Tag Archives: K-State basketball

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.”

 

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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.

Big 12 Farewell – Basketball Edition

29 Mar

As the elimination of Kansas by Virginia Commonwealth snuffed out the last hope of the Big 12 conference being represented in the 2011 Final Four, here’s a look at the seasons of all the teams in the league. Collectively, the five Big 12 teams given March Madness berths went went 5-5 in this year’s tournament. Keep in mind: this which just ended is the last season that the Big 12 will have 12 teams, at least for the foreseeable future, as Nebraska is leaving for the Big 10 and Colorado is joining the Pac-10.

Kansas: 3-1 in the NCAA tournament, 14-2 Big 12, 35-3 overall In four games of March Madness, the Jayhawks, a  No. 1 seed, never faced a team seeded higher than 9. In the first round, they played 16-seed Boston University, then moved on to face 9-seed Illinois. Because of upsets elsewhere in its region, Kansas faced 12-seed Richmond and then 11-seed Virginia Commonwealth. It looked like the easiest possible route to another national championship. Enter the most colossal upset of the tournament so far. Of course, the Jayhawks are still the Jayhawks, and if the Morris twins stick around for their senior season, the team could make it as far or farther in 2012.

Texas: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 13-3 Big 12, 28-8 overall The Longhorns escaped the distinction of being an early upset with an 85-81 victory over 13-seed Oakland but lost in the waning seconds of its next game, a one-point heartbreaker against Arizona. There was discussion of a questionable call at the end of the game, but here’s my take on that: How many free throws did Texas miss? How many shots did Texas miss? How many turnovers did Texas commit? Each one of those was a missed opportunity. If those had been taken advantage of, the game might not have needed to come down to the final play anyway. While there are certainly bad calls on occasion, officiating is never an excuse for losing, in my opinion. Next season, Texas will be a younger team, as year’s squad had five seniors, but with the leadership of Rick Barnes and the older players that remain, the Longhorns will likely be a tournament team again in 2012.

Texas A&M: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 24-9 overall The Aggies had a very nice season, getting off to a 16-1 start. In Big 12 play, though, the team went on several skids when faced with competition from the better half of the league. It lost four of five games through January and early February, and it lost four of six to end the season. Texas A&M received a bid to the tournament but lost to 10-seed Florida State in the first round. There’s potential here; it will be interesting to see whether the Aggies can continue the momentum of this season with a repeat performance in six months or so.

Kansas State: 1-1 in the NCAA tournament, 10-6 Big 12, 23-11 overall It’s hard to describe the Wildcats’ season without using the roller coaster cliche, considering the team began the season ranked No. 3 in the country and then completely fell out of the rankings as the team’s seniors were suspended, two players quit the team, and K-State started the conference schedule 1-4 … only to rebound with a six-game winning streak to finish the season and receive a 5-seed in the Big Dance. There will be questions about next year’s team, as it will be without Jacob Pullen for the first time in four years, but there were questions about this year’s team, too, and it didn’t turn out badly.

Missouri: 0-1 in the NCAA tournament, 8-8 Big 12, 23-11 overall The “Will he stay or will he go?”  merry-go-round has finally ground to a halt in Columbia. Head coach Mike Anderson declined a contract extension from the school in favor of taking the same job at the University of Arkansas, where the coach spent 17 years as an assistant under Nolan Richardson and won a national championship in 1994. Leaving gracefully is a hard thing to do, and whether Anderson did so is hard to say. At least, though, he will be somewhere he wants to be, and Missouri can move on to a coach who definitely wants to be in Columbia and is not distracted by the possibilities of going elsewhere.

Colorado: 8-8 Big 12, 24-13 overall The Buffaloes have been recognized as one of those teams – every year, it’s the same story – that should have been included in the tournament field but was not. They beat Kansas State three times this season, and they also vanquished Texas and Missouri – all of whom made it into the tournament easily. If you look at the Colorado home page on ESPN.com, you’ll see a video clip labeled “Dick Vitale on the teams snubbed by the NCAA tournament” and articles in the news section with titles like “How to improve tourney selection process.” More than likely, being a No. 1 seed in the NIT was little consolation. If head coach Tad Boyle and next year’s team (minus the six seniors it had this season) continue on this way, I’d be surprised if the Buffaloes get left out of the tourney in 2012.

