Kansas State basketball enters its second season under head coach Jerome Tang with some new faces. Just two months before the start of the 2023 season K-State added a player to the roster that could potentially mend a serious need for the Wildcats.
Last season K-State was competitive within the Big 12 but held one glaring problem: frontcourt depth. While forwards David N’Guessan and Nae’Qwan Tomlin and center Abayomi Iyiola were all valuable starters in the frontcourt, the Wildcats lacked a true center with presence who could use size and strength to his advantage.
This was exemplified in the Elite Eight loss to Florida Atlantic University where K-State’s lack of size was apparent. The Wildcats fell into a 44-22 deficit in rebounds resulting in 15 second-chance points for FAU.
Along with rebounding, the Wildcats could not find an answer for FAU center Vladislav Goldin who controlled the frontcourt.
At the start of the offseason, Jerome Tang stated his intentions to gain talent through the transfer portal. In an interview with The Field Of 68, Tang made it clear he was looking for a good frontcourt player to pair with Tomlin.
Tang may have found that needed interior presence with the arrival of transfer Will McNair Jr. The 6-foot-11 forward spent three seasons with New Mexico State, leaving to play a single season for Mississippi State before arriving in Manhattan.
McNair’s combination of size and strength gives the Wildcats a new depth, allowing chances for better interior defending and controlling rebounds. McNair spent most of his career as a rotational player, only recording one full season starting more than one game.
Expectations may be low for the transfer starting the season, potentially only receiving a few minutes at the beginning. But when the time comes that the Wildcats need a physical presence in the paint, McNair will fit in.
The transfer may also play a pivotal role in gaining a Big 12 advantage. The conference lacked true big men this past season. The closest to a true center you could find was Eddie Lampkins Jr. for TCU who has since transferred to Colorado.
With Kansas adding Michigan star Hunter Dickinson to its roster along with the added expansion of the Big 12, competition in the post could be a defining factor for Big 12 programs.
Tang was instrumental in building a culture and environment that attracts players each offseason. Last year he was able to get forward Keyontae Johnson and guard Desi Sills late in the offseason; this year he has done the same.
Along with McNair, Tang added another player who may find a larger role in the interior with Arthur Kaluma. The Creighton transfer is a 6-foot-7 forward who played two seasons with the Bluejays.
In his two seasons, Kaluma became a regular starter, averaging over 11 points per game and 5.7 rebounds per game. As Tang enters his second season as head coach, he continues to fill needs through the transfer portal while recruiting top-end talent out of high school.
Tang’s ability to recruit players has put K-State at 23rd in the nation in overall recruiting rankings for 2023 according to GoPowercat.com, with five-star talent David Castillo already signed for the 2024 season.
One major factor Tang has to prove this season is if he can recreate the team chemistry from year one with all the new faces. If Jerome Tang has taught us anything, it’s to have patience and faith in his ability to create a competitive basketball team.