bramlage Coliseum.

The Wildcats sizzled from beyond the arc, hitting 11 3s, tied for the most this season. The last time that happened? Against Lamar back in November. Shane Southwell hit six of those 3s, shooting 66.7 percent from long range.

As good as Southwell was, his performance did not top the list. That distinction went to Angel Rodriguez, who scored 22 points and dished 10 assists. Jordan Henriquez also had a huge game, chipping in 10 points and 10 rebounds and looking almost completely recovered from the “hands of stone” syndrome that had plagued him in recent games.

The Wildcats’ defensive effort also deserved mention. Kansas State forced 19 turnovers and scored 22 points off the Bears’ mistakes. Baylor’s Pierre Jackson, who was leading the Big 12 in scoring with 18.9 points per game, came away with just seven points.

Baylor fought to within 43-41 with a little more than 12 minutes remaining, but Kansas State slammed the door shut. 

“We got into the huddle and the first thing that we said was that they punched us, and we have to punch them back,” Rodriguez said. “We responded as a team and started getting shout outs and made positive plays on the offensive end, which got us going. It is hard when you punch somebody and they punch you back. It brings you down, and we brought them down, and it was hard for them to make a run on us.”

Kansas State stayed vigilant offensively and got stops. After mediocre performances on both ends early in the week, the Wildcats rebounded in impressive fashion on Saturday.

Numbers to Note: KSU/OU

20 Jan

9 assists for Angel Rodriguez

Angel Rodriguez’s contribution presents a great opportunity to talk about what he and Martavious Irving bring to the Wildcats. They don’t always hang a ton of points on the board, but missing the duo for a pair of games before Big 12 play began showed what the team looks like without them. Suffice it to say that the Wildcats are much better off when both are available. Both were key on Saturday in forcing 16 Oklahoma turnovers, which Kansas State converted into 26 points.

“I thought our pressure would hurt them,” coach Bruce Weber said. “I thought Angel and Tay really set the tempo and really bothered their guards. We got on the floor.”

Rodriguez has looked out of control now and then, sometimes going to the rim too quickly instead of running the offense, sometimes shooting with a bit too much abandon. These days, he just looks a little more steady, a little more relaxed.

“We told him you don’t always have to score,” Weber said. “Make the good pass, the good play. I think he’s starting to buy into that a little bit.”

 

20 second-chance points for Oklahoma

The Wildcats cannot ever allow that again. If the Sooners had not committed nearly a dozen turnovers in the first half, their domination on the boards could have ended Kansas State. As anybody who follows basketball knows, it is hard to overstate the importance of rebounding. It is all about opportunities: each offensive rebound grabbed is another opportunity for your team to score, and each defensive rebound is another opportunity denied your opponent. Huge, huge, huge, huge. The Wildcats will have to keep opponents from getting multiple shots in possessions if they want any shot at challenging for the Big 12 title.

Weber said the way Oklahoma draws the forwards away from the basket makes rebounding against the Sooners challenging because the job then falls to the guards.

“We talked about scramble rebounds and nose for the ball before the game, and the scramble rebounds were going to come because they get you spread out,” Weber said. “You’ve got to rotate, you’ve got to get to their bigs on different things, so now you’ve got to help, now you’ve got to rotate and scramble. We did not do a very good job on that. They killed us on the boards.”

 

10 from long range by Kansas State

Listening to Oklahoma coach – and former Kansas State coach – Lon Kruger after the game, you got the impression that he did not expect the Wildcats to drain quite so many 3s. Maybe no one expected it, but it certainly makes you wonder what all this team is capable of when it really hits its stride. Rodney McGruder made four of those 3s – three coming right in a row – and Will Spradling made three, while Shane Southwell made two and Angel Rodriguez added one.

The offensive production also hints at an increasingly solid grasp by the players of first-year Kansas State coach Bruce Weber’s offense.

“In our offense, any given night anybody can have a big night because it really just kind of lets anybody get the flow of it, so anybody can get hot,” Spradling said, “and it’s nice that we didn’t need to rely on that one person that was hot at the end of the game because we had so many players that were playing well and shooting it well.”

Besides understanding the new system, players have started to believe in it.

“Mentalities have changed around the locker room,” McGruder said. “We’re really focused and things like that. When everyone buys into what coach is preaching to us, then I think we can be very good, and that’s what everyone’s doing. Just from a mental aspect, Everyone’s just buying in. That’s what’s key.”

