Tag Archives: Jordan Henriquez

Another underrated team, another Big 12 title

10 Mar

Is there an echo in here?

If the following story line sounds familiar, it is. You just heard it a few months ago.

“Picked to finish in the middle of the pack this year, the Wildcats surprised everyone by not just putting together a successful season but by claiming a share of the Big 12 title.”

The basketball team, predicted to finish fifth, at the very bottom of the top half of the league, won 25 games after an offseason coaching change that initially left many fans dissatisfied. Even though coach Bruce Weber and the Wildcats lost Saturday at No. 13 Oklahoma State, they still ended up with a piece of the championship when No. 4 Kansas suffered its worst loss in seven years to unranked Baylor in Waco.

The Kansas State football team, which ended the season 11-2, had been predicted to finish sixth. In retrospect, it is hard to believe people thought that the team would straggle into a position in the bottom half of the league. Instead, the Wildcats felled mighty Bob Stoops and ranked Oklahoma in normally unassailable Norman and went on to contend for the national championship.

Does it bother Kansas State players that media outlets often ignore them? A little, but it is nothing new, said junior guard Will Spradling, who played on Saturday despite a bruised sternum.

“We’re not getting the type of respect that we should, but that’s something K-State’s dealt with in every sport, every year,” Spradling said. “The football team didn’t get much respect this year until they got the No. 1 spot, and they still weren’t getting much respect at the end of the year.

“K-State’s just – athletically they’re kind of looked down upon, and teams lately have really been rejuvenating the program,” he added.

Outsiders might not have expected the basketball team to contend for a Big 12 title, but senior Martavious Irving knew the opportunity was there.

“When they won it, that’s the first thing I thought about,” Irving said. “We’re the next major sport at the school, so it’s pressure and we’re pretty good, even though we’ve got a new coaching staff, I was thinking, ‘Now it’s kind of like we’ve got to win it too.'”

Win it they did. It is the first Big 12 title in basketball for Kansas State since 1977. Weber was 20 years old.

As senior Rodney McGruder gazed up at the championship banner on the wall of the gym in the Wildcats’ new basketball practice facility, he remarked how long ago it was – more than a decade before he was even born. He interpreted the length of time since a Big 12 title as a chance for this year’s team to accomplish something great.

Even with the end of the regular season still a few weeks old, senior Jordan Henriquez looked at the chance to win a championship not just as a crowning accomplishment but as the beginning of a new tradition that his younger teammates can continue.

“If we win the Big 12 championship, I want those guys to keep it going,” Henriquez said. “If Kansas can win nine or 10 in a row, why can’t K-State?”

 

 

Advertisements

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.

Wildcats benefit from summer practice time before going to Brazil

20 Jul

The NCAA rule changes that allow coaches to spend more time with players during summer could not have come at a better time for the Kansas State men’s basketball program.

With a brand new coach in Bruce Weber and a trip to Brazil coming up, the players and coaching staff are taking advantage of revised regulations that allow for eight hours of practice each week (two hours on skill instruction, the others six for weight training and conditioning) for up to eight weeks during the summer provided that the players are enrolled in summer classes.

“All the coaches I’ve talked to are positive about it,” Weber said Tuesday during media availability. “It’s something we have fought for forever.”

The extra opportunity for the coaches and players to develop chemistry and learn how to work within the system of Weber is especially valuable for the Wildcats this summer, since all the players from last year’s team had decided to stay on this year despite the coaching change that on the surface looks like a switch between two polar opposite personalities.

“Basketball is pretty simple, but everyone does it a little bit different,” Weber said. “Coach Martin and his staff got them to play hard and compete hard. That’s what we’re trying to continue. Now, also, the heart is there, the intensity is there. We have to think a little bit—let’s keep our poise and composure, along with doing our skill work. That’s important, too.”

The combination of more practice time and a trip overseas to play against professional teams in Brazil will be a time where everyone can get used to personalities and working together, something that is particularly important considering the group consists of mainly Martin recruits.

“The chemistry is just as important as anything else,” Weber said. “Getting to know each other, enjoying each other, learning about each other, and then you’ll see how guys react. It’s one thing to do it in drills; it’s another thing to do it in live practice.”

Even before the rule changes, the players would have gotten time together during weight lifting and open gyms, but the hours in the gym with coaches have allowed players to get used to the new coaching staff and given the coaches time to observe the players and see what they still need to work on. 

Senior center Jordan Henriquez said that while everyone has to adjust to the differences between the former coaching staff and the current one, much has stayed the same.

“Things are still intense,” he said. “They’re different coaches so they have different coaching styles. It’s an adjustment—we’re all trying to adjust. We’re all buying in and getting ready to go to Brazil.”

 

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 beat Colonials, move to 4-0

1 Dec

Kansas State put away George Washington 69-56 behind double-doubles from Thomas Gipson and Jamar Samuels. Neither team’s coach, however, seemed pleased after the game.

