If you have not had the chance to see the 2015 version of the Kansas State men’s basketball team yet this year, make plans to get there fast.
Gone is the poison that swept through the locker room last year. And you can see the difference in the product that is being put on the floor. The defense is swarming to the ball and hustling after every rebound and loose ball. The communication between the players on the floor is clearly better this year, most importantly, gone is the offense of four players standing around waiting for that one player to bail them out.
Head Coach Bruce Weber came back this season with what was essentially a brand new squad. The ‘Cats welcomed in 10 new players, while only returning three players who had significant playing time last year. Returning players included junior Wesley Iwundu, along with seniors Stephen Hurt and Justin Edwards. The Wildcats also got junior D.J. Johnson back on the court after his medical redshirt for the 2014-15 season due to never recovering from a broken foot that occurred vs. Kentucky (3/21/14) in the NCAA Tournament.
This year’s Wildcat squad is off to a 6-1 start after finishing a thrilling victory over the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens on Friday night. The team’s lone loss came at the hands of Roy Williams and the ninth ranked North Carolina Tarheels in the Championship game of the College Basketball Experience Hall of Fame Classic. But, that tournament had plenty of other positives, as freshman Kamau Stokes and senior Justin Edwards were named to the all-tournament team.
One of the main recipes that the Wildcats have used to get off to this fast start has been their balanced scoring. The Wildcats have had five different players lead them in scoring this year: Iwundu, Edwards, Stokes, freshman guard Barry Brown and freshman forward Dean Wade. Edwards and Wade have each done so twice.
Edwards is finally living up to the hype that followed him from Maine to Kansas State. Edwards has scored in double figures every game this year for the Wildcats. Edwards is leading the team this year with 14.9 points per game and 6.1 rebounds per game. It doesn’t hurt that Iwundu and Wade have each scored in double figures five times this year as well.
Point guard play has also been a major area of improvement this year. Stokes and junior transfer Carlbe Ervin II have played very well. Both have more assists than turnovers, and the team is averaging an assist on 63 percent of their shots which is an improvement over last year.
Dean Wade has lived up to the hype so far this year too. Wade scored the final four points in Athens to tie the game and then take the lead for good against the Bulldogs. Taking the big shot is not a problem for the new guy, who once he puts some more muscle on his frame, will be a force in the Big 12. You can bet that strength and conditiong coach Jimmy Price will help Wade get there soon. Wade recorded the first double-double of his career against Missouri in the CBE semi-final game with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The one area Wade has had some trouble in this year has been fouls, but the leap from a small high school in Kansas to Big 12 basketball will do that to the best of players. You can guarantee that Coach Weber and his staff are working on that with him, but game experience more than anything will help with that.
Overall, this team is just much more fun to watch than last year’s squad. They will find themselves ranked very soon if they continue to improve and play the unselfish basketball that they have played thus far. While the “Weber doubters” are for sure still out there, this team and coaching effort has not given them anything to complain about. While the ‘Cats may still be far from glory, they are definitly heading in the right direction.
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