Jeremy Jones decides to transfer

26 Jul

New head coach Bruce Weber indicated last week that he and senior point guard Jeremy Jones had been discussing whether Jones would continue on in Kansas State’s basketball program this season.

The coach announced today that the answer was no.

“Jeremy has decided to leave K-State,” Weber stated in a press release. “Over the past couple of weeks, he and I have had several discussions about his future, and he thinks this gives him the best chance to be successful.  I have known him for a long time, since he played his high school basketball in Chicago, so I wish all the best with his future plans.”

Jones grabbed the attention of fans when he scored 12 points in 14 minutes against Oklahoma on Jan. 14. His sweet shooting form made him an exciting player to watch, and one who many were hopeful could make a bigger impact this season after being sidelined by injury for part of last year.

It’s possible Jones decided to leave because he did not feel like he was a good fit for Weber’s system, or maybe he feels like he could get more playing time elsewhere. After all, guards Will Spradling, Angel Rodriguez, Martavious Irving and Shane Southwell all got significantly more playing time than he did in 2011, and Weber has said that another guard, Omari Lawrence, whom former coach Frank Martin seldom used, has been the biggest positive surprise of the summer. With so much competition that apparently has a head start, it could be difficult for Jones to break into the rotation.

Of course there are other possible reasons Jones decided to transfer, but playing time usually seems to be a major consideration for many players.

Jones is the only player so far from last year’s team to depart instead of staying on under Weber.

Bruce Weber: History, Reactions, Updates, Etc.

2 Apr

About a dozen students gathered on the lawn of Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday afternoon to protest Kansas State’s hiring of Bruce Weber as the next head basketball coach.

One student held a sign that read, “Why you do hate us John Currie?”

Others sported purple headbands inscribed, “Gott Lieb?” – an endorsement of ESPN analyst Doug Gottlieb as a candidate and a play on the popular “Got Milk?” advertising campaign. Gottlieb, a former Oklahoma State basketball player, expressed interest in the head coaching position to newspapers and radio stations, and even though he has no coaching experience, his thorough plan and salesmanship intrigued fans.

Not shockingly, the administration hired someone with more of a history: Weber, a smiling, gray-haired gentleman many remember for taking Illinois to the national championship in 2005 but whose most recent team finished with just six wins in the Big 10 this season. Which type of results will Weber produce for the Wildcats is an intriguing question.

***

The initial response from fans has not been particularly optimistic, but few people could have replaced as popular and successful a coach as Frank Martin – and most of those coaches show no signs of being available for hire.

Weber is not daunted, however. His priority is winning over the players. He spoke with both 1350AM in Manhattan and 810 WHB in Kansas City about building relationships with one set of people whose opinions matter most.

“The big key is that I get them to trust me and respect me and buy into it,” Weber said. “If you can get your best player to buy in and be your best leader and hardest worker, it makes it so much easier for you as a coach.”

After talking to next year’s seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez, Weber also had conversations with this season’s freshmen. He noted the importance of Angel Rodriguez, who played point guard for Kansas State much of last season. With such conversations, the coach said he makes his pitch but does not press for a commitment.

“I don’t bring it up, to be honest,” Weber said. “I just say, ‘This is what we’re about. We want you here.’”

At this point, he believes all the players will stay. He has done individual workouts with everyone except McGruder and Rodriguez, who will be unable to practice for two to three weeks because of injuries. Because getting to know players is one of Weber’s top priorities, changing public perception is on the back burner.

“I realize I can’t win all the fans over,” Weber said. “I have to do it with a good product, and that starts with the players. That’s the most important thing.”

Asked about previous problems within the program under Martin, Weber responded with the proper amount of ambiguity and proceeded to compliment his predecessor.

“He did them his way – sometimes it isn’t always the most positive thing,” he said. “He created a culture of toughness and defense, and hopefully we can play off that.”

***

The other priority of Weber in this time is putting together a coaching staff. Weber said he invited Martin’s associate head coach Brad Underwood to stay at Kansas State as part of the new staff, but Underwood told him Saturday morning that he thought he would be going with Martin to South Carolina. Weber said Underwood gave him insight regarding the program and the players, and Weber left the door open in case Underwood had a change of heart.

Weber has said he is working to finalize a deal with Chris Lowery, who coached under Weber at Southern Illinois and followed him to Illinois before returning to become the head coach for Southern Illinois, where he led the program for eight seasons before being fired after the Salukis went 8-23 in 2011-12.

