Tag Archives: Frank Martin Kansas State

My Memories of Martin

28 Mar

Media gathered on the floor of Bramlage Coliseum to discuss the upcoming year with Frank Martin and Wally Judge. During season-opening media days, Martin often engaged reporters with talk about life beyond basketball. (Photo by The Kansas City Star)

As a Kansas State student and as a reporter, I saw Frank Martin coach the Wildcats in three seasons. My freshman year, he took the team to the Elite Eight. My sophomore year, he guided it to a Valentine’s Day victory over No. 1 Kansas on Big Monday in Bramlage Coliseum. My junior year – this year – he took a group some had pegged for the NIT and racked up yet another 20+ win season, allowing the Wildcats to advance to the third round of the NCAA tournament and nearly knock off 1-seed Syracuse.

While those big accomplishments were awesome to cover, the details are what I will remember about Martin. When I first heard rumors of Martin going to South Carolina, I hoped they were not true. These are some of the reasons why I am sad to see him go.

  • We’ve all seen the coach’s famous tirades on the sideline. Those are notorious. What we don’t usually see is what happened with just a few games left in the season. It may be a regular occurrence; this was just the first time I noticed. I glanced over at the Kansas State bench a few minutes before the game, and Martin had taken a seat and drawn his two young kids onto his lap for a hug before ushering them back to sit with their mom, Anya. The profane, smoke-out-of-the-ears Martin is the version that ESPN cameras find so compelling, but the focus on family is something people don’t see most of the time, and that is what makes Martin endearing.
  • One tirade in particular I do remember. I had scurried to the interview room in the Sprint Center after Kansas State’s loss to UNLV – the same loss before which the Wildcats had announced the suspensions of Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly. Apparently Kansas State’s locker room was on the other side of the wall of that interview room. All I remember is, “21 f—— turnovers. 21 F—— TURNOVERS!” The screaming continued even into the press conference of the winning coach … none other than former K-Stater Lon Kruger.
  • I had the privilege of interviewing Martin one-on-one this year. I asked him at the beginning of the season if I might be able to talk to him in Spanish sometime. I minor in Spanish, and I had heard him do interviews in the language before, so I thought it would be a great experience and unique opportunity. He agreed, and so I arrived at his office, and we talked for 30 to 40 minutes. He was open, encouraging and thoughtful in his answers to the questions I had written out beforehand so I would not get nervous and stumble over the words. When I got through all my inquiries, he gave me what I consider a great compliment: “You’ve got that language handled.” We continued to chat in English after I had gotten through my basketball questions, and he asked about my classes and career plans, which made an impression on me, because as a head coach of a D-I basketball team, you know time is a precious commodity. I followed up our interview with a thank-you note, and he made sure to thank me for the thank-you note a week or two later.
  • You do not have to cover Martin very long to realize that he cares about the overall future of his players as well as their progress in the game of basketball. Go to three or four press conferences of his, and it is more than likely that you will hear him begin an answer with, “In life …” Martin may appear to be the behavioral opposite of football coach Bill Snyder, but when it comes to preparing players for the time they will spend away from the playing surface, he and the 72-year hold similar values. He often spoke about the importance of not coddling kids because when you do, you make them unprepared for what they will encounter in the real world. He was hard on his players, but he also stood by them and inspired their loyalty.
  • The side of Frank Martin less rarely seen but no less missed. (Photo by Matt Freed/Post-Gazette)

    As a journalist, it is painful to see Martin leave. Who could possibly be as interesting? Who would be as forthright – either answering questions in detail or simply stating that he would not answer a particular question? Who could be as charismatic? Who could be as approachable and endearing off the court despite such an intimidating on-court demeanor? Those characteristics are unique to Martin, from what I have seen, and Kansas State will miss him. South Carolina got a good guy.

Senior Send-Off: Wildcats win 77-58 at Bramlage

3 Mar

MANHATTAN, Kan. – If you only watched Kansas State play in Bramlage Coliseum on this particular Saturday, you would be shocked to know that before this game the Wildcats had won just four of eight there this season. Kansas State pummeled Oklahoma State 77-58 and ended the regular season on the strongest possible note.

