What is K-State’s Ceiling in Record-Setting Year for Markquis Nowell?
K-State point guard Markquis Nowell set the school record for assists in a season during the Wildcats’ 82-61 victory against the TCU Horned Frogs on Tuesday night. Nowell had 18 points and seven assists in the game and reached 187 assists on the season, setting the school record with seven regular season games to go. Nowell didn’t just break the record, he will smash it. While now averaging 16.9 points and 7.8 assists per game this season, Nowell also leads the league in turnovers. But that’s a topic for another column.
The fact that Nowell broke the single-season assist record got me wondering who the top five single-season assist leaders in K-State history are and how their teams performed while having a great passing point guard. Can we predict how this K-State team might finish the 2023 season by analyzing how things worked out for Wildcat teams in the past? Read on and decide for yourself.
5. Anthony Beane – 153 in 1993-94
Anthony Beane is one of my favorite K-State point guards. He led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament in 1992-93, but the 1993-94 Wildcats finished sixth in the Big 8 and were selected to the NIT, where they made the semifinals before losing to Vanderbilt. The leading scorer on the team was Ski Jones, who averaged 22.1 points per game.
4. Denis Clemente – 154 in 2009-10
Denis Clemente led K-State to the Elite Eight in 2010 while putting together the fourth-best assist season in Wildcat history. K-State also ended the season ranked number seven in the AP poll. Jacob Pullen led the team in scoring at 19.3 points per game. Clemente was second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.6 points per game.
3. Jim Roder – 163 in 1983-84
Jim Roder played before my time at K-State, but he put together the third-best assist year in K-State history in 1983-84. The team was coached by Jack Hartman, but struggled, finishing sixth place in the Big 8. Eddie Elder led the team in scoring with 13.1 points per game. This team did not make the NCAA tournament, losing in the second round of the Big 8 tournament.
2. Angel Rodriguez – 173 in 2012-13
Angel Rodriguez led the 2012-13 Wildcats to a share of the Big 12 conference championship while putting together the second-best assist season in K-State history. Rodney McGruder led the team in scoring at 15.6 points per game. The Wildcats lost to LaSalle in the first round of the NCAA tournament but finished ranked number 12 in the final AP poll.
1. Steve Henson – 186 in 1987-88
Steve Henson, the previous record holder for assists in a season, led K-State to an Elite Eight appearance in 1988, losing to eventual national champion Kansas. The Wildcats finished the season ranked number 20 in the final AP poll. Mitch Richmond led the team in scoring at 22.6 points per game.
So…what can we glean from this data? Out of the top five single-season assists in school history, K-State had two Elite Eight teams and a Big 12 championship team. Also, each of these teams had an elite scorer on the roster, just like this year’s team has with Keyontae Johnson. The only team on the list not to make the postseason is the 1983-84 team. I’m not exactly sure what happened there.
Does this mean that this year’s K-State team will find postseason success? Not necessarily, but the commonality of having a great point guard dishing the ball out along with an elite scorer like Ski Jones, Mitch Richmond, Rodney McGruder, Jacob Pullen, and now Keyontae Johnson has led to postseason success for K-State. Who knows? Maybe an Elite Eight is in the cards for K-State this season. But first, they have to solve the turnover problem.