***

Weber has been in the business for 33 years. His first gig as an assistant, at Western Kentucky, came in 1979-80. For the next 18 seasons he worked as an assistant at Purdue.

In Weber’s first year as a head coach at Southern Illinois, the team went 15-12 and tied for a fifth-place conference finish. In his fifth and final season there, Weber guided the team to a 24-7 record and first-place finish in its league.

Replacing Bill Self at Illinois, Weber coached nine seasons there. In seven of those, the team won at least 20 games.

The Fighting Illini struggled in 2011-2012, going 17-15 and 6-12 in league play to finish tied for ninth in the conference. Weber cited the team’s youth (six freshman, one returning starter) as well as changes in the administration (new university president, new athletic director) as potential reasons for the season that was his second-worst in nine years at Illinois and resulted in the termination of his contract there.

“It’s a humbling experience,” Weber said. “You learn a lot about yourself, and you learn a lot about who your friends are. So many people have reached out to myself and my wife … and just said how much they appreciate and respect and believe in what [we’ve] done.”

As for what he learned from his time at Illinois – and presumably this last season in particular – Weber said that trying to please everybody is impossible, so there is only one manner in which to proceed.

“Do it your way,” Weber said. “And that’s what we’ll try to do.”

Time to go on the offensive

16 Mar

I wrote in my last post that defense would be more essential than offense for the Wildcats to defeat Southern Miss on Thursday afternoon. Season statistics indicated that would be the case, and game statistics confirmed the trend yesterday; the Golden Eagles shot just 36.7 percent from the floor, and of course the Wildcats came away with another win.

While Kansas State probably cannot take all the credit for that Southern Miss statistic, it certainly shows you my point: as goes the Wildcats’ defense, so go the Wildcats.

The Wildcats are 16-4 this season when their defense holds opponents between 50 and 69 points. Similarly, they are 21-6 when opponents make less than 50 percent of their shots.

Still, Kansas State will need more offensive variety to defeat Syracuse on Saturday at 11:15 a.m. Three players scored in double figures on Thursday, and no one else scored more than five points.

Rodney McGruder carried the team with his 30 points on 11-of-16 shooting, while Jordan Henriquez scored 15 points, blocked 6 shots and snagged 9 rebounds. Angel Rodriguez contributed 13 points and four assists, though he also had three turnovers. Those three guys were the only ones who scored more than five points.

Jamar Samuels scored just one point. Point guard Will Spradling cashed in on just one basket and only attempted four the whole game. Martavious Irving scored four points, and Thomas Gipson had five.

In fairness, Samuels did have eight rebounds and three assists, so while he did not ever get a field goal, he did contribute in other ways. It is disappointing to see a senior not make more of an impact on the scoreboard, though, so it will be interesting to see what he does in this next game against Syracuse.

Looking at the stat sheet, there is not much redemption for Spradling. He never turned the ball over, but in 37 minutes he only had one assist. Then again, everyone knows how hard he works, and his fundamentals are solid, and he is a smart defender. Obviously, coach Frank Martin would not have Spradling – or anyone else – on the floor unless he believed it would benefit the team, and since Martin is a coach and I am not, I will defer to his judgment for now.

All that said, my guess is that you must have at least four guys in double figures to beat Syracuse. I haven’t seen the Orange play much this season, but the team is a No. 1 seed for a reason. I don’t think it will be beaten by three players scoring 10-plus and a few other guys scoring five or fewer points. Even if the Wildcats end with three players in double figures and three more with seven, eight or nine points, they might be okay.

McGruder and Henriquez have been the most consistent recently from a scoring perspective, but it will take more than those two to put away Syracuse.

Wildcats knock off Bears 57-56

18 Feb

Back on Jan. 10, Baylor dealt the Wildcats a crushing loss on their home court. On Saturday afternoon, Kansas State returned the favor in Waco with a 57-56 upset over the No. 9 Bears.

It was an R&R special: a little revenge against Baylor, and a little redemption for freshman Angel Rodriguez, who against Kansas went 0-8 from the field with 7 turnovers.

Undaunted, Rodriguez bounced back against Baylor and led his team with 15 points, 6 assists, 4 steals and 3 rebounds in a Big 12 road win that many say will punch the team’s ticket to the NCAA tournament.

“He’s a fighter,” coach Frank Martin said. “He’s a gutsy kid. He’s got a lot of confidence.”