Nebraska: 7-9 Big 12, 19-13 overall The Huskers also had an up-and-down season, and like the Wildcats, they struggled some on the road and were nearly unbeatable at home. In Nebraska’s last seven games of this season, it played two ranked teams – Texas and Missouri. It won both those games … but lost the other four. The Huskers lived up to that Big 12 stereotype of being able to beat any team on any given day, but it didn’t happen often enough.

Baylor: 7-9 Big 12, 18-13 overall The Bears had two wins over ranked opponents this season … only it was really just one opponent, Texas A&M, whom they beat in overtime in College Station and by seven points in Waco. Baylor’s on-court issues mirrored those off the court. There was LaceDarius Dunn, mentioned in conjunction with assault (later cleared by a grand jury), and just recently it was decided by the NCAA that freshman Perry Jones -who averaged 13.9 points and 7.2 rebounds per game this season – will have to miss five games at the beginning of next season if he stays. While the Baylor administration is arguing that it’s getting a raw dealer (see Cam Newton), it is what it is. It could be awhile before the Bears can piece together a decent season.

Oklahoma State: 6-10 Big 12, 20-14 overall For all their struggles, the Cowboys came within four points of a five-game winning streak to end the season. They beat Texas Tech and Baylor in Stillwater, lost 64-61 at Oklahoma, defeated Nebraska 53-52 back in Stillwater, and finished out the regular season with a loss to Kansas by a single point, 63-62, in Lawrence. Tiny-but-mighty guard Keiton Page will be the team’s only senior next season, and five players will be juniors, so depending on who gets playing time, the youth of the team might lead to some inconsistencies.

Texas Tech: 5-11 Big 12, 13-19 overall Honestly, I really like Pat Knight. Having talked to him at Big 12 media day in Kansas City and listened to him at K-State post game press conference this season, I think he has some serious understanding of the game of basketball. With that said, he stated at the beginning of this season that after three seasons, it was a “get-an-extension or get-fired type of year” for him.We all know how that ended, and now Billy Gillispie has signed a five-year deal as head coach of the Red Raiders. According to an ESPN report on the hiring, Gillispie has a good reputation in Texas because before he coached at Kentucky, he helped rebuild the programs of UTEP and Texas A&M. However, he has had his share of problems – if he gets a fourth DUI, as ESPN college basketball analyst Doug Gottlieb pointed out, his five-year stay with the Red Raiders could be much shorter.

Oklahoma: 5-11 Big 12, 14-18 overall The Sooners’ season ended with a 20-point loss to then-No. 10 Texas, and head coach Jeff Capel was promptly fired. Blake Griffin, recruited by Capel and now an NBA star because of his incredible dunks, contacted ESPN.com to express his feelings about the matter, saying that while he did not profess to know everything about basketball, he recognized Capel as a great coach and felt the university made a mistake by firing him.

Iowa State: 3-13 Big 12, 16-16 By the record, there is no recourse but to assume the Cyclones were bad this year. Maybe more than bad; 3-13 sounds more like it fits into the category of “awful.” If you dig just a bit deeper though, you see a glimmer of hope. Three of Iowa State’s Big 12 games went into overtime; many more the Cyclones lost by single digits. It was head coach Fred Hoiberg’s first season, and the team still challenged the vast majority of its opponents; it wasn’t like the Cyclones rolled over for anyone. It may take a couple years (especially with a considerable number of players graduating now) but this team could be a sleeper down the road.

K-State done for tournament; Martin, not so much

26 Mar

The Wildcats may be out of the tournament, but head coach Frank Martin’s involvement is not yet complete, as CBS has requested his services as a guest analyst this weekend. The team’s sports information director said he will be in the studio from 5:30 to 9:30 CT. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I will tune in to watch, as will many others, I’m sure. While the coach’s comments should informative and entertaining for viewers, they accomplish a myriad of other objectives as well.

First of all, what great exposure for Kansas State University. Certainly, the Wildcats have been in the news all season – good news at the beginning of the season and the end of the season, and slightly-more-iffy news in the middle portion. Now, an audience of millions will see the team’s fearless/fearsome leader talking about the game, bringing to mind the team, its storylines, and the university in general.

Secondly, this gives people an opportunity to see Martin in a normal environment – not the intense two-hour span of a basketball game, not the post-game press conference when he is annoyed about a loss and is very ready to go home. When I tell people outside K-State that Martin is really a nice person, sometimes there is a little skepticism. For him to be on here analyzing other teams, it gives people some insight into his intelligence as a coach, his sense of humor, and the cordial personality that is underneath that scary stare and physically imposing demeanor.

