Category Archives: A few minutes with …

A few minutes with … Kuulei Kabalis

When the Kansas State volleyball team shocked No. 2 Nebraska in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last week, everyone who supports Wildcats athletics took notice.

It’s rare that the Cornhuskers, a national power in volleyball, lose before the Sweet 16. But K-State was able to send them early. It was arguably the program’s biggest win – ever.

Coaches and players celebrated the victory in typical fashion, and enjoyed receiving positive notes and messages through social networking sites on the bus ride home. But one player was overwhelmed by it all.

By defeating Nebraska, junior libero Kuulei Kabalis earned a rare trip home to Hawaii.

On Friday, the Wildcats will try pull off another upset against on No. 15 Pepperdine in Hawaii. And for the first time since high school, Kabalis will get to play volleyball in front of family and friends.

She talked about all that and more before leaving Manhattan earlier this week.

What does it mean to you to be headed home for the Sweet 16?

I’m really excited. Getting the chance to play at home, it just brings tears to my eyes, because I never get an opportunity like this living on the main land so far away. It makes me so excited to know that my family will be there and people I know will be watching me play and doing something I love.
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A few minutes with … ESPN’s Chris Fowler

A few days ago, I got an e-mail out of the blue from an ESPN publicist. She said she saw my blog post last week about how the city of Manhattan was catching “College Gameday” fever, and that Chris Fowler was interested in speaking with me.

As the longtime host of one of ESPN’s most popular shows, Fowler can offer insight into “Gameday’s” decision to head to Southern California this week for its game against Stanford when it appeared destined for Manhattan. So, I told her to have him give me a call.

The first thing he said to me today was, “I’ve heard from a lot of angry K-State people. Maybe I can explain our decision a little bit.”

We’ll go into Q&A form the rest of the way, though Fowler did most of the talking.

Why don’t we just start there with that request. What explanation would you like to offer those K-State fans?

We were disappointed. Obviously Oklahoma and Kansas State had been No. 1 on our grid for a few weeks, and the hype was building. We fully expected the Wildcats to take care of the Jayhawks and the Sooners to win. It was almost a foregone conclusion. And we’re sitting in the bus last Saturday night in disbelief, watching Oklahoma fall. When that happens, it forces you to hastily reconsider.

We don’t ever pick the “Gameday” sites until the results of the previous Saturday are in. There is no upside to doing that. Through the years we have had plenty of last-minute changes in location due to upsets. It seems to happen a lot in the Big 12. I can remember times when we were supposed to be at Texas A&M but they lost to Baylor. It happens from time to time.

This one, though, was among the most surprising. I mean, we were there. We had the location. The director of the show had been there. We had looked at locations for the set. We were set to go. But when you lose the angle of having a top 5 team, unbeaten, on the road. The game nationally takes a hit.

Now, nobody on the set makes the decision. That is handled at a management level. We are no longer given much input. But based on what happened, the idea of Stanford against a USC team that not many expected to beat Notre Dame looked pretty good.
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A few minutes with … Nick Puetz

Nick Puetz will start at left guard for the Kansas State football team on Saturday. That’s why he made an appearance at the Wildcats’ weekly press conference on Tuesday, and that’s why his blocking abilities are suddenly a topic of interest.

But that’s not why he has an interesting story to tell.

Puetz, a junior from Salina, took a very unusual route to K-State. He broke his right fibula while screwing around in gym class as a high school senior, and received no Division I scholarship offers. So he went to Coffeyville junior college. After two impressive seasons, he transferred to Wyoming (as pictured above), where he was on track to start on the Cowboys’ offensive line right away. But after completing spring practices, he decided to transfer to K-State as a walk-on.

That meant he had to sit out the season, and wait another year for his dream of playing Division I football to become reality. That was difficult, but deep down he has always wanted to play for K-State. Saturday will be a big moment for him.

First off, how are you handling all this?

I’m doing great actually. Thanks for asking. I’m just ready for this week, ready to play. I’m excited and I’m doing well.

What is your mindset heading into your fast start?

Looking to make my first start. I’m pretty excited about that. I’m going to do what I can and do my best. I’ve been thinking about this day ever since I was probably about 8 years old growing up in Salina, Kansas, so I don’t really know what to expect. I’m a little nervous, but I think that’s probably normal.
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A few minutes with … Angelo Pease

Angelo Pease signed with Kansas State as a high school senior in 2009, but it wasn’t until Saturday that he took the field in a Wildcats uniform.

The delay was caused by grade issues, which led to a two-year detour at Hutchinson Community College. While there, he played quarterback, running back and even a little wide receiver, while always keeping his focus on getting to K-State.

While speaking with media during K-State’s weekly media session on Tuesday, Pease, a junior running back, talked about the long road he took to Manhattan and what his role will be with the Wildcats moving forward. In his first game, he rushed for 11 yards on five carries while splitting time with John Hubert and Bryce Brown.

Did you have any butterflies in your stomach during your first game?

I really didn’t have many, but me just getting on the field for the first time, experiencing the environment was my best experience. The experience of playing in front of 50,000 people was great.

What are your expectations for Game 2?

Getting that first game out of the way, I think it will be a lot different. I mean, I made mistakes and I’m correcting those mistakes. When it comes to the next game, I will do better.
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A few minutes with … Adam Davis

At this time last year, Adam Davis wondered if his football career was over.

The junior defensive end was at Kansas State, fresh off a transfer from Hutchinson Community College, where he was a junior college All-American and made 23 sacks in two seasons. He was the Wildcats’ top-rated juco transfer, but a slipped disk and a pinched nerve in his back put his playing future in serious jeopardy.

