Tag Archives: Will Spradling

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

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.

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.

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.

Overtime again for the Wildcats: Bramlage edition

11 Dec

Another nonconference opponent that Big 12 teams are expected to beat, another win that was much too close for comfort. The Wildcats triumphed 79-68 on Sunday afternoon, but North Florida did not make it easy, scoring a bucket at the end of regulation to send it into overtime at 60-60.

Kansas State coach Frank Martin said the selfishness and lethargy he sees from his team worries him more than the small margin of victory.
“I’m not concerned with the final score; that’s irrelevant to me,” Martin said. “I’m concerned on how we do our jobs _ guys being on the same page, how you go out and play.”

275-pound freshman force Thomas Gipson led the team with 23 points and 12 rebounds. Jamar Samuels, Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder also scored in double figures. For the Ospreys, Jimmy Williams and Parker Smith scored 13 each, while Jeron Granberry got 12 points on 4-of-8 shooting from 3-point range.

Kansas State had led the entire game when Williams scored back-to-back fast break baskets to put North Florida up 40-37 with 12:37 left to play. A few minutes and consecutive three-pointers by Granberry later, it was 49-40 Ospreys.

The Wildcats would not regain the lead until under three minutes remained, when they pulled ahead 57-55 on free throws from Samuels.

When Spradling drilled a 3-pointer with 19 seconds left in regulation, it looked like it would ice the game 60-58. Williams made sure it did not, scoring a 2-point basket to send it to overtime, where the Wildcats eventually won by double-digits.

Kansas State got off to a 12-4 start but let the Ospreys back into the game. Spradling said the Wildcats cannot do that down the road.

“When we get up like that, we need to just bury teams,” Spradling said. “Once we get leads, we like to relax and let teams back in the game. We can’t be doing that, especially when Big 12 comes, because if we do, we’re going to be the team getting buried.”

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.”

Nice Numbers from Game 3

22 Nov

The Wildcats’ 92-50 blowout of Maryland Eastern Shore turned into a tale of two halves for both teams.

The Hawks (1-4) shot 41.7% from the floor, 50% from 3-pt range and 66.7% from the free throw line in the first half. In the second half, those numbers decreased to 32.1% from the floor, 31.8% from 3-pt range and 47.4 from the charity stripe.

For the Wildcats (3-0), the opposite occurred. Kansas State shot 37.9% from the floor, 35.7% from beyond the arc and 75% from the free throw line. In the second half, they stepped on the gas and shot 65.6% from the floor, 50% from 3-pt range and 81.8% from the line.

“The last five, six minutes of the first half, I thought we started to play more like we were capable of playing,” said coach Frank Martin. “They made a couple hard shots in the first half. They weren’t going to keep shooting the ball at that clip. They were controlling the tempo of the game because they were attacking us and we were just reeling. We weren’t where we needed to be.”

The Wildcats began the second half with a 28-6 run and continued to steamroll the Hawks with a separate stretch of 16 consecutive points.

“Towards the end of the half I think we started speeding the game up a little, and then we came out of the gate in the second half,” Martin said. “It was fun. I don’t think I called a play the first 10 minutes of the second half. We just played. We did what we do in practice. We went out there and attacked and played and shared the ball and, to our guys’ credit, when they had opportunities, they made shots.”

Though Martin, Jamar Samuels and Martavious Irving did not look particularly enthused after the win, numerically there was much to admire.

The Wildcats outrebounded the Hawks 44-28, and they committed only 9 turnovers compared to the opponents’ 18.

Thomas Gipson, Irving, Rodney McGruder, Will Spradling and Shane Southwell combined for 18 assists and just 2 turnovers. Gipson led the team in scoring (13) and rebounding (9). In Samuels’ first game back after a three-game suspension, he scored 12 points on 7-of-9 foul shooting but was just 2-of-8 from the floor with 3 rebounds. Both Irving and McGruder added 11 points and 4 assists each.

Also, Jeremy Jones made good on his 9 minutes of playing time and went 4-4 from the floor to score 8 points.

 

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.