‘I hope we get to play’: Men’s basketball prepares for season unlike any other

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Then-freshman forward Antonio Gordon leaps towards the basket for a shot during K-State's 73-67 loss to No. 1 Baylor earlier this year. (File Photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

The men’s basketball team looks to improve this year after a disastrous 2019-2020 campaign that saw K-State finish last in the Big 12 Conference with a record of 11-21, just one year after winning a share of the Big 12 Championship.

For now, Kansas State is set to tip-off their season against Drake on Nov. 25 as a part of the Little Apple Classic.

Weber said Big 12 teams needs six scholarship players available for games to be played — K-State had eight available for practice just the other day. Even with that number, Weber is still concerned.

“There are so many things involved, the COVID-19 tracing, etc,” Weber said. “But also the mental health. That’s a really big factor. I just hope and pray for our guys. I am not sure how many bodies we will have next Wednesday, but I hope we get to play for their sake.”

COVID-19 aside, K-State is going to look completely different on the court than it did last year. The team only returns five players from last season, and only four of them saw playing time.

Over the offseason, K-State lost nine players from their 14-man roster, including three graduates and six transfers. The big losses include forward Xavier Sneed, who graduated last season and guard Cartier Diarra, who transferred to Virginia Tech over the offseason.

Even with the losses, K-State returned a trio of young players and senior Mike McGuirl to help lead this year’s squad. On top of that, K-State also signed nine new players to the roster over the offseason, including four transfer athletes.

Weber is talking up the transfers from Texas, Carlton Linguard Jr. (Temple College) and Kaosi Ezeagu (UTEP). He also praised freshman Davion Bradford, comparing him to a literal aircraft carrier.

One more transfer Weber talked up is guard Rudi Williams, coming from Northeast Oklahoma A&M. Williams had to establish himself into a leadership role on the team, as he is one of the two juniors currently on the roster.

“There is a little pressure because us being so young,” Williams said. “So, I put that pressure on myself to be a leader and be an instant impact guy on our team. I also understand that I am new to this as well. Even with me being as old as I am, it is also my first go around with K-State men’s basketball and playing basketball at this level. At the end of the day, I want to be a leader here and I want to help our team win, so I got to do what I got to do.”

The starting lineup for Wednesday is a mystery. With only four players getting playing time last year, and with everything up in the air with COVID-19, we are bound to see plenty of new faces on the court in the Wildcats matchup against Drake.

No matter who the starting five is though, K-State will have to be prepared for a tough Drake team that finished off last season with a 20-14 record and made a run to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament semifinals. The Bulldogs return two players who started every game last year including redshirt junior Roman Penn who averaged 12 points per game and led the team in three-point percentage shooting at 40.3 percent last season.

K-State starts out their season with six straight home non-conference games. Normally that would be a big advantage in a year where fans are allowed inside the arena, but as it stands right now three of those first six games will be without fans in Bramlage Coliseum, and it is tough to say whether or not it will stay that way for the rest of the year.

“Our state is one of the higher positive percentages in the country,” Weber said. “I think they will make the best decision for the safety of everybody. Even though we would love to have fans, the big thing is getting to the games. That will help us. It may not be pretty, but it will be nice to get there.”

K-State’s season opener with the Bulldogs tips off at 1 p.m. on Nov. 25, and is available on ESPNU.

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Cameron Bradley
Hey! I’m Cameron Bradley and I am the sports editor for the Collegian! I am a junior from Wichita, Kansas, and I am majoring in journalism. When I’m not working for the Collegian, I’m creating content and putting on broadcasts with K-StateHD.TV. I am also currently a member of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity. I love sports, spending time with friends, family and doing everything that I do for the glory of God!