Just when we thought the off-season was done with the negative headlines, they struck again last Wednesday. Nigel Johnson elected to leave Kansas State, shooting another big hole in the Wildcat offense for next season. Johnson was definitely one of the bright spots of the second half of the season, and now the Wildcats must replace his production as well.
The off-season plan for the coaching staff of the Wildcat basketball team will be to try and rebuild the team while looking for the leaders of next year’s team. The Wildcats will have four seniors on next season’s squad, and three of them should play a major role on the court.
Justin Edwards must become the scorer and shooting threat that everyone thought he could be when he arrived on campus. Edwards is the only returning Wildcat who made double-digit three-pointers, but he only made 21 of them. Next on that list is Iwundu with six, so needless to say there has to be some players step up and help out.
D.J. Johnson should finally make his return to the hardwood after breaking his foot against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament 2 years ago. Johnson’s size will be much needed next year with the graduation of Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson. Johnson clearly has the most experience of the Wildcat big men. Plus, he no longer has the walking boot, so that is something that Wildcat fans can be excited about.
Stephen Hurt definitely showed some potential, and showed flashes last season that he could become a great play. He clearly has the ability to make the mid-range jumper, shooting 45 percent from the floor. If Hurt can play tough inside, he can get to the free throw line where he went 27-of-39 last year. Hurt could be a major force for the Wildcats.
However, the real key to next year’s success or failure will be the ability to get newcomers integrated into the team, and getting Wesley Iwundu to show his full potential. Iwundu figures to be one of the real leaders of the 2015-16 team, and with his shooting and driving ability, could put up some big numbers. With Marcus Foster, Gipson and Williams doing the majority of the scoring for the K-State last season, there will be plenty of opportunities for Iwundu to become the next great Wildcat.
As far as the newcomers, Dean Wade and Barry Brown seem to have the best chance of getting on the floor and making an impact. Wade could stand to put some muscle on his frame, but appears to be a legitimate scorer that can play inside. Brown appears to be the best true point guard of the newcomers, but Kamau Stokes and Corlbe Ervin could both compete for time on the floor with the loss of so many guards this off-season.
For those of you have already given up on Coach Weber and next season’s team, here is something that could give you some hope: 22 of K-State’s games last season were decided by 10 points or less, including 13 by 5 points or less. The Wildcats finished 12-10 in games decided by 10 points or less and 6-7 in those decided by 5 points or less. So let’s hope all the poison is gone from the team and they can be a team that everyone is proud to cheer for.
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