Rodney McGruder led the Wildcats in scoring yet again with 24 points, but seniors Jamar Samuels and Victor Ojeleye still earned their Senior Day spotlight, both performing singularly well in their final game in the Octagon of Doom.

Ojeleye, a two-time captain and Academic All-American, started the game for the first time and immediately made his presence known by taking a charge. He also scored the team’s first basket. He finished with two points, two rebounds and some significant defense in 16 minutes on the floor.

Samuels also made his last home game a memorable one, earning his 13th double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. Chosen to shoot free throws in place of Jordan Henriquez when the junior got knocked in the mouth, Samuels was perfect from the charity stripe in the game. He also had a steal.

“He’s been zoned in,” coach Frank Martin said. “You have different relationships with every player you coach, and you have different experiences with them, and you take different paths with them … I don’t think I’ve ever been as proud of somebody for the maturity and growth that he has displayed over the last year.”

Senior Day at Bramlage began with recognition of Victor Ojeleye and Jamar Samuels. Ojeleye walked with his mom, giving her a big hug before she wiped the tears from his face. Samuels appeared emotional as well, walking with Frank Martin’s wife Anya because his mom’s flight was delayed. His family arrived midway through the game and received a standing ovation at halftime.

The Wildcats led by seven points at the break, but they simply trampled the Cowboys coming out of halftime. After Keiton Page hit a 3-pointer, Kansas State went on a 14-0 run. Samuels sparked it with a basket, and McGruder went off for 8 straight points. Samuels scored again, and Henriquez followed his example with a layup of his own. The Wildcats led 54-36 with 15:22 remaining in the game.

6-foot-11, 270-pound junior Philip Jurick had gone down early in the first half and would never return. While Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford gave credit to Kansas State for its run at the beginning of the second half, he also acknowledged that Jurick’s injury had an impact.

“They did a good job of coming out the first two or three minutes and making a statement,” Ford said. “We didn’t respond. Our guys were down. The guys didn’t realize the extent of Philip’s injury, and once they realized that, they were down.”

C.J. Guerrero scored two straight to pull the Cowboys within 54-40, but Henriquez and McGruder quickly restored the Kansas State lead to 18 points with 11 minutes to play.

Five minutes later, the score was just slightly different, but the point spread was the same. Kansas State led 68-50 thanks to a continued effort by Samuels, who missed on all four of his attempted 3-pointers in the game but utilized the shot fake and made some impressive mid-range shots.

The crowning moment for the senior, though, came when he swished a fadeaway mid-range jumper to beat the shot clock, get fouled and make the ensuing free throw. Having given the Wildcats a 77-54 lead with 2:32 remaining, he took a seat on the bench for the last time in Bramlage.

“I watch a lot of NBA, and that’s what they do, so I just jumped into [the defender], and the ball went in,” Samuels said with a grin.

Page hit four 3-pointers in the first half to keep the Cowboys in the game early, and Guerrero picked up where he left off, scoring seven of the team’s last 11 points.

For the Wildcats, Henriquez dominated the paint, especially after freshman Marek Soucek replaced the injured Jurick. McGruder hit all four of his shots from the floor, including two 3-pointers. Henriquez scored 16 points on 7-of-8 shooting and grabbed 8 rebounds in yet another powerful performance.

Page played all 40 minutes and finished with 22 points and 5 rebounds. His only real help in scoring came from Guerrero, who scored 15.

Compliments of Texas A&M

28 Feb

It is common knowledge that coaching is a small world. Hardly surprising, then, is that not only is Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy familiar with Kansas State coach Frank Martin, but he once offered him a job.

During the Aggie’s weekly press conference on Monday, Kennedy had some interesting perspective on the fifth-year coach of the Wildcats.

Can you talk about your relationship with Frank Martin?

“Frank and I go way back. I offered Frank a job when he was in between jobs in Miami when I was the head coach at Southeastern Louisiana, because I knew the kind of coach he was and the kind of recruiter he was. It didn’t work out but we’ve maintained a relationship from then on. I really think he does a great job. To be the winningest coach at Kansas State in the first however many years he’s been coaching there says a lot. He’s done a tremendous job.”

Is that stare scary to you?

“(laughing) Haha, no. Frank’s a big teddy bear, people don’t realize that.”

Would you still tell his players that?

