Big 12 Basketball

K-State’s Recruiting Momentum is a Positive Sign for Manhattan’s Future

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament East Regional-Florida Atlantic vs Kansas State

“You can’t recruit to Manhattan” is a narrative regurgitated by sports talkers, opposing coaches and administrators, and rival fans of Kansas State since I can remember. It has always been a weak argument. K-State is a college town like most in the Big 12, but it has gotten a bad rep over time, mostly by people I believe have never visited. Kind of like how the Midwest is a “flyover country” to coastal elites, K-State has long been regarded as the “flyover school” in the Big 12. The way some people talk about it, you would think the school is in BFE and the town does not have running water or electricity. It has always frustrated me as an alum and fan because I know Manhattan is a great town that people who visit, live in, or have gone to school there love.

 

Here is a fun fact: did you know that Manhattan, KS is the second fastest-growing city in America based on the latest census data? The National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility is the main reason for it, but the point is that this is not some podunk country town that is difficult to get to, which is the narrative I often hear. Manhattan has also been home to some of the greatest basketball coaches and the greatest college football coaches in history. Bill Snyder never recruited four or five-star athletes, but throughout the history of the basketball program, most of K-State’s head coaches were able to recruit NBA talent to Manhattan successfully. It wasn’t until the 1990s into the 2000s that the basketball program went into the tank due to a couple of very bad head coaching hires. I always felt that the right coach, along with the right assistant coaches and recruiters, could get high-caliber athletes to come to Manhattan. This has finally come to fruition, as we are watching basketball coach Jerome Tang and football coach Chris Klieman break the “flyover” stigma of Manhattan with some recent signings.

Jerome Tang nabbed the first recruit of his 2024 basketball recruiting class when guard David Castillo committed to K-State on Tuesday. According to the 247Sports composite rankings, Castillo is a five-star recruit, the number 20 overall player, and the number three combo guard in the country. He was also recruited by Kansas and Oklahoma State. When was the last time K-State beat Kansas for a recruit? During his commitment press conference, Castillo said “I want to help him (Tang) win a national championship.” It’s nice to hear the coaches and players talk about bringing national championships to Manhattan. There may be more five-star recruits joining Castillo at K-State. Stay tuned.

 

Chris Klieman is also finding success on the recruiting trail. His most recent high-caliber “get” was quarterback Avery Johnson, a four-star recruit, rated number 99 nationally, and the number nine quarterback. But I thought you couldn’t recruit to Manhattan? Weird, huh?

It is fantastic to see Klieman and Tang recruiting successfully at a high level. Granted, breaking the stigma that you can’t recruit to Manhattan may take some time, but these guys are already proving that saying it was always a farce. All K-State needs are the right head coaches in order to make it happen. It also appears that the NIL discussion has not affected K-State much, if at all. I do not know the specifics of the NIL dollars these recruits have made or will make, but perhaps they think being a big fish in a small pond like Manhattan is better than being a small fish in a big pond somewhere else. If you are the star basketball player on the team in Manhattan, you will probably have the most NIL dollars coming your way. If you play for Kentucky with a roster full of five-star players, there may be more money to go around, but it is likely to be split between the top-tier talents, so there may actually be less of a chunk of the dollars to get. We will see how all of this plays out, but my hunch is that for certain top-tier talent, playing in Manhattan, Kansas, may be better for them than playing in Miami, Florida. Add to that fact that player-friendly coaches like Tang and Klieman are running the programs, and it appears to be a win-win for all involved.

The bottom line is you CAN recruit to Manhattan. Tang and Klieman are proving it. If they can keep the positive momentum going, it will be a lot of fun following these programs going forward.

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