Tumultuous: a word that seems to perfectly sum up the last half of the regular season and offseason for the K-State men’s basketball team. Some might even say “disaster” is a better word for it.
With six players having transferred or been dismissed since the season ended just over a month ago, the Wildcats seem to be on the verge of a season that could spell disaster for K-State head coach Bruce Weber and his staff.
On Wednesday, Weber addressed the media for the first time since the final game of the season.
“Obviously, we didn’t meet the expectations or goals that we had for the season,” Weber said. “We just felt that we had to make some changes, I think it was pretty obvious why we had to make the changes. All we can do now is move forward and worry about the guys that we have. We’re excited about the group we have coming in.”
Weber came into last season with a team confident in their ability to play, fresh off of an NCAA Tournament appearance, with an experienced backcourt and some added size up front. But, as the season unfolded, the Wildcats roster didn’t handle the pressure well.
“I was bothered more because if they wanted to pump themselves up, then you’d better get in the gym and work at it,” Weber said. “That’s what bothered me from the beginning; they were hyping themselves up, but you’ve got to back that stuff up and work at it. If you only come when the coaches are there, you’re not going to be special.”
Signs of disconnect between the coaches and players appeared in the middle of the season when sophomores Marcus Foster and Jevon Thomas, and freshman Malek Harris — who are all no longer with the program — served suspensions.
What wasn’t known then was that Weber thought about dismissing athletes in the middle of the season.
“(I stuck with them) because I believe in kids, and I want to try to give them a chance,” Weber said. “If I have a weakness, it’s that I go the extra mile with somebody to try to help them.”
Weber said part of the decision not to dismiss anyone mid-season was the understanding that college students — not just athletes — make mistakes.
“Kids get to college and a lot of things happen; that maturity, growing up and dealing with freedom,” Weber said. “I tell parents and I tell kids that when they get to college the biggest difference is that they’re going to have freedom, and how they deal with freedom is a key to their success.”
Moving forward, Weber and company have started fresh with a young core of role players and incoming freshman.
“Obviously, we’re going to need some guys to step in and make some immediate impacts for us if we’re going to be special,” Weber said. “I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s possible.”
And that’s what is clear: Weber is excited.
“We feel great about it,” Weber said. “We feel like we have guys that are excited to be here and do it the K-State way, and I didn’t have any understanding of it until I got here and watched Coach (Bill) Snyder and what he has developed here. That family atmosphere and that hardworking work ethic, it’s what K-State fans expect, and it’s definitely what we got to bring back to the table here and have on the court.”