“His players love playing for him. That’s how he is. He loves those kids more than most people really know.”

What makes him a teddy bear?

“He’s got a soft heart. He cares about people and he cares about his players in a deep way. I know that because I know guys who played for him in high school when I was coaching in Miami, and good friends of his who grew up with him. The loyalty he has and the relationship he has with his friends is pretty good.”

Calling on Angel

17 Feb

AP Photo/Orlin Wagner

Against the University of Kansas, freshman guard Angel Rodriguez played his worst game. Not just the worst game of his career, but the worst game of his whole entire life. In what was his ninth straight start of the season, he did not score, and he turned the ball over seven times.

Coach Frank Martin thinks of a young Jacob Pullen and recalls a scenario that was not so different. But few others do.

“We all remember the final product with Jacob,” Martin said. “There were a lot of bumps early, but the reason I never quit on him was because he never quit on himself, and that’s what you look for as a coach.”

Playing against the likes of Kansas’ Tyshawn Taylor, Oklahoma State’s Keiton Page and many other talented guards in the Big 12 conference, Rodriguez has learned the college game with a slim margin for error.

“There’s no forgiveness in this league,” Martin said. “It makes you grow up.”

Since Rodriguez cracked the starting lineup a few weeks ago, he is averaging 8.8 points and a team-leading 3.3 assists in 21.4 minutes per game. In four of the nine games he started, he scored in double figures. At times, his willingness to go aggressively to the basket breathed life into the Wildcats, and in other situations, it hurt them.

As Rodriguez sat along at the media table on Thursday night, his brown eyes still looked haunted at the mention of that most recent game. He watched it over and over and over in the film room, and when he talked about it to reporters, it seemed as if he reviewed the plays in his head yet again, trying to pinpoint what had gone wrong. In the second half against Kansas, he played much better than he did in the first 20 minutes. Trying to tell him that, though, is a lost cause.

“To be honest, when I think about the KU, all I think is negative stuff,” Rodriguez said. “I didn’t get any positive thing about that game, so all I’m taking is the negative stuff and trying to make it into a positive for the next couple games we have.”

The way Rodriguez continued to work to improve in practice after his uncharacteristic performance against Kansas encouraged his coach.

“He isn’t going away,” Martin said. “Like all freshman, he’s had some moments where he’s had some mental lapses and he’s gotten frustrated and hasn’t handled things, but that’s between he and I. There’s no quit in him. That’s not who he is. He didn’t come out here to quit after a bad day or a bad game. He’s going to keep fighting.”

Martin disappointed with turnovers, defense

11 Jan

Frank Martin’s broad frame slumped over the elevated table in the press conference room after the Wildcats lost to the Bears. His team only scored one field goal in the final five minutes of the game, and disappointment – in the form of disbelief and disgust – was evident on the coach’s face.

“I respect the hell out of our players, but for us to be in a place where we’re fighting to protect our own court, and to not close out this game because of a comedy of plays, it’s embarrassing,” he said.

The Wildcats led by four points with 3:47 left when a pair of free throws by Brady Heslip pulled the Bears within two points, 71-69. In the following 30 seconds, Quincy Acy stole the ball from freshman guard Angel Rodriguez twice. Both instances resulted in points, and just like that the Wildcats trailed. With two minutes to play, a layup by Rodney McGruder pinched Baylor’s advantage to just one point, 74-73. His bucket would be the last field goal Kansas State made in the game, as both he and freshman forward Thomas Gipson turned the ball over in the short time before the clock expired.

The bright spot for the Wildcats was that McGruder scored a career-high 30 points in the game on 10-of-14 shooting. He was perfect from the foul line, making 8 of 8 attempts. He grabbed 6 rebounds, dished 3 assists and only turned the ball over once.

“There was a lot of focus on him,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “He’s a heck of a player and did a heck of a job all night long. We didn’t have a lot of answers for him.”

Early in the game, the Wildcats amassed a double-digit lead, but their 20 turnovers allowed the Bears to go on 18-4 runs in both the first and second halves. Baylor scored 30 of its 75 points – 40 percent – off of Kansas State giveaways.

“When they made their runs is when we didn’t play offense,” said sophomore guard Will Spradling. “We turned it over a lot more than what we have lately, and that’s something we can’t do.”