Rodney McGruder also scored 15 points, and Jordan Henriquez added 15 points, 7 rebounds and 3 blocks. Henriquez turned the ball over just once and proved to be a major disruption to the Baylor offense in the paint. His final basket, on a feed from Rodriguez, sealed the Kansas State victory and moved the Wildcats to 18-8 on the season and 7-7 in Big 12 play.

“Jordan went through that little stretch where obviously I did what I had to do to try to get his attention, and he’s responded real well,” Martin said. “He’s a good player. He’s worked so hard to make himself a young man that can impact our game in a positive way.”

The Wildcats fought through a deficit for much of the first half before finally taking a lead two minutes before the break, but they went down early in the second half when they lost track of guard Brady Heslip, who proceeded to wreak havoc from beyond the arc.

Heslip quickly reversed the Wildcats’ 32-28 halftime lead by hitting three 3-pointers in the first couple minutes of the second half to give the Bears a 39-35 advantage.

Jamar Samuels cut the lead to one point with a 3-pointer of his own. The teams traded baskets fairly consistently until Kansas State led 46-45 with 9:25 left in the game.

Samuels grabbed a rebound, but Pierre Jackson grabbed it and yanked it out of Samuels’ hands. Samuels grabbed at the ball – and consequently, Jackson – and apparently said something after referees called the foul on him, so he was also slapped with a technical.

Heslip made both the technical foul free throws, and a made jumper by Pierre Jackson on the Bears’ next possession gave them a 49-46 lead.

From there, Kansas State went on a 9-2 run to gain a 55-51 lead with three minutes to play.

“Our rule is anytime the ball goes in the middle of the zone, you shoot it or pass it. You don’t dribble it,” Martin said. “I thought for the most part we did a good job of attacking their zone. We didn’t make a lot of shots, but we made enough.”

Baylor scored back-to-back baskets to take a 56-55 lead, but Rodriguez got the ball to Henriquez for a score that would be the game-winner.

In the first half Baylor jumped out to an 8-2 lead thanks to a variety of scoring: layups from Jackson and Heslip, two free throws from Quincy Miller and a dunk by Quincy Acy. Kansas State caught up before too long as Henriquez employed his face-up jumper and Rodriguez continued to charge into the lane and get layups.

From there, the Bears ran out to an 18-9 lead. As McGruder found a rhythm, though, so did the Wildcats. Starting with his first basket at the 8:39 mark, McGruder added 10 points down the stretch, scoring as many points himself as the Baylor offense did from that point on. Kansas State outscored the Bears 23-10 in nearly 9 minutes between McGruder’s initial score and halftime.

It took awhile for Kansas State to overtake the home team, however. The Wildcats struggled to get rebounds and find an offensive groove early, but  a 3-pointer by McGruder gave Kansas State its first lead of the game, 25-24, with 2:03 to go before halftime.

A buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Samuels – his first field goal of the game – gave the Wildcats a 4-point advantage heading into the locker room.

Next up for the Wildcats is No. 3 Missouri in Columbia.

Constantly pestered about the implications of upcoming games on Kansas State’s NCAA tournament hopes, Martin said the team focuses on the next game and nothing more. That mentality, at least on Saturday, resulted in just the ninth road win over a top 10 team in program history.

“We don’t change our approach,” Martin said. “At the end of the day, you can’t do those things unless you’ve got kids who believe in the message, because they’re got to be able to execute it and execute it at 100 miles per hour.”

Sunday Takeaways from Saturday’s KSU/Texas A&M Game

5 Feb

The Wildcats pulled to .500 in conference play with a 64-53 win in Bramlage Coliseum over Texas A&M yesterday. Kansas State needed that win for confidence going forward. Reflecting on that game, there are several reasons the Wildcats should have that confidence now.

1. Angel Rodriguez can take over a game.

He had one sequence in particular that I found truly impressive. First, He zipped into the lane and drew a shooting foul, then made both his free throws. Immediately after, he caused a Texas A&M turnover while pressuring the inbounds pass. In that possession, he attempted a 3-pointer. He missed, but he got his own rebound and took another shot. That one went in. Then on the next possession, he again drove to the basket, and that time he made the basket and got the foul. Again, he made his free throw.

Basically, this kid was all over the place. Early on, I was wary of comparisons between him and Denis Clemente. Rodriguez is young. He plays ahead of himself sometimes. When he throws up those crazy circus shots, many times I think, ‘That is an awful shot,’ and then the ball usually finds the hoop anyway. He turns the ball over a little more than he should, and he has to watch his fouls.

