Cats are on a roll
K-State’s Martin can now offer potential recruits something beyond history and tradition.
When Frank Martin first started recruiting as Kansas State’s basketball coach, he told prospective players of the program’s rich history and tradition.
When they arrived on campus, he used the same tactics to motivate them. Time and again, he told them they had the opportunity to put K-State basketball back on the map.
Fresh off a season in which the Wildcats won a school-record 29 games and advanced further in the NCAA Tournament than any K-State team in 22 years, they have restored KState’s basketball reputation.
That means Martin will need to change his approach.
“When you go out and recruit you’ve got to sell the here and now,” Martin said during his end-of-the-season news conference Tuesday. “Our success over the last three years gives us credibility.”
Instead of trying to convince recruits they could be part of something special, he will ask if they want to be part of a program on the rise.
Shawnee Mission South guard Will Spradling has already signed on for next season, and so have New York forward Shane Southwell and juniorcollege center Freddy Asprilla. One scholarship remains, and Martin plans to be picky with it.
He said he is looking at “three or four” players, and he is not looking to fill a specific position. He wants to find the best fit for the team, which means attitude is as important as talent. If the perfect player isn’t out there, he will save the scholarship for another year.
“I don’t believe in bringing somebody in just to bring somebody in,” Martin said. “Just to say that you filled a scholarship. We’ve got a good locker room. We’ve worked too hard to get a locker room that we trust. I’m not going to bring somebody in who doesn’t fit.”
Though Martin believes parts of his job will be easier now that K-State has found success, he is positive other parts will be more difficult than ever.
To that end, Martin used some of his favorite analogies to describe the future.
He compared what the Wildcats have done since his arrival in Manhattan to how easy it is for him to lose 10 pounds, and described where the program is trying to go as more difficult than it is for him to shed 20 pounds.
“To take that next step we weren’t able to take this year, that’s real hard,” Martin said. “That’s the challenge that lies in front of us. You don’t make that improvement by thinking that it’s easier now. It’s harder. You’ve got to work harder than you did before. That’s the message that we’ll continue to deliver to our guys.” Pullen’s future
With K-State’s success in the NCAA Tournament, some have suggested that junior guard Jacob Pullen is now a candidate to test the NBA waters.
Martin said he has not yet discussed that topic with Pullen, whose 19.3 points per game led the Wildcats this season. But Martin also said he would not stand in Pullen’s way if he decided to work out for an NBA team or two before they begin on April 30.
“If they’re in a situation where they have the opportunity to do something that is right for them, why not explore it?” Martin said. “It’s not against the rules. You go to college to make a better life. You do not go to college because it sounds good. They chose to come to college and because of that they can make a better life. Then that is a decision they have to make with the help of their families.”
Pullen’s name seldom appears on online NBA mock drafts.
Any underclassman who declares for the NBA draft has until May 8 to withdraw his name and come back to school.
When asked in Salt Lake City about NBA possibilities, Pullen
@Go to the Campus Corner college sports blog. said he would need to speak with his family before making a decision. Memories
Martin said the one thing he can’t get out of his head right now is the step-back three Xavier’s Jordan Crawford made that forced double overtime in the Sweet 16.
“For him to make that bomb, it was a little deflating to me,” Martin said. “Now obviously I couldn’t express that to the team, but that moment was the first time and only time all game where I said, ‘God, I don’t know if we can overcome this.’ Yet, the kids did what they did all year. They battled and they found a way.
“That moment was the one that just replayed over and over in my head. I can’t disengage from that moment. It made us winning that game that much more special.”
Dealing with expectations — K-State could be the preseason favorite to win the Big 12 regular-season championship next year. That sounds good to Martin.
“We’ve been fighting our tails off to sit in that seat,” he said. The point is clear
With the departure of Denis Clemente, a main question coming into next year is who will take over his ball-handling responsibilities. But Martin said that won’t be too difficult. He already has a proven point guard on the roster.
“We played with two point guards all year,” Martin said. “I’m not a 1947 coach where the one guard plays here and the two guard plays here. I like playing with two point guards. The way I like playing the game, I think that’s very important.
“My challenge isn’t finding a point guard. We’ve got one, his name is Jacob Pullen. Our challenge is getting Will Spradling ready to play from day one. Our challenge is to get either Martavious Irving or Nick Russell to also play like a point guard. That’s our challenge, not finding one. We’ve got one.” Beefing up
Freshman center Jordan Henriquez-Roberts didn’t play much near the end of this season, and Martin said there was a reason for that: The 7-footer was too slim. If he adds weight in the offseason, Martin believes he will “have a tremendous impact on our team next year.”
Ideally, Martin would like to see Henriquez-Roberts go from his current weight of 220 pounds to 250.
No Final Four means bottom-line disappointment for the Big12 You may have picked up on this, what with all the newfangled communication devices, but Kansas did not reach the Final Four. I didn’t believe it at first either, but looking at the brackets, it’s confirmed. The Jayhawks are not headed to Indianapolis. Neither is Kansas State, Baylor or any other team from the conference that proudly took over the top spot in the Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) in January and held it through the conference tournaments. Yup, the Big 12 that has succeeded on so many other fronts over the last few years with high draft picks and AllAmerica selections now has as many Final Four appearances since 2005 as the Horizon League and Colonial Athletic Association. This season was supposed to be different. We believed it from the moment last year ended. So many star underclassmen passed on the NBA draft and returned to give it the old college try. Even some of the coaches turned down bigger money to stay put. The regular season delivered. Texas lived up to the hype early and reached No. 1 for the first time. Kansas spent so much time atop the polls it should have paid rent. The Big 12 sent the greatest percentage of teams of any conference to the NCAA Tournament, and only one of the seven could see the bubble from its seed. Then, inconveniently for the Big 12, the tournament started, and five of the seven — most notably Kansas — didn’t survive the first weekend. K-State and Baylor ably carried the flag into the Sweet 16 and took the fight into the final minutes of regional title games. No shame in their performances and bright futures for both programs. But the Big12 on the whole disappointed. Its 9-7 tournament record is the worst in four years. Looking at the bracket, Big 12 teams scored one victory against a better seeded team — Missouri over Clemson — and lost four times as the better seed. Only one conference had a worse record in those games. The Big East went 1-6, but the one put West Virginia in the Final Four with a conquest of Kentucky, and reaching the Final Four is what it’s all about. The Big12 has done that one time in the last six years, and that drought matches the conference’s first six seasons. There were no Final Four teams for the first five. When the conference broke through it did in a big way, two teams in 2002 and 2003 and one in 2004. Since then, the Big 12 is 1-7 in regional finals. It’s never easy to sort out collective failure. Some years the matchups seem favorable, in others they don’t, and that’s the simple answer for 2010. Northern Iowa was a bad matchup for Kansas, Butler for Kansas State, Duke for Baylor, and so on. But the strongest teams overcome danger games. The Jay-