He underwent surgery, but when the operation was finished doctors told him it might not be wise to continue playing football. He stuck with it, though. He has gone through rehab, and is feeling stronger now. After sitting out a year with a redshirt, he’s ready to compete for playing time on the Wildcats’ defensive line.

Not long ago, David discussed both his comeback and future with K-Stated:

What did the rehab process involve?

I had to be in the whirl pool twice a day for 30 minutes, just running against currents, trying to get my back stronger and more flexible. I had a herniated disc, a slipped disc and a pinched nerve. They (doctors) cleaned the disc out so that it will grow back to be just the way it was. It was pretty painful.

That whole rehab, I couldn’t really bend and stuff until my back got strong. I had to stand up straight as much as possible. Even when I slept I had to wear a thing that kept me from bending, because if I turned the wrong way it would hit my nerve and send pain down to my legs.
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A few minutes with … Andy Assaley

A week ago, the Kansas State basketball team released its nonconference schedule for the 2011-12 season. Several coaches and administrators worked together to make the games fit, but no one contributed more time to the process than Andy Assaley.

As the Wildcats’ director of basketball operations, one of his main priorities is to head up scheduling. Every year, he makes countless phone calls to Division I coaches and sends out more than a thousand (seriously) e-mails to prospective opponents.

In the end, all that work is rewarded with a finalized schedule of a dozen or so games before Big 12 play begins.

“It’s a difficult job,” Assaley said, “but it’s a fun job.”

Earlier this week, Assaley went into great detail about K-State’s upcoming schedule and exactly what it took to put together. Turns out strategy, connections and patience — lots and lots of patience – were the main requirements.

“You have to be willing to haggle, you have to enjoy that,” Assaley said. “You have to be able to make cold calls and you have to know people … And you have to be able to handle rejection well. You can’t take it personally when you don’t get a call back, because that’s going to happen more than you can possibly imagine.

“Every time I go to a Catbacker event I hear from fans asking how come we’re not playing this school, how come we’re not playing that school. I just laugh and try to tell them it’s not that easy. They have to want to play us too.”
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A few minutes with … Omari Lawrence

Omari Lawrence, who made his commitment to Kansas State official by signing a national letter of intent this week, has an interesting back story.

The 6-foot-4, 209-pound sophomore guard is from New York and began his college career in the Big Apple playing for St. John’s. But after one season, in which he averaged 2.5 points and 1.5 rebounds, he decided to transfer.

Last summer he gave an oral commitment to the Wildcats, but ended up at Cloud County Community College. He spent the season on the bench with a redshirt while both his old and future teams regularly played on national TV and won enough games to qualify for the NCAA Tournament.

Missing out on those experiences wasn’t easy, but he is looking forward to what lies ahead now that he knows he will a scholarship athlete at K-State next season.

Can you sum up how good it felt to sign with Kansas State earlier this week?

Yes. What a sigh of relief. I’m glad the process is over. I can’t wait to get K-State and start working.

It’s been a long journey from St. John’s to Cloud County to K-State, hasn’t it?

Yeah, it’s been a little ways. But I’m just happy to finally have it all finished.
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A few minutes with … Curry Sexton

No one on the Kansas State football team is looking forward to next week’s spring game more than Curry Sexton.

The freshman wide receiver, of Abilene, was a gigantic Wildcats fan growing up, and has attended games at Snyder Family Stadium for as long as he can remember.

After staying in the stands last season with a grayshirt, this will be Sexton’s first chance to get out on the field and play in front of the purple-clad fans he knows so well.

Earlier this week, Sexton, spoke at length about that topic and how he sees himself fitting in to K-State’s offense this coming season.

What will your emotions be during the spring game?

I definitely think it will be a nerve-wracking experience. Growing up since the age of 3 or 4, I’ve probably missed 10 home games. So it’s always been something I’ve dreamed of, but never really expected. So going out there, regardless of whether it’s in front of 15,000 or 20,000 fans, it’s going to be a rush and the start of a dream come true.
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A few minutes with … Jordy Nelson

Fresh off his big game in the Super Bowl with the Green Bay Packers, Jordy Nelson returned to Kansas State a hero this week.

The former Wildcats wide receiver, who started his career at K-State as a walk-on and lived the dream of every small-town kid on his way up, was honored during Monday’s basketball game at Bramlage Coliseum.

Before tip-off, he humored a mob of reporters and talked about what his wild ride has been like.

What have the last few weeks been like for you?

It’s been crazy. Obviously, it was a dream come true to be able to play in, and win, the Super Bowl. It hasn’t set in yet. I think once we get that ring, I think it will be sometime this summer, I look forward to getting it. Like I said, it’s been a dream come true.
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A few minutes with … Shane Southwell

One of the most promising freshmen on Kansas State’s basketball team is Shane Southwell. The New York native is a 6-foot-6 guard capable of playing point guard, shooting guard and small forward.

He has contributed little thus far — he’s averaging 0.6 points, 1.1 rebounds and 4.4 minutes per game. And Wildcats coach Frank Martin says he is still learning what it takes to practice and prepare for games at the college level.

But he is working his way up the depth chart.

“He’s having the best week of practice since he’s been here,” said assistant coach Brad Underwood. “That helps a young kid … Shane’s game, in terms of his ability to handle it and to pass it, is ahead of where it is defensively. He’s catching up and he’s getting better.

Big things are still expected out of him.

“He’s got a chance, in my opinion, to be an elite-level defender,” Underwood said. “He has great length and understands the game. It’s just a matter of him becoming more consistent. He’s going to have a bright future here. He has some tools that you just don’t coach.”
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