When Kansas State opens official basketball practices on Friday the first thing first-year coach Bruce Weber will be looking for is “consistency.”
Weber added, “The biggest thing we’ve been talking about is championship character and the attitude of playing the game the right way. Our focus is on becoming a team … a family. It’s not about individuals, but it’s about becoming a team.”
Weber picked up a jump-start to the season when it played a four-game series in Brazil during the month of August, but more importantly, had 10 official practice dates prior to the games.
“We are much further along because of that,” said Weber. “We’ve learned that we have some nice pieces, but now we need to find out if they can figure out their roles, and accept those roles. (Laughing) We, as coaches, know the roles we want them to fill, but the question is do they understand those roles.”
Returning from last year’s 22-11 NCAA Tournament team are all but Jamar Samels, who averaged 10.0 points and 6.6 rebounds, plus Victor Ojeleye, who led the team in character and leadership.
Among the top returnees are:
• Rodney McGruder – started all 33 games … leading scorer at 15.8 points and top 3-point shooter with 50, plus an 80 percent free thrower
• Will Spradling – started all 33 games … third in scoring last year at 9.3, but on only 36 percent shooting … the team’s top free thrower at 82 percent
• Angel Rodriguez – played in 32 games, with 17 of those being starts … fourth in scoring at 8.3, plus led the team in assists with 101 and steals with 41
• Jordan Henriquez – played in 32 games with 14 starts … contributed 7.6 points per game on 54 percent shooting, plus topped the team with 77 blocked shots
• Thomas Gipson – played in all 33 games with 22 starts … averaged 7.0 points and 4.7 rebounds per game
• Martavious Irving – 31 games with 14 starts … scored 5.5 points per game, which included being a 71 percent free thrower … third in steals with 30
• Shane Southwell – 32 games with 2 starts … contributed 3.2 points per game
Also with limited playing time are returnees Adrian Diaz, Nino Williams and Omari Lawrence.
Overall, Weber said of the collective group, “Their strength is that they play so hard. They play with toughness. In rebounding drills they are flying all over the place. Their weakness is passing, ball handling and just the consistency of their play. It’s not necessarily a weakness, but it is a concern.”
Of the early goals, Weber said, “We just want to teach them how to play. Defensively, it will be more of a team concept than last year with more team help. Last year they were very much a denial defense with focus on one-on-one. We’ll pressure, but we also want to help a little more.
“Offensively, we need to learn how to play and learn how to use screens. We all need to become better passers and ball handlers,” said Weber. “We’ll keep it pretty simple. If you get too complicated early, you’re not going to be good at anything.”
K-State State will first take the court on Oct. 30, when it hosts Washburn University, followed by a date with Emporia State on Nov. 4, and Nov. 9 against North Dakota to complete the first week of the season.
Adrian Diaz, 6-10, Soph, Miami, Fla.
Thomas Gipson, 6-7, Soph, Cedar Hill, Texas
Jordan Henriquez, 6-11, Sr, Port Chester, N.Y.
Martavious Irving, 6-1, Sr, Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
D.J. Johnson, 6-8, Fr, St. Louis, Mo.
Omari Lawrence, 6-3, Jr, Bronx, N.Y.
Rodney McGruder, 6-3, Sr, Washington, D.C.
Shawn Meyer, 6-3, Soph, Kansas City, Mo.
Michael Orris, 6-2, Fr, Crete, Ill.
Angel Rodriguez, 5-11, Soph, San Juan, Puerto Rico
Brian Rohleder, 6-3, Soph, Wichita, Kansas
Ryan Schultz, 6-5, Jr, Wichita, Kansas
Shane Southwell, 6-6, Jr, Harlem, N.Y.
Will Spradling, 6-2, Jr, Overland Park, Kansas
Nino Williams, 6-5, Soph, St. Louis, Mo.