Kansas State Basketball Preview: #25
Overall Rank: #25
Conference Rank: #3 Big 12 Conference
2008-09: 22-12, 9-7
2008-09 postseason: NIT
Coach: Frank Martin (43-24 at Kansas State, 43-24 overall)
Once again Coach Frank Martin led Kansas State to a 20 win season, but unlike his first season with the Wildcats, the 2008-2009 team failed to reach the NCAA Tournament. With four starters returning and a very talented group of newcomers, another 20 win season is on the horizon, but KSU will need some newcomers to step up and contribute if those 20 wins are going to result in a trip to the big dance.
Key Losses: F Ron Anderson, G Buchi Awaji, G Fred Brown, F Darren Kent
The incoming freshmen are a good group, but Curtis Kelly, a transfer from Connecticut, might make the biggest impact this season. Kelly never saw too much playing time with the Huskies, but he is a very talented athlete who is still full of potential. Of the incoming freshmen it is power forward Wally Judge who will make the biggest impact. Judge is one of the most highly touted big men in the nation and he will push the returning starters for minutes and even a starting job. Seven-footer Jordan Henriquez-Roberts will need some time to adjust to life in the Big 12, but the frontcourt now has plenty of depth. Wing Rodney McGruder highlights the group on the perimeter which includes point guards Martavious Irving and Nick Russell.
The newcomers will provide some depth, but the starters on the perimeter are set with the return of Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen. Clemente exploded onto the national scene last year with some high scoring games, but he was quite inconsistent. Still he averaged 15.0 points per game and led the squad with 3.5 assists. Pullen was right behind Clemente in both categories, tallying 13.9 points and 3.2 assists. Both are quality, albeit streaky, outside shooters who can also use their size to get to the basket. With a couple of experienced scorers who can handle the ball leading the way, the backcourt will be very strong even if it takes the newcomers a little time to come around.
Replacing Ron Anderson and Darren Kent should not be much of a problem thanks to Kelly and Judge. However, those two might start the season on the bench in favor of Dominique Sutton, Jamar Samuels and Luis Colon. Sutton started 32 games during the 2008-2009 campaign and should return to his starting job at the small forward position. Sutton is only 6-5, but he is a quality rebounder and that is why this team will remain strong on the glass. Samuels was often left out of the starting lineup as a freshman, but he played about as many minutes as any of the other forwards and has the potential to turn into a dominating scorer and the team’s best shot blocker. The big man under the basket is Luis Colon. Colon is not much of a scorer, but he is a big body who can eat up space and grab some boards.
Who to Watch:
The transfer of Fred Brown could end up being the undoing of the Wildcats. Brown provided a spark off the bench and was easily the team’s most consistent outside shooter. Now that job will likely fall to McGruder or Russell and relying on the freshmen to play that role, not to mention a large majority of the backup minutes for Clemente and Pullen, could turn into a big problem.
Coach Martin has done a great job during his two years at KSU. Last season the team just lacked consistency and ended on a bad stretch. Part of the problem is a lack of a true point guard and just some plain bad luck. Clemente and Pullen are experienced enough to lead this team through the tough times and back to the NCAA Tournament.
Projected Post-season Tournament: NCAA
Projected Starting Five:
Jacob Pullen, Junior, Guard, 13.9 points per game
Denis Clemente, Senior, Guard, 15.0 points per game
Dominique Sutton, Junior, Forward, 7.5 points per game
Jamar Samuels, Sophomore, Forward, 8.3 points per game
Wally Judge, Freshman, Forward, DNP last season
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