Men’s Basketball embarks on underdog season with Tang leading the charge

K-State guard Markquis Nowell dribbles during the second half of the game against Kansas on Feb. 22, 2022. (Archive photo by Marshall Sunner | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: Added the link for Jerome Tang’s quote regarding him being “married” to a starting lineup.

The Kansas State men’s basketball team enters the Jerome Tang era with new faces and the opportunity to prove themselves. 

Close games — often ending in heartbreak — defined the Wildcats last season, but this year’s team doesn’t have to follow the same pattern. A new chapter is beginning in Manhattan, led by first-year head coach Jerome Tang.

Tang, hired in March after the resignation of former head coach Bruce Weber, only retained two players from the 2021-22 squad: senior guard Markquis Nowell and junior forward Ismael Massoud. Nowell started 21 games for the Wildcats, averaging 12.4 points, while Massoud tallied 18 starts with 6.8 points per game. 

A player that will not be returning to Manhattan this year is former guard Nijel Pack. Pack, 2022 All-Big 12 First Team and the team’s leading scorer, transferred to the University of Miami in April. 

Fortunately for the Wildcats, Tang and his staff had already been pursuing transfers that would be key to finding success in 2022-23. The first addition was center Jerrell Colbert, sophomore transfer from LSU and former Rivals 4-star. He was soon followed by sophomore guard Cam Carter from Mississippi State.

Perhaps the most noteworthy addition is senior forward Keyontae Johnson. Johnson transferred from Florida where he earned First Team All-SEC honors as a sophomore and was the Preseason SEC Player of the Year in 2020-21. However, he was later sidelined with medical issues.

It is unknown who will make the largest impact on the court this year, as Tang has stated he isn’t “married” to a specific lineup. In the exhibition game against Washburn on Nov. 1, the starting five consisted of Nowell, Carter, Johnson, Massoud and senior center Abayomi Iyiola.

The remaining new additions to look for are junior forwards Nae’Qwan Tomlin and David N’Guessan along with senior guards Tykei Greene and Desi Sills. 

The scholarship players are then rounded out by sophomore guard Anthony Thomas and freshman guards Taj Manning and Dorian Finister. 

Walk-ons include freshman Peyton Ackerman and Manhattan’s own senior Nate Awbrey. 

Tang also hasn’t stated which players, if any, plan on redshirting this season. Given the exhibition minutes played by Manning, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him redshirt. On the other hand, Finister could make an immediate impact after seeing notable playing time against Washburn. 

Despite the additions, the thoughts among the fellow Big 12 coaches seem to be that Tang’s ability to create immediate success in Manhattan will be tough. The Wildcats were picked to finish last in the preseason Big 12 coaches poll. Tang and his squad will look to surprise their conference opponents this season, beginning Nov. 7 against the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley at Bramlage Coliseum.