New coach Bruce Weber says he is working round-the-clock right now, trying to hire a coaching staff and getting to know K-State’s players. He is living out of a hotel, eating when he can and using multiple phones to keep up with all of his contacts.
He took some time out of his busy day to speak with me earlier today. So I’ve got plenty of news and notes to pass along. Here we go:
Weber spent time on the court working out with players for the first time on Monday. Though players weren’t in game shape following two weeks of down time, he was impressed with what he saw from them.
“They told me right away, ‘The one thing we will do is we will play hard. That’s the one thing we’ve always done,’” Weber said. “You can definitely see that. They’ve got some pretty good raw talent and physical ability.”
He knows what he will emphasize with them in the short term.
“Shooting and getting the ball in the hoop is the one thing we really need to work at over the spring and summer,” Weber said.
When asked about individual players, he said a few things stuck out.
Martavious Irving – “I like him. He’s got a good body and a nice jump shot.”
Shane Southwell – “He is one guy I noticed. He’s got a great body and has some basketball instincts.”
Thomas Gipson – “Man does he have a big body.”
Will Spradling – “Probably has the most skill when you consider everything, but I like them all.”
Jordan Henriquez – “Jordan has a lot of ability. He hit a couple threes yesterday. I didn’t know he had that in his bag of tricks. I asked him if he ever did any pick-and-pops, and he said, ‘No, they just had me driving to the hoop, but I can do that stuff.’ He made some shots, so that was positive.”
We in the media know Henriquez has always wanted the chance to shoot from the perimeter. He pushed Jacob Pullen in a three-point shooting contest two years ago. Former coach Frank Martin didn’t want him shooting from out there, but Weber says he will allow it – sometimes.
“I hope it’s not the only thing he does,” Weber said with a laugh. “But there is nothing wrong with a trailer or something else on break, or a pick-and-pop. That is fine. That’s OK. That’s something for his future too. If he can prove he can shoot it on the perimeter, that will help him.”
Two prominent players not mentioned above are Rodney McGruder and Angel Rodriguez. Both are out recovering from medical procedures.
McGruder had surgery on his foot at the conclusion of the season, and is home with a boot on. Weber said Rodriguez just underwent a medical procedure related to tendinitis in his knee.
“It’s not a big deal,” Weber said. “He just needs to rest it a little bit.”
WINNING OVER MCGRUDER
Weber has met with both players, and says he is looking forward to working with them. But he already has a sense on what it will be like coaching McGruder. Weber said he has reached out multiple times to everyone who will be a senior next year, including McGruder.
“I had two meetings with Rodney and have talked to him on the phone each night,” Weber said. “Everything has been good. With a change and somebody new they want to get to know me. That’s why I think it is so important to be around them. I want to get on the court with them and show them what I’m like. I want them coming in the office and being around. I want to see them.
“With Rodney, it’s funny. He’s just such a nice kid. Instead of telling me what he does best, he says, ‘Coach, what do I need to do to fit into your system? I’ve been looking at tape on YouTube and watched how you did this with Deron Williams and Dee Brown.’
“It’s neat to hear him say some of that stuff. He said he couldn’t even sleep the other night he was so excited. He said he hopped out of bed and just started watching tape. Our guards have always been a big part of what we do. We have always had pretty good guards and developed them. Hopefully he will join that group.”
Weber doesn’t know the exact dates, but in early August he will take the Wildcats to Brazil for a 10-day basketball tour. College teams are allowed to take International trips every few years. Weber has been a part of several before, but he is really looking forward to this one.
“It’s just a tremendous experience for the student athletes,” Weber said. “I told our guys I’ve done it eight or nine times now and it’s just the greatest life experience you’re ever going to have. If you want to play professionally but can’t make it in the NBA, it’s a great opportunity to see what it’s like overseas. You can see if it’s something you might want to do.
“For us, it will be great. You have 10 days of practice time together. That’s 10 days of being together, getting to know the players and their families and the chance to play games.”
Kansas State has two openings on next year’s schedule. Weber says both will be home games.
The old coaching staff was considering moving one of them to Wichita, but hadn’t committed to anything. Weber said returning to Wichita (K-State lost to West Virginia in front of a packed house there this season) could be a possibility in future years, but not in his first season.
“We need a few more games here at Bramlage,” Weber said.
Marquee games next season include: vs. Florida at Sprint Center, at George Washington and a trip to the preseason NIT in New York.
K-State was also scheduled to play West Virginia in a nonconference game, but that game has been scrubbed with the Mountaineers joining the Big 12 next season.