Wildcats European trip will cap off busy summer

Wesley Iwundu, senior forward, dribbles down the court during a team practice on June 28, 2016 in the basketball facility. (File Photo by Evert Nelson | The Collegian)

While some college students are chilling by the pool or are on vacation to get away from the world, K-State men’s basketball players are putting in work.

With five new players and a trip across the pond later this summer, the Wildcats aren’t wasting any time in getting their 2016-17 season off on the right foot.

One newcomer the team is excited about is 6-foot-5-inch wingman Xavier Sneed from Florissant, Missouri. Sneed was ranked in the top 100 of the Rivals.com recruit rankings and picked K-State over schools such as Wichita State, Illinois and Cincinnati.

The adjustment for Sneed has been a process, but the freshman feels at home in Manhattan.

“I came here on a visit,” Sneed said. “I just love the fan support here and it’s more of a family atmosphere here than any of the other schools I visited.”

As for the returning members of the 2015-16 squad, this offseason is a chance to get better and it’s the first step in reaching the school’s first NCAA Tournament since 2014. One player that will be key to the Wildcats success is senior forward Wesley Iwundu. The Houston native averaged 11.9 points per game and the team will look to him as a main source of offense this coming season.

“First and foremost, we’ve got to get to the tournament,” Iwundu said. “You know there’s some personal goals for myself. I’ve never been at the top of the league for myself academically or athletically and also, just making a run at the Big 12 Championship. We’ve still got a lot of things to do and get done but to start I think things are going pretty good.”

The Wildcats got a big boost in the 2016 season from senior forward D.J. Johnson. Now at full strength after battling injuries for long periods of time, Johnson will be the anchor in the post and help mentor a young group of Wildcat men.

Johnson, along with senior forward Austin Budke, controlled and undersized post for K-State last season, and now they’ll have for depth for the first time in a long time.

While meeting with the media, Johnson did everything he could to ensure that would happen this coming season – even if it meant knocking on a wood doorframe just a few feet away.

“I think that’s going to be the biggest difference for us this year,” Johnson said. “Usually we expect to come in with some size every year and we have one or two injuries so I’m excited. I don’t want to overwork these guys too much, it gives you confidence knowing you have size out there.”

A European vacation is in store for the Wildcats starting on Aug. 8, as the team will embark on a 10-day journey to Italy and Switzerland. There they will enjoy the culture and play some basketball, as they go up against five European teams from those two countries.

The trip is very beneficial to head coach Bruce Weber’s squad, as they look to capitalize on the extra practice time and get to experience a much different type of vacation.

“The big thing you get is the 10 extra days of practice,” Weber said. “We’re doing things now that you couldn’t address till October, so you’ve got the daily workouts. We go three times a week for 40 minutes, you do a lot of skill developments – teaching terminology and different things like that.”

One thing that Weber is looking to instill early on in this trip across the pond is toughness and handling different situations on short notice.

“It’s a long trip over, you know you lose a whole night of sleep and the next day you’ve got to play a game,” Weber said. “We’re going to be keeping them active and going on bus rides for four hours, it’s going to be hot. Bad gyms, bad officiating you know everything’s going to be there so I think that part brings toughness to the group.”