Men’s basketball overflowing with bench experience this season

Fighting hard, then-freshman guard Cartier Diarra throws in the ball as the men's basketball team plays against KU in Bramlage Coliseum on Jan. 29, 2018. The Jayhawks took the lead and the win over the Wildcats with a final score of 70-56. (File photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

Just six months ago, the Kansas State men’s basketball team turned some heads after punching a ticket to the Elite Eight with 61-58 victory against powerhouse Kentucky.

During the men’s basketball media day Wednesday, head coach Bruce Weber and players talked about the experience the team has, as well as K-State’s new players.

Weber talked about the huge opportunity that the Wildcats’ postseason success brought along and how those moments have helped his players coming into this year.

“Xavier [Sneed] having a breakout in the NCAA tournament, Mike McGuirl getting his opportunity, Makol [Mawien] having a great game against Kansas,” Weber said. “They all have their little special moments and opportunities and that has kept them driven.”

With the majority of bench players returning, Weber said “they might be the key to us being really special.”

Weber said sophomore forward Levi Stockard has made a lot of progress this season and spoke to the importance of redshirt sophomore James Love III’s presence if he can stay healthy.

Weber also emphasized the importance of getting the most out of minutes and the ability of “knowing your niche” and doing your job.

Sophmore guard Cartier Diarra said he thinks it is a blessing to have returning players with NCAA tournament experience coming off the bench.

“It’s great because we have people that know the intensity and importance of games like that, and we have the trust in them to believe that they can perform in those types of situations,” Diarra said.

Several players had to step in in the most crucial parts of the season, one being sophomore guard Mike McGuirl, who stood out during the NCAA tournament.

K-State added the talents of junior forward Austin Trice, a six-foot-seven transfer from Wabash Valley College.

Weber spoke very highly of Trice’s ability to rebound, a trait that was a huge need as the Wildcats progressed towards the 2018-19 season.

“He goes to the boards,” Weber said. “Austin has helped us because when you are guarding him, you better box his butt out.”

Weber did say Trice “still has a lot to learn and will bring a high level of athleticism to the team.”

Senior forward Dean Wade also talked about what he has seen from Trice already in early practices.

“He’s going to help us a lot; he’s a crazy athlete,” Wade said. “He’s really strong and he loves rebounding.”

The Wildcats will officially begin practice on Friday, and the first game will be an exhibition game against Pittsburg State on Nov. 2.