Analysis: A look at the supporting cast for men’s basketball

Kansas State guard Desi Sills and forward Nae’Qwan Tomlin make their way down the court during a Kansas State men’s basketball game versus the University of Kansas Jayhawks in Bramlage Coliseum on January 17, 2023. Kansas State won 83-82 in overtime. (Benjamin Voller | Collegian Media)

The focus of the Kansas State basketball season has revolved around head coach Jerome Tang and stars Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson. While they have been the backbone of the team, the rest of the roster has filled around them nicely.

Help has come from all areas of the court, starting with guards Cam Carter and Desi Sills who provide scoring assistance in moments when Nowell or Johnson aren’t in a shooting rhythm. Carter had a two-game spurt against Iowa State and Florida, providing a few quick buckets each game to build early momentum, scoring 26 points on 9-12 shooting in the two games.

Carter’s performances have been helpful as Sills has scored only 12 points in the past four contests. Sills has still come through in big moments even with his recent struggles –– most notably at home against Kansas, scoring 24 points in the 83-82 victory. The Wildcats were in need of a bucket-getter that night with Nowell only producing two baskets.

“He’s not even a sixth-man. He’s a starter that just comes off the bench,” Nowell said about Sills after the one-point win. “He brings so much energy and passion to the game that we need.”

Sills and Carter have not been the only players to help in the scoring department. Three-point shooting from forward Ismael Massoud has been crucial for the Wildcats. After a slow start to the year, Massoud has knocked down 48.9% of his shots from beyond the arc, hitting at least two threes in six of nine conference games. That includes shooting 4-5 from three against Iowa State and nailing the game-winner against Baylor.

“He’s really thinking about what it takes to win basketball games,” Tang said about Massoud after scoring 12 points against Texas Tech. “We call him Big 12 Ish.”

Forwards David N’Guessan and Nae’Qwan Tomlin and center Abayomi Iyiola round out the supporting cast with their play down low. All three have received time as the big-man on the court, collecting over 13 rebounds per game and finishing flashy passes from Nowell. Tomlin has become a consistent scorer, averaging 10.5 points per game, third on the team. 

“He’s been a great addition with his energy,” Nowell said about Tomlin after scoring a season-high 26 points against Radford. “On the court, you know what Nae’Qwan is capable of, but off the court he has this spirit about him. You just want to be around him … but on the court … the way he plays is how K-State is and the culture that we have.”

The support surrounding Nowell and Johnson have helped bring K-State to their current position. Their significance was shown in the second game against Kansas that the Jayhawks won 90-78, with Nowell and Johnson scoring over 57% of the team’s points. Opposing teams will continue to focus on finding ways to limit Nowell and Johnson’s production. The Wildcats season depends on the supporting cast continuing to thrive in their roles.