Last but not least, Martin’s turn as an analyst will be one more opportunity for all the Wildcat fans to see him in action, and that’s nice, because let’s face it: March is a whole lot less interesting without him.

K-State Report Card: Defense, Rebounding, Offense

19 Mar

Defense: C

In the first half of this game against Wisconsin, the Wildcats seemed to have trouble rotating on defense. Wisconsin is moving the ball well – 7 assists on 11 made shots – and the more the Badgers pass, the more the Wildcats have to reposition. The longer that process takes, the harder it is to play man-to-man defense. Whipping the ball around the perimeter usually leads to finding an open man eventually, and as a result, Wisconsin shot 50 from the floor.

Leading up to this game, head coach Frank Martin said Wisconsin’s big men would make the Wildcats defend pick and roll situations. Because Jordan Taylor is such a capable shooter and shoots so often, going under the ball screen doesn’t work. As such is the case, other tactics must be employed – Martin did not specify what those would be, but he said his team’s success in handling those scenarios would determine its level of success.

Offense: C

The Wildcats had a rough 20 minutes to start the game. For the majority of the first half, only Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly had scored, while Wisconsin had eight players with something other than 0 in the points column. Pullen ended the half with 17 points, while Kelly added 9, and the only other scoring came from Rodney McGruder (3 points) and Juevol Myles (1 point).

Rebounding: B-

In the first half of this game, the Badgers outrebounded the Wildcats 14-9, and its total included five offensive rebounds.

Martin had emphasized rebounding as a key to the game because the Badgers monopolize the clock every time they get possession. If they get an offensive board, the Wildcats have to play defense for another 30 seconds. If they get a defensive board, the Wildcats have to go through that offensive process all over again. Basically, the Badgers try to exhaust teams by making them defend for a large part of the game.

How to Get the Best of the Badgers

18 Mar

After the Wildcats’ 73-68 win over Utah State on Thursday night, it’s one win down and four to go. Senior guard Jacob Pullen said he wants K-State to remember him for bringing the school a national championship, and on Saturday the team will have an opportunity to get another step closer as it faces Wisconsin in the third round of the NCAA tournament.

With even 4-seed vs. 13-seed and 3-seed vs. 14-seed games coming down to the wire this tournament, it’s almost a sure thing that a 4-seed vs. 5-seed matchup will be even more intensely competitive. That, as we all know, is why yesterday and today are probably the least productive workdays of the year across the United States.

Some of the stats on the Wildcats give us a little insight on what they need to do to be successful in this next game:

  • K-State is 22-4 when leading at halftime this season. Simply put, it’s imperative that the Wildcats start strong. They have to come out with energy and get some shots and stops early to get into a rhythm. Taking advantage of momentum is much easier than trying to create it once you’re in a bad situation. While the latter option is not impossible, it’s difficult and exhausting, and the opponents a team faces in the NCAA tournament are going to inflict enough hardship; this isn’t the time to make things harder on oneself with careless mistakes.
  • Wildcats are 20-6 when outrebounding their opponents. This isn’t surprising in the least, of course, because defense rebounds deprive opponents of possessions and facilitate fast breaks and offensive rebounds give current possessions new life. As senior Curtis Kelly has become more comfortable on the blocks after missing 9 games in the earlier portion of the season, and as sophomore Jordan Henriquez-Roberts has become stronger and more aggressive at the rim, K-State’s frontcourt has been surprisingly effective, even with Freddy Asprilla and Wally Judge, who quit the team in January.

After watching Wisconsin whip Belmont yesterday, I’ve compiled a few observations about the Badgers. These are some of the aspects the Wildcats will have to watch in order to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

  • The most obvious one: They can shoot the roof off the place if you let them. Against the Bruins on Thursday, the Badgers hit 12 of 22 from 3-point range, and they make 82 percent of their free throws. That’s the best in the country, just in case you’re wondering. I’m interested to see if the Wildcats will utilize a few different defensive sets to try and keep the Badgers guessing and disrupt their offensive rhythm. As for that lethal accuracy from the charity stripe, it would be prudent for the Wildcats to avoid any bonus situations for as long as possible.
  • The Badgers can make runs. Their game with Belmont was very close for probably the first 15, 17 minutes of the game. Then Wisconsin went on a tear to close out the first half and followed it up with another to begin the second half. The takeaway from: K-State is going to have to hunker down and be sharp and energetic for the duration of the game. The instant someone takes a play off because he’s tired, Wisconsin will take advantage. Because of this, expect head coach Frank Martin to sub fairly often, as he has been doing recently.
  • Wisconsin takes care of the ball. The team averages only seven turnovers per game. Last night, Belmont forced the Badgers into seven in the first half, and that played a large role in how close the game was to that point. The Wildcats will need to do likewise on Saturday.