George Washington coach Mike Lonergan said his team’s performance disappointed him.

“We came out ready to play in the first half, and unfortunately our horrendous free throw shooting kept us from having a lead at the half,” he said, “and then in the second half, a lot of open threes we missed. Give credit to Kansas State – they’re a very good defensive team.”

Kansas State coach Frank Martin agreed about the defense, but the lack of movement on offense had him yelling and gesturing in frustration throughout the game.

“Right now I’m worried because we’re playing selfishly on offense, and that cannot happen,” he said.

Gipson had 17 points and 13 rebounds, while Samuels added 10 and 10. Jordan Henriquez contributed 6 points and 11 rebounds.

“Gipson just was a man amongst boys out there tonight and dominated the game,” Lonergan said, “and Samuels had a great second half, so they killed us inside.”

For the Colonials, Tony Taylor had 14 points. No one else scored in double figures for George Washington.

The Colonials stayed close early on the strength of their three-point shooting, a category in which it led the nation coming into the game. The team converted on 4 of 8 from beyond the arc in the first half while the Wildcats hit on only 1 of 10 from there.

Kansas State pulled away some on an 8-0 sparked by an Henriquez basket, but then the Colonials skirted away on their own 7-0 streak. They took the lead 28-26 before a 3-pointer by Martavious Irving – his team’s first of the game – put the Wildcats back in front 28-26 with 4:22 to go in the first half.

At halftime, the Wildcats led 32-29. The size of Gipson, Samuels and Henriquez proved problematic for the Colonials as the trio amassed 19 points and 18 rebounds in the first 20 minutes. By the game’s end, Kansas State had 25 second chance points, while the Colonials got just 8.

After four minutes of back-and-forth scoring, Kansas State’s Shane Southwell hit a 3-pointer to put the Wildcats up 42-37. Two charges taken by Wildcats and a technical foul on the George Washington bench later, point guard Will Spradling went off for 9 straight points in a 15-1 run by his team.

“We were running offense, and that opened up a lot of shots, opened up a lot of lanes,” Spradling said. “We were making the second pass, which we weren’t doing in the first half.”

The teams traded baskets for a while again as players battled in the post. Ultimately, the paint belonged to the Wildcats, especially Gipson. The game slowed as it progressed and included lots of foul shooting toward the end.

“We decided to do what we practiced, built a lead, and then reverted right back to playing how we did the whole first half – just everyone be selfish and no one run what we practice,” Martin said.

The Wildcats travel to play Virginia Tech on Sunday. It will be the team’s first road test of the season. Martin said he would like to have had one more game on the schedule at this point just because the team is young and needs the practice.

“We’ve got to learn how to play offense the way we play defense, which is unselfish and disciplined,” Martin said. “The way we played today is totally unacceptable.”

Putting on a Show: The Exhibition Game

6 Nov

I’ll later be transcribing Frank Martin’s postgame press conference as well as the comments of Jordan Henriquez and Martavious Irving. For now, though, here are the quick hits of what to take away from Kansas State’s 90-60 exhibition victory over Fort Hays State.

Most of the veterans look solid. This may seem ironic with the announcement that senior Jamar Samuels is suspended for the first three games, but Jordan Henriquez, Martavious Irving and Will Spradling played well. All scored in double figures, and Henriquez even recorded a double-double. More than numbers, though, they looked like they understood what was going on, and they played in a fairly disciplined way most of the time. To me, it’s incredible to see how far these guys – Henriquez and Irving in particular – have come in just a few years. They seem more comfortable talking to the media, just more at ease in general. I think that sense of confidence will really play into their leadership this season. They know they have earned their spots, and they can help the younger guys learn how to do that too.

Several of the new guys have potential to contribute. The main ones I’m talking about here are Angel Rodriguez and Thomas Gipson. Rodriguez has speed and a sweet shot. Plus, as Martin said, Rodriguez understands the game and what it means to be a point guard. It seems that he has acquired a decent understanding of the offense. Gipson has a huge body, but he can catch the ball, and he knows how to temper the strength of his shot when he is close to the rim. In addition to that soft touch, he has some nice back-to-the-basket moves. He also does not hesitate. When he gets the ball at the basket, he goes up instead of dribbling once out of compulsion. It’s good to see. Adrian Diaz is another one to keep an eye on. His response to missed shots and such reminds me of Jordan Henriquez. He looks so regretful after a missed opportunity, but he doesn’t seem to let that linger. Also, Diaz seems fairly agile despite his size, and Martin said he is more developed offensively than Henriquez was when he came in as a freshman. Obviously, all the new guys need work. They could be very good, though, and I think Rodriguez and Gipson – and perhaps Diaz as well – will be getting some serious minutes down the road.