While the turnovers obviously bothered Martin, his team’s defensive performance left a sour taste in his mouth as well. It seemed like Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez contained Baylor’s Perry Jones III fairly well early on, when they worked against his post-up moves, but he gave them trouble in transition and also made shots a little farther from the basket as the game continued. He finished with 17 points and 8 rebounds.

Quincy Acy and Brady Heslip each had 13 points, and 5’10” guard Pierre Jackson scored 10 points and distributed a mind-boggling 11 assists.

Martin said his team talked about and worked on ball screen defense in preparation for the Bears, but it did not work out as he had hoped.

“Our ball screen defense was pathetic,” Martin said. “Never once did we have two guys on the same page guarding the ball screen, and that’s frustrating because we spent time on it. We talked about it. If you can’t play ball screen defense against Baylor, you’re going to have a tough time.”

While the combination of last week’s game against the Jayhawks and yesterday’s game against the Bears made Martin unhappy, he had a realistic, workmanlike take on what lies ahead for his team.

“We’re good enough to beat them, and obviously we haven’t done it two out of three times,” Martin said. “It’s disappointing we haven’t gotten it done, but [the conference season is] 18 games. We’re three games in.”

Sunflower Showdown 2012: Round 1

4 Jan

Numbers to Note

  • The Wildcats and Jayhawks have clashed 272 times on the hardwood. Today’s game is just the 15th meeting in which both teams are ranked. KU is No. 14 in the AP Top 25 and No. 15 in the ESPN/USA Today Coaches Poll, while those voters put Kansas State at No. 23 and No. 22, respectively.
  • With a win today, the Kansas State basketball program would have 1,500 victories in its history, joining Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma State in that distinction.
  • Kansas’ home court advantage is well-documented across the board, and Kansas State has not been an exception to that rule. The Wildcats have lost five consecutive games in Allen Fieldhouse and have just one win in the last 17 contests there. Frank Martin is 0-4 in Lawrence and 2-7 against the Jayhawks in his time as head coach of the Wildcats.
Trivia
  • What year did the series between Kansas and Kansas State begin?
  • Before Frank Martin, who was the last Kansas State coach to have more than one win in the series against Kansas?
  • How many times have Kansas and Kansas State for their Big 12 season openers?
  • When was the last time Kansas State began Big 12 play against back-to-back ranked teams?
  • How many players does Kansas State have in the Top 20 in rebounding, and who are they?
Puzzles to Ponder
  • What will Kansas State do without its go-to guy of Jacob Pullen to rely on?  While they looked rough early this season, the Wildcats seem to have ironed out some of their issues in their first dozen games. What used to be a stale offense with poor shooting has slowly progressed into a more fluid system as the players facilitate motion by doing what Martin asks – passing the ball around and moving without it. No one as emerged as “the” guy yet, but between Will Spradling, Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez, fireworks are never far away. The combination of the three and the different styles they bring has been great for the Wildcats.
  • Who is going to be the biggest surprise this season? Watching Kansas State play Howard, the player who stood out to me was Jeremy Jones. He is so quick that when he weaves around the court that it looks like everyone else is on a slight delay. Also, his speed while dribbling reminds me of a comment Martin once made about Denis Clemente. Martin said that Clemente was the fastest he had ever seen with the ball in his hands. Jones, I think, is in that category. More noticeably, his release is just beautiful, for those who appreciate fundamentally sound jump shots. This is the one you point out to your son, daughter or sibling who plays basketball and tell him or her to shoot like this guy.
  • What are the strengths of this team? As I heard Bill Self say on the radio once, “Depth is not good because it protects you from injuries or because it allows players to take breaks without the quality of play dropping. Rather, depth is good because when your starters are not doing what you want them to do, you can take them out and put in someone who will do what you want them to do.” Martin has depth this season. This is helpful not only because of the aforementioned reason but also because the coach can ask his guys for all-out effort and have it be a reasonable request because they know they will have some time to recuperate here and there.
Trivia Answers
  • 1907
  • Dana Altman
  • Ten – Today will be No. 11.
  • 1996-97
  • Four – Jamar Samuels is 6th, Thomas Gipson is 7th, Jordan Henriquez is 14th and Rodney McGruder is 18th.

