K-State men’s, women’s basketball announce fall signings

Men's Basketball coach Bruce Weber talks to his team during the NCAA Basketball Tournament in St. Louis on March 21, 2014. (Parker Robb | The Collegian)

As K-State head coaches Bruce Weber and Jeff Mittie prepare for their season openers on Friday night in Bramlage Coliseum, they made big steps in preparing for the 2015-16 season with six signings between the two programs.

For Weber and his staff, it’s the largest recruiting class they’ve brought to K-State during their three seasons in Manhattan.

With graduation approaching for forwards Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams, as well as the expected leave of Stephen Hurt and possible graduation of D.J. Johnson in 2015-16, size became a priority on the recruiting trail.

The Wildcats will look to mediate these issues with the signings of Dean Wade, a 6-foot-8-inch forward from St. John, Kansas, and Dante Williams, a 6-foot-11-inch center from Arlington, Texas.

“We were excited in getting a Kansas kid in Dean Wade,” Weber said of the height need on the roster. “He’s got some athletic ability and jumping ability. He’s a good quality kid also someone who’s pretty close to 7-foot in Dante Williams. You’ve got two big guys who give you some versatility and Dante is probably a little like Jordan Henriquez as a shot blocker. That’s probably his number one attribute right now. He’s maybe even a little stronger than Jordan was coming out of high school.”

The two forwards are also joined by 6-foot-3-inch guard Barry Brown, who hails from St. Petersburg, Florida. He’s the first player from the state since former guard Martavious Irving.

Wade is no stranger to Bramlage Coliseum, having won the Class 2A state championship in K-State’s home arena last March. He and his teammates will be looking to make a return trip to Manhattan for a third-straight championship trophy.

“Dean probably brings a little more of the stretch forward (position),” Weber said. “He’s pretty close to 6-foot-9, and he can really jump. The biggest thing with him like most young guys is getting weight and strength and he knows that. We constantly talk about it. (He’s got) Kansas State ties and his dad played football here and his mom is a really close friend of (head coach) Suzie (Fritz) and volleyball.”

With nearly eight blocks per game as a junior, Williams’ school-record shot-blocking ability is well documented. He also played for the Texas Select, which is an AAU team that carried current Texas forward Myles Turner.

“I don’t think people realize how hard it is to get a big kid,” Weber said. “There aren’t that many big guys out there and a lot of times they get over recruited and we’re pretty fortunate.”

Brown will be following in the footsteps of his father Barry Sr., as a D-I basketball player. He averaged 20.5 points as a junior at Gibbs High School and will be a cornerstone of his high school team during his senior season.

“Guard wise, with five returning guards, we thought it was going to be tough to get somebody, but we went hard at three different kids and Barry (Brown) was excited and one of the kids we focused on from the beginning,” Weber said. “We really got in early on him. He gives us a little bit of versatility because we are not sure what we are going to need a year from now.”

On the women’s side, Mittie also covered ground geographically. The first-year head coach filled his depth in the front court as well as adding a possible replacement piece for senior guards Heidi Brown, Haley Texada and Ashia Woods.

The list of incoming players includes 6-foot guard Kayla Goth, 5-foot-9-inch guard Anna Hammaker and 6-foot-6-inch center Cheyenne Hooper.

Goth hails from DeForest, Wisconsin and will become the second player from the state to play at K-State. Hammaker and Hooper both will come from Knoxville, Tennessee and played together at Christian Academy.

“Kayla Goth is a 6-foot guard (and) wing that can really play three to four spots,” Mittie said. “We like her athletic ability and she can dunk a tennis ball, which is relevant in terms of her leaping ability and her length. The versatility and the size of that player is what I liked about her. She’s going to be one that throughout her career is going to be able to fill up a stat sheet.”

Hammaker is not the first person in her family to be making an impression in this part of the country as her father Atlee was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in 1979. He pitched the 1981 season in Royal blue before spending the next 10 seasons with the San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres.

“(She’s) a really good 3-point shooter and has excellent range,” Mittie said. “She’s got some athletic ability to the bucket as well. I really liked her ability to make plays not just from the 3-point line but also with a mid-range jumper.”

Hooper will pair with 6-foot-5-inch sophomore forward Breanna Lewis as a strong, impressive duo in Mittie’s frontcourt. According to Mittie, she originally committed to Central Florida for volleyball before switching her college plans to basketball.

“(She’s) a kid that defensively is a great shot blocker,” Mittie said. “We talk about steals and deflections, but I like shot blockers at the center position. While it may not be a position that you say on our roster is a huge need position, we feel like we’ve got some players who will move to the forward spot.”