All that said, when he gets a fire under him, watch out. If he plays assertively and keeps his fouls under control so he can stay in a game, he is as dangerous a player as the Wildcats have. He will be huge for them in the years to come.

2. Will Spradling rediscovered his shot.

The sophomore point guard has been in the gym working on his shot for awhile now. He had been struggling to make baskets in the last few games, but a 4-for-5 effort yesterday from beyond the arc against Texas A&M pretty much sealed the deal that his slump is behind him. Coach Frank Martin told him he just had to keep shooting. If he does not shoot an open shot when he has the opportunity, he hurts his team, Martin said. Yesterday Spradling’s persistence and work on that shot paid off. He led the Wildcats with 19 points.

3. The team still believes.

Every now and then, I listen to sports talk radio. The other day, I heard guys discuss whether maybe the fiery Martin is too hard on his team sometimes. Maybe he pushed the guys too hard and lost them, one suggested after recent Big 12 losses. I don’t think so.

From the way Spradling and Rodriguez looked admiringly at Martin and grinned as he made wisecracks during the press conference yesterday, I would venture to say that is not the case at all. Those guys respect Martin – though they all call him Frank – and believe in what he is doing. As long as there is mutual respect between coaches and players, you can never count a team out of a season.  The Wildcats will be fine.

A Look at Next Year’s Roster: The New Guys

12 May

Six players have signed on for the 2011-2012 version of the Kansas State Wildcats. Since it seems a little bogus to evaluate players despite not having seen them play, we’ll stick to a brief rundown of each recruit.

Omari Lawrence (Bronx, N.Y./St. John’s) The team’s only Division I transfer comes to Kansas State as a high school star who struggled during his first year in college. The roster at St. John’s included two of his childhood friends from his hometown Bronx. In an article by NYDailyNews.com, Lawrence said that while he will miss his friends, he just needs to get away and get a fresh start. A 6’4″ 220-pound guard, Lawrence will compete for a meaningful role on the Wildcat roster, and if he works hard his odds may be pretty decent, especially since two would-be contenders for guard spots, Nick Russell and Juevol Myles, recently announced they would be transferring.

Jeremy Jones (Chicago, Ill./Seward County [Kan.] Community College) Kansas State will be Jones’ third stop in his college career. He played his freshman season at Western Texas College, averaging 13.4 points per game, and his second at Seward County Community College, where he averaged 18.6 per game and 4.5 assists per game. He’ll be yet another option at guard for the Wildcats, but at 6’2″ and 165 pounds, he may need to bulk up a little to be able to withstand the physicality of Big 12 play. Obviously that’s a matter the coaches and trainer will figure out, and I’m sure they will do so every so competently.

James Watson (Atoka, Okla./Cowley [Kan.] College) Watson will be one of the Wildcats’ options to fill the holes in the frontcourt. The 6’8″ 225-pound forward spent two seasons at Washington State, redshirting the first and playing the second, before transferring to Cowley College and putting up 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. Right now the only true forwards on Kansas State’s squad are Jamar Samuels, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, Victor Ojeleye and Nino Williams. The latter two have not seen much playing time. It will be interesting to see how much of a post presence the Wildcats will have this season, as that will play a part in whether Kansas State reverts to its big-man-dominated box-and-one system or its more recent pinch-post offense, which requires more movement.

Angel Rodriguez (Miami, Fla./Krop) Floridahoops.com ranked the 5’1″ 165-pound guard as the fourth-best in the state. He was averaging 23 points per game and 6 assists per game before his team’s season was abruptly terminated because one player (a 19-year-old from the Bahamas) was ineligible. His coach was Shakey Rodriguez (no relation), who is well-known in Florida high school basketball and who mentored Kansas State coach Frank Martin.

Thomas Gipson (Cedar Hill, Texas/Cedar Hill) Another forward option for Kansas State will be the 6’7″ 240-pound Gipson. ESPN’s evaluation calls him a “space-eater” who knows how to score over taller and more athletic forwards and has good footwork on both sides of the basket.

Adrian Diaz (Miami, Fla./Hialeah-Miami Lakes) The 7’0″ 205-pound Diaz was the first recruit in Kansas State’s 2011 class, signing with the Wildcats in August of 2010 before even visiting the campus, according to ESPN. One evaluation of Diaz mentioned his strengths as being able to run the floor well and having a solid shot out to 15 feet.