What happened in Wichita?

10 Dec

Looking at the box score from Thursday night’s game against West Virginia, you can see there are not that many statistical differences between the Mountaineers and the Wildcats. Since the game did go into two overtimes, that’s not shocking. What is slightly more surprising is that Kansas State led West Virginia in categories that one might think would give the Wildcats an edge: fast break (13 to 4), points off turnovers (21 to 13), points in the paint (44 to 38). The teams were tied 17 times during the game, and the lead changed nine times. In the beginning, though, Kansas State got up 9-2. What were the factors that kept the Wildcats from closing the door – or kept it from closing on them?

  • Questionable defense – Last I heard from Martin, he was much happier with the team’s defense than he was with its offense. On Thursday, though, it looked like there was confusion. From where I sat, it seemed that guys were out of position and because of that did not rotate over to help teammates when their defenders beat them going to the rim. I think what Martin said after the game probably backs up this assessment:

“We were pathetic on defense in the second half. We were just bad. All we did was foul, reach and gamble. The physical nature of the game had us undisciplined, and we did not take care of our assignments. We allowed the ball to get to areas on the floor, and the way we play if we allow the ball to get to certain areas, it causes problems for us.”

  • Grit – The Wildcats played one heck of a game. Fans in the stands thought it was a long, drawn-out contest; can you imagine how the players and coaches felt? It was a grinding, back-and-forth, foul-laden battle that lived up to the tremendous hype it received beforehand. Really, I thought Kansas State – especially as such a young team – played with considerable physical and mental toughness. It was a difficult early-season game, and the team weathered it fairly well. Martin does not believe in moral victories, however. While it might seem harsh, that is a good mindset to have, and the deeper the team gets into this season and the further these young guys go along in life, the more important it will be to remember that.

“Whether you win or lose, you will end up learning from the experience,” Martin said, “but we have to go to practice tomorrow. We will watch film tomorrow. We will do everything we can do until they tell us they cannot play anymore. I do not find positives in hard fought games. The only positive that I like, is the only stat that I like: our team has one more point than the other team. When that happens, I go home, and I am in a decent mood for about 12 hours.  When that does not happen, I am a miserable human being. Unfortunately, we did not get that done today. I am proud of our fight, like I told them in the locker room, but it was not good enough. We have to get better.”

  • Stale offense – While the players moved more without the ball than the had in the past several games – at least it looked like this was the case, especially since I didn’t hear Martin yell, “MOVE!” as I have heard before – it still was not enough. Martin wants these guys passing and cutting, and there is too much standing around. That has been his assessment of the last several ball games, and again, while it looked better on Thursday, there is still much work to be done. That game showed it.

 

Un lugar especial

13 Nov

*Note: Estoy estudiando español en Kansas State University y tenía la oportunidad entrevisar Kansas State coach Frank Martin en español y preguntarle sobre una variedad de sujetos. Este primer artículo es sobre sus primeras impresiones de Manhattan.*

Antes de que Frank Martin desembarcó del avión para ir a Manhattan, su única experiencia del estado de Kansas era un viaje de recrutar en Garden City. Por eso, él esperaba que Manhattan sería como Garden City. Pero cuando él fue en Scenic Drive y veía las lomas, él estaba sorprendido.

La verdura y la hierba de las lomas contribuyeron a una escena preciosa, Martin dijo. Luego, cuando veía la ciudad, le gustaba mucho también.

“Mi primera impresión era que era completamente diferente a lo que me imaginaba,” Martin dijo. “El primer día que encontré la ciudad, me encantó y esa opinión sigue y sigue poniendo más fuerte todos los días en los últimos cinco años y medio, sigue aprendiendo más y más de esta comunidad y es un gran lugar con tremendas personas.”

La familia Martin siempre ha vivido en las ciudades grandes. Martin ha entrenado en Miami, Boston y Cincinnati y su esposa es de Nueva York. En estos lugares, las casas están una arriba de la otra y él tráfico hace difícil llegar de un punto a otro. Todas las personas corren y corren y tienen apuro.

Entonces, Manhattan era una experiencia nueva para los Martin. Aquí, hay más espacio. No hay tanta locura, como dice Martin.

Pero hay un elemento de este lugar que Martin aprecia más que cualquier otro: la gente.

