Manhattan native uses Instagram to walk on to men’s basketball team

Nate Awbrey used Instagram to walk on to the K-State men's basketball team. (Courtesy photo from K-State Athletics)

Editor’s note: This online edition of the article has been edited after its publishing in the Sept. 2 print edition for factual correctness.

After receiving his degree, former Manhattan Christian College (MCC) guard Nate Awbrey thought his college basketball days were over. Awbrey joined the 1,000 point club with 1,032 career points, while rebounding 380 boards and recording 244 assists for MCC in his four-year career.

While working on his master’s degree in community development, Awbrey decided to pursue Division-I basketball.

“I was looking at jobs with Young Life,” Awbrey said. “It’s a ministry I’ve volunteered for the last four years, and then one day I just felt this inclination, ‘I don’t know if I want to be done with basketball.’ God’s calling me to still be in the sport.”

Despite his achievements as a MCC guard, Awbrey had no offers to play basketball following graduation. However, social media provided a gateway to advancing his career to a level he dreamed of playing at as a child.

“I knew there was a new coaching staff here and I had no connection at that point, and I literally DMed (direct messaged) [K-State Head Coach Jerome Tang],” Awbrey said. “I was kind of telling him my story about my basketball background, my ministry background and asked him what a walk-on position would look like.”

To Awbrey’s surprise, Tang messaged him back with an invitation to meet with him. Over the course of several months, Awbrey was accepted into graduate school and worked out with K-State’s new roster over the summer.

At the time, Tang did not guarantee a roster spot for Awbrey, but he refused to let uncertainty drive him away from the sport he loved.

“It was kind of a long process,” Awbrey said. “It wasn’t like ‘yeah, you’re going to be on the team’, but you know, just going through it and trusting it and just enjoying every moment. That’s what I kept telling myself: whether this works out or not, I just want to enjoy every moment of it.”

Awbrey grew up in Manhattan but said that his parents raised him to be a University of Kansas (KU) fan, and he’s not the only one in his family in the industry. Awbrey’s brother Gabe accepted a position as a graduate assistant coach in Waco, Texas for the Bears.

Awbrey remembers former K-State teams with players like Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly, who’s now a graduate assistant coach. 

“It’s super cool,” said Awbrey. “They were just so good. I remember being at Jacob Pullen’s senior night — seeing that and the crowd. The atmosphere is amazing, so to have the opportunity to be here on the team and be able to experience that first-hand down there on the court. I was telling my brother that’s like everyone’s dream growing up.”