Big 12 News

An Active Offseason Benefiting Kansas State’s Basketball Future

NCAA Basketball: Kansas State at Kansas

No Big 12 program has been more active this offseason than the Kansas State Wildcats. And, to this point, they’ve been better off for it.

The news that two new transfers were joining the Wildcats for next season came shortly after senior guard Mike McGuirl quietly let everyone know that he would return for an additional year with the Wildcats, thanks to the NCAA’s blanket COVID-19 eligibility rule.

Arkansas-Little Rock guard Markquis Nowell and Missouri guard Mark Smith have committed to join the program next season. The Wildcats haven’t officially announced the pair are coming, but both took to their social media to make it official on Tuesday, and various outlets reported it afterward.

 

This comes after the Wildcats lost four players to the transfer portal right after the season — guard DaJuan Gordon, guard Antonio Gordon, guard Rudi Williams and forward Joe Petrakis. Of the four, only DaJuan Gordon was a regular starter last season. But the departures did remove players from the program that had potential and could be developed.

What K-State has received in return, at least to this point, takes all of the sting out of losing that quartet.

Nowell, who is just 5-foot-7 and has two years of eligibility left, didn’t play last season, as he opted out. But, in 68 games with the Trojans he averaged 14.3 points and 4.9 assists. In 2019-20 averaged 17.2 points, earned All-Sun Belt First-Team honors and led the Trojans to a Sun Belt regular-season crown.

DaJuan Gordon, 6-foot-4, averaged nine points last season for the Wildcats. So the Wildcats are trading size for scoring.

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Smith (6-foot-5) has one year of eligibility remaining and he played three seasons at Missouri. During that time he averaged 10.3 points per game and shot 37.5 percent from the 3-point line. For perspective, the only K-State regular that shot anywhere CLOSE to that from the 3-point line was true freshman Nijel Pack, who shot 40.5 percent from the arc. Even McGuirl, as good as he was last season, only shot 31.6 percent from there.

So Smith can be an instant upgrade for outside shooting, though it bears mentioning that his percentage dipped last season to 31.5 percent. But, overall, he has a track record that can help the Wildcats in an area they sorely need it.

So head coach Bruce Weber and his staff flipped a quartet of players that combined to averaged 22 points per game last year for two players that combined have a career average of 24.6 points per game. And Weber still has some remaining scholarships to work with.

Add to this equation the return of McGuirl. If you missed the announcement of his return, You can’t be blamed. Unlike Nowell and Smith, McGuirl didn’t do the social media thing. He actually just released a statement through the K-State athletic office, just like the old days.

McGuirl had the best season of his career at K-State, with a season average of 11.8 points per game. He led, or tied for the team lead in 12 different categories.

“This was an easy decision for me,” said McGuirl in his statement. “The coaches and the Kansas State community have been so great to me and I wanted another year with my brothers on the team.”

 

So what if McGuirl had decided to leave? He would have taken that 11.8 points per game with him, and K-State would have lost nearly 34 points per game from last year’s roster. As a team the Wildcats averaged 61.8 points per game.

Now the chess pieces get clearer. Nowell and Smith both have starter potential. The Wildcats could pencil them in now. Same with Pack, who can run the point. Now, starting Nowell and Pack could leave the Wildcats with a height problem (Pack is 6-foot). So one could see a tandem there, with Pack starting and Nowell being instant offense off the bench, or vice versa.

I could see an opening night lineup with Pack, McGuirl, Smith, Selton Miguel and Davion Bradford. I could see a forward like Montavious Murphy or Kaosi Ezeagu sneaking into Miguel’s spot. Nowell comes off  the bench and plays a good 20 minutes a game, with some combination of Murphy, Ezeagu, Carlton Linguard Jr., and another transfer that could sign soon.

What’s clear is that K-State has been busy, and the Wildcats have gotten better. And that’s good news for next season.

You can find Matthew Postins on Twitter @PostinsPostcard.

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