El mes que él llegó a Manhattan, enfermó. Anya, la esposa de Martin, estaba planeando a ir por Cincinnati. Él le dijo a ella que debe ir y él estaría bien. Pero la enfermedad era más seria que pensaba. Cuando fue al doctor, le mandó inmediatamente al hospital. Aquí, entre la salida y vuelta de su esposa, Martin estaba solo.

Pero uno de los médicos que se llama Dr. Wall trataba de tener conversación con él y lo mantenía tranquilo. Esa atención comprensiva y generosa le mostró a Martin la importancia de la persona a esta comunidad.

“Nunca se me olvida,” él dijo con admiración en su voz.

En esta situación, Martin sabía que hay algo especial sobre Manhattan.

Aunque mudar es un parte normal de la vida de los entrenadores, puede ser difícil a veces. Cuando llegó en Manhattan, Martin no conocía nadie y no había pasado muy poco tiempo en el estado. Pero como todos otros en la profesión, mudar es un parte del trabajo.

“En esta profesión, uno sabe que tiene que estar preparado para aceptar la posibilidad de mudarse, de tener que estar en una comunidad nueva,” Martin dijo.

“Nosotros llegamos aquí con brazos abiertos y la mente abierta para aceptar el próximo capítulo en nuestra vida y estamos supercontento.”

Wildcats open season with Charleston Southern

11 Nov

Checking out Charleston Southern Last season, the Buccaneers went 9-9 in the Big South Conference and won 16 games, the most the team it has had in 14 seasons. On the road, though, the team went 3-12.

While the Buccaneers graduated leading scorer Jamarco Warren, they return guard Kelvin Martin, a senior who last season snagged the Big South Conference Defensive Player of the Year award. Overall, this year’s team is young. Of 17 names on the roster, 13 have “freshman” or “sophomore” behind them.

A team that plays with four guards and works to spread out defenses so it can drive on them or shoot three-pointers, Charleston Southern’s setup reminds Kansas State coach Frank Martin of a few Big 12 teams.

“A little bit like Nebraska,” he said. “I mean, Nebraska had Ryan Anderson at the 4, and they just spaced you and drove you, and they looked to shoot threes from four different spots. I guess Colorado, to a certain extent last year, who obviously gave us tons of problems.”

Going on the offensive Last season, Kansas State backed away from the box-and-one offense it had used to take advantage of size near the rim in favor of the pinch-post, which featured players’ athleticism and created favorable player mismatches. This season, the Wildcats plan to combine the two.

“We can take advantage of Thomas Gipson playing the low post, where he’s efficient, he’s very good; take advantage of Jamar in there, who’s gotten a lot better; and even Jordan because of his size, and now he’s gotten to the point where he can score in there,” Martin said. “But at the same time, the pinch post was very good to us. We’re trying to implement an offense where you kind of combine both. Sometimes we go straight into the pinch post, other times we want to utilize that size at the rim, that strength at the rim, so we’ll start with the offense that we’ve always had and try and flow it to the pinch post.”

Personnel updates This is the year of the major-minutes-players becoming the guys for the team. Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly were the go-to players for the past couple years, but now the Wildcats need others to step up. Among those will be forward Jordan Henriquez and guard Rodney McGruder. According to Martin, Henriquez has been coachable and grown in his game as a result. McGruder, on the other hand, recovered from a knee surgery and is doing better because of it. Of course, how they perform in actual games has yet to be seen … at least for a few hours.

Here’s what Martin had to say about Jordan:

“Up to now, he’s been as good as we can ask of him in preseason, and now the games count, so let’s see how he reacts to being a front-line player on a consistent basis during the course of the season. I think he’ll do well in it because he’s prepared himself for it, but that’s a little bit of an unknown.”

Here’s what he said about Rodney:

“Today he had a dunk in practice that he had no chance of ever having last year because his legs are under him. He shot the cover off the ball the whole preseason, and then in the exhibition game, he just missed some shots, but he took some good ones. He’s been better defensively because he’s not playing on one leg so he can go both ways. That’ll come. You guys will see Rodney as the year progresses and we start doing things to give him angles, get shots and make plays, you’ll see what I’m talking about.”

