No. 12 K-State starts season against Kennesaw State on Friday

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K-State forward Xavier Sneed celebrates Diarra’s dunk during the second half of the game on November 2, 2018, against the Pittsburg State gorillas. (Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

The Kansas State men’s basketball team is set to kick off the 2018 season with a visit from the other KSU—the Kennesaw State Owls—this Friday night.

Last season, Kennesaw State was 10-20 overall and its 6-8 conference record put them sixth in the eight-team Atlantic Sun conference. The Owls made the jump to the Division I level in 2005.

They return three of five starters and seven of 13 letter winners. They have eight newcomers on their squad this season.

Last year’s third-leading scorer, junior Tyler Hooker, returns. Hooker averaged 10.8 points in 30 games, despite only starting 16 of those games.

The team’s biggest loss was losing leading scorer James Scott by transfer to Temple in the offseason.

Head coach Al Skinner is in his fourth year with Kennesaw State. Skinner played professional basketball with the American Basketball Association’s New York Nets. There he played alongside NBA/ABA legend Julius Erving in the mid-1970s.

As a coach, Skinner won two Big East Conference titles at Boston College, as well as the Henry Iba Award as the best college basketball coach in 2001. His all-time record is 420-348, but his record at Kennesaw State is 35-58.

Kennesaw State has played two exhibition games this season, the first an 81-78 win over Division II Clayton State and the second a 68-57 win against Division II Oglethorpe University.

The Wildcats are ranked 12th in the AP Top 25 poll and 11th in the USA Today Coaches poll headed into the season, the highest preseason ranking since the 2010-11 season when they were ranked number three headed into the regular season.

K-State is coming off a 25-12 campaign in 2017 that culminated in an Elite Eight loss to Loyola University Chicago.

K-State returns almost all of its roster from that season, including seniors forward Dean Wade and guard Barry Brown Jr.

The duo led K-State in scoring last season, as Wade averaged 16.2 points and Brown, 15.9. The two have been playing meaningful minutes together since they were freshmen.

K-State also returns high-profile underclassman such as junior forward Xavier Sneed and sophomore guard Cartier Diarra. Diarra rose to prominence after filling in for injured senior guard Kamau Stokes mid-way through the season.

The Wildcats beat Division II Pittsburg State, 79-39 in their lone exhibition game of the season Nov. 2.

This is the first ever match up between Kansas State and Kennesaw State.

The Wildcats and Owls are set to tip off at 7 p.m. Friday night in Bramlage Coliseum. Fans can watch the game on FOX Sports Kansas City, the FOX Sports Go app, or on ESPN3 outside the state of Kansas.

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