Frank Martin for Big 12 Coach of the Year

1 Mar

One of my favorite moments on the pre-game video in Bramlage Coliseum is when the dramatic music comes to a crescendo as the film shows a furious Frank Martin being restrained on the sideline by his assistant coaches, then freezes the frame and flashes the label “BIG 12 COACH OF THE YEAR.”

The Wildcats accomplished a lot last season, which certainly helped in Martin achieving that distinction. This season, K-State has had quite a few hurdles: seniors being suspended, other players leaving the team entirely, and a 1-4 start in conference play.

Daily improvement, however, is one of the mantras of Martin, and even such roadblocks as the ones encountered in the last several months could not permanently detour the Wildcats.

The head coach made a change to his coaching, paying more attention to his upperclassmen instead of assuming they could improve and lead on their own, and letting those older players mentor the younger ones. Martin also changed the offense, trading in his signature smashmouth philosophy for more open perimeter play.

Now, with one game remaining in the regular season, the Wildcats have won their last five games, including two against top 10 opponents Kansas and Texas.

That’s a pretty amazing turnaround, considering all the circumstances. Is that a credit to the coach or the players? Assistant coach Brad Underwood says both. Martin bought into the new offense that Underwood recommended and convinced his players to believe in it as well; the players followed their coaches’ lead, scrapping the system they’d been practicing for months and learning something different.

At this point, who is a better candidate for Big 12 Coach of the Year than the man who won it last season? Having been around this team since November, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat in this conference honor.

 

Wildcats’ consistency faces tough test in Tigers

25 Feb

K-State is currently on a three-game win streak, the longest the team has had since the non-conference season. After a mind-blowing 16-point victory over the newly No. 1 Jayhawks in Bramlage Coliseum, the Wildcats parlayed that momentum into a home win over Oklahoma and a gritty road victory at Nebraska.

With only three games remaining in the regular season, K-State (19-9, 7-6 Big 12) faces two top-25 teams. At 11 a.m. Saturday, the team plays Missouri. In the last meeting, back on Jan. 17, the Tigers (22-6, 8-5 Big 12) forced the Wildcats into 24 turnovers, a number that makes any coach want to head to the nearest trash can and either pick it up and throw it or throw up into it.

Missouri has only lost six games this season, and four of those losses came against teams ranked No. 15 or higher in the country. The Tigers have won five of their last six games, with the only loss in that bunch coming against Kansas.

In that last contest, which ended 75-59 in favor of Missouri, the Tigers had five players score in double figures. The Wildcats, on the other hand, had only two – guard Jacob Pullen and forward Jordan Henriquez-Roberts.

Apparently, five Tigers scoring in double digits was not an anomaly. Marcus Denmon, Ricardo Ratliffe, Laurence Bowers, Kim English and Michael Dixon all average at least 10 points per game, and Denmon usually scores around 16.

The last time these teams played, Missouri amassed 15 assists to K-State’s 7. Now, though, the Wildcats have a new offense to take advantage of the smaller, more athletic lineup they’ve been using recently. As assistant coach Brad Underwood explains it, the team is still trying to attack the rim, but they’re doing it from further away. Instead of doing it with brute strength, the players are doing it with ball movement and cuts to the basket.

Keys to the Game:

Ball security 24 turnovers by the Wildcats the last time these teams played, and the Tigers had 12 steals. This is the obvious area of improvement, one that can be achieved by making responsible passes, dribbling less and being strong with the ball in the paint. Never in a million years would I expect the turnover count to be anywhere near as high as it was last time, but you never know.

Running that offense This is likely going to be a run-and-gun type of game, played at breakneck speed, but the Wildcats will have to be patient too. K-State has a size advantage here, especially with Henriquez-Roberts, who stands 7 feet tall. The most methodical way to exploit that is to work the ball around the perimeter, send guys cutting, and get to the rim.

Free throw shooting The Wildcats managed to come through when it mattered in Nebraska on Wednesday, but missing 9 free throw attempts is not going to cut it against the No. 21 team in the country.