Martin talks about the season’s newcomers

3 Nov

At Kansas State’s basketball media day last week, I asked coach Frank Martin what each of the first-year guys brings to the team.

“They all bring something different,” he began, “and I know that sounds like a generic answer, but it’s the truth. We don’t have two of them that do the same thing.”

The coach then proceeded to launch into wonderfully detailed description of each of the six new scholarship players. I could paraphrase his comments, but I found everything he said to be interesting and informative, so I’ll just give you Martin’s remarks as he said them.

#42 Thomas Gipson – 6’7″ 275-lb forward – freshman from Cedar Hill, Texas

“Gipson’s a 270-pound wide body that’s not scared to throw that big body of his around. He lays wood on you, you know you got hit. Gives us a presence at the rim. He plays with the same aggression as Luis Colon, but has an understanding of how to score a little bit like Curtis Kelly – but doesn’t rebound the ball as well as either one of those guys yet. It’s something that’ll come.”

#20 Adrian Diaz – 6’10” 225-lb forward – freshman from Miami, Florida

“Adrian Diaz is long and athletic and can run. When the game’s up and down, you see his strengths. When the game’s a grind and a physical nature, you see that he’s got a ways to go from a strength standpoint. He’s got great hands. If he catches that ball, he’s going to dunk it. He’s 10 feet away he can shoot it in the basket – the ball doesn’t hit his hand and end up in the cheerleaders. It stays in the court, which is a plus.”

#13 Angel Rodriguez – 5’11 180-lb guard – freshman from San Juan, Puerto Rico  

“Then Angel, he’s a consummate point guard. He’s the kind of guy that understands the tempo of the game, when to go, when not to go, he’s a little pit bull defensively.”

[Because of knee problems, Rodriguez only played in games – no practices – his senior year of high school, and had surgery after the season. Now he has to get back into the habit of practice.]

“That attention to that daily focus for practice, that you’ve got to have, he’s trying to relearn that because it got lost in the shuffle because of the situation last year.”

James Watson – 6’8″ 230-pound forward – Atoka, Oklahoma – junior transfer from Cowley College

“James is a young man that in individuals has shown the ability to be an outstanding Big 12 athlete. He can jump up and block shots. He can run, dunks the basketball. He probably has had, in individuals, more lob dunks than any guy we’ve had since I’ve been here. Walker would just dunk on people, but James is just athletic. He runs and jumps up in the air pretty good, and he shoots it fairly well. We need him to do what he’s got to do to be able to earn the right to be on the floor, which I think he will.”

[When Martin says, “do what he’s got to do to be able to earn the right to be on the floor,” he is referring to the incredibly challenging conditioning test – an extended series of timed sprints, I have been told – that players must pass before they are allowed to practice.]

Omari Lawrence – 6’3″ 220-lb guard – Bronx, New York – sophomore transfer from St. John’s

“Omari gives us what I call power guard. He’s a 6-foot-3 strong guy that understands – I never watched Omari play at St. Johns. I watched him the summer between his sophomore and junior year in high school. He didn’t shoot it. He’d drive it. He’d finish at the rim. Well, now, after watching him in practice for nine, 10 days, whatever it’s been, he shoots the ball real well, so he’s obviously spent time getting better with that. He’s struggling with our defensive concepts right now, but he’ll be fine. He’s an older guy, and I think he’ll be fine.”

Jeremy Jones – 6’2″ 170-lb guard – Chicago, Illinois – junior transfer from Seward County Community College

“Jeremy Jones is fast. He’s the kind of guy that can go get a basket on his own. He doesn’t need help to go get a shot. He can figure that one out. He needs a lot of help on the other side of the floor, but it’s not because of a lack of competitiveness. Like all first-year guys – if we played a 2-3 zone it’d be a lot easier for those guys to learn what we do. Our concepts our different than 99 percent of the people out there from a defensive standpoint, so it takes time for those guys to learn, and he’s competing his tail off. But he brings a speed element to the game. He had a basket yesterday in the open floor where it was Denis Clemente-like from a speed standpoint, but then the difference is that he went up and finished over Diaz and J.O. – Jordan. I don’t know how the heck he got the shot on the rim, but he did. It was an impressive basket because he showed that unbelieveable speed and then the ability to score over size.”