Jacob Pullen, Curtis Kelly look back

Before mingling with Kansas State fans and accepting awards at the basketball team’s annual banquet earlier this week, departing seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly spoke with the media about all sorts of different topics.

Both are pursuing professional hoops careers and both have signed with agents. Both are looking forward to moving on to the next level, but said they will also miss college life.

They reminisced on their careers with the Wildcats, and the season that was. They seemed to talk the longest about that lost topic.

Here is what they had to say:

“It was a great run,” Pullen said. “It was a difficult year, but at the same time it was a memorable year. We went though a lot together and we lost some players.

“We really had to find our identity. My other three years being here we found our identity a lot earlier than this year’s team did, but at the same time when we found it I felt like we were one of the best teams in the country.

“When we got hot, we were hard to beat. At the same time, some things happened, we didn’t make plays and it ended very fast and abruptly. So it was a great run. My teammates are great. They call me old now because I’m leaving.”
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How Kansas State saved Curtis Kelly

Throughout his basketball career at Kansas State, senior forward Curtis Kelly has gone out of his way to thank the university for everything it has helped him achieve.

Since joining the Wildcats in 2008 via a transfer from Connecticut, the former blue-chip high school recruit has gone from bench player to key starter and become the first member of his family to earn a college degree.

There have been more than a few bumps along the way for the New York native, but he is now looking forward to the postseason. Before the Big 12 and NCAA tournaments arrive, though, he will first enjoy senior day at Bramlage Coliseum. It will be a special event for him.

Not only has he enjoyed his time at K-State, he has appreciated it. So much so, that he often credits the school for saving his life. Kelly was asked why he felt that way Thursday evening. His response came straight from the heart.

“From where I come from, it’s hard to survive. From where I come from, a lot of people don’t survive. Where I come from is tough. It’s not some place you just walk into and you walk out of. Where I’m from, you get there and it’s hard to make it out. So coming from where I came from, I made it since I was a young boy. I made it out with a basketball in my hand.
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Postgame: Texas A&M 64, K-State 56

On the day Curtis Kelly finally came through with a big game for Kansas State, Rodney McGruder disappeared.

That wasn’t the only reason why the Wildcats fell to Texas A&M 64-56 on Saturday at Reed Arena, but it certainly was a factor.

Kelly looked like the senior forward everyone was hyping in the preseason. He scored 15 points on eight shots, snared 11 rebounds and blocked six shots. He was a true force inside. Had he been eligible and played like that a few more times this season, K-State may not be in its current predicament.

Add his day on to 21 points from Jacob Pullen and a decent afternoon from McGruder, who has been the Wildcats’ most consistent player all year, and K-State is likely feeling good about a win today. But the sophomore guard was not himself.
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Postgame: UNLV 63, K-State 59


Kansas State was unable to defeat UNLV without its best two players in the lineup Tuesday at the Sprint Center.

The loss came in front of a raucous sellout crowd, and the shorthanded Wildcats played the Rebels tough before falling 63-59. But it was a painful night for K-State all the same.

“We’re not about losing here,” said an angry Frank Martin. “We’re not about playing hard and coming up close and moral victories. That’s not what we built our program about. We lost, so it wasn’t good enough.”

Martavious Irving and Jamar Samuels later said they also found few positives in the loss. Samuels made a good point about the Wildcats being strong enough to beat Virginia Tech earlier this season with Kelly out of the lineup and Pullen only playing 14 minutes. He thought they should have done the same here.

K-State is certainly a team that should know how to play with members of its roster unavailable. Of the Wildcats’ 16 players, only six (Rodney McGruder, Victor Ojeleye, Nick Russell, Freddy Asprilla, Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Will Spradling) have seen action in every game this season.

The other 10 have missed anywhere from one game to nine for various reasons. Here is a rundown:
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Postgame: Florida 57, K-State 44

There are many reasons why Kansas State has played less-than-impressive basketball lately, but it’s pretty obvious what the biggest of those reasons is this morning.

The Wildcats aren’t getting enough out of their frontcourt.

During an excruciating 57-44 loss to Florida at BankAtlantic Center on Saturday, starting forwards Freddy Asprilla and Curtis Kelly contributed a measly five points and five rebounds — combined. Jamar Samuels, outside of a few nice shots early and a decent defensive effort, could provide only five points and five rebounds off the bench.

As the game went on, K-State coach Frank Martin was desperate for a spark and sent Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, Wally Judge and Victor Ojeleye onto the court. None of them were effective against the Gators.

Much like their disappointing effort against Loyola Chicago, the Wildcats were outrebounded by Florida and unable to score second-chance points. Seriously, they ended the game with a whopping three. Though that stat does look better than the zero fast-break points they scored.

Martin brought in former banger Luis Colon to help the team and introduce a new level of physical contact to practices earlier in the week, and was at a loss trying to explain why that didn’t properly prepare his big men for Saturday’s game.

“I’ve got no idea,” Martin said. “As long as Rodney McGruder continues to rebound the basketball and our bigs don’t, I don’t know what to tell you. Read More »

Postgame: K-State 63, Wazzu 58

Will Spradling has been impressive all season, but he took his game to a new level Friday night at Friel Court by showing his clutch side late in a 63-58 victory over Washington State.

In front of a deafening student section, the freshman guard made two free throws with 16 seconds remaining to increase a narrow two-point lead to a more comfortable four. Free throws have troubled Kansas State all year, but Spradling stepped into a difficult situation and made the necessary shots under pressure to help his team win its first true road game.

A window into how Spradling kept his cool:

Leading by two points with 23 seconds remaining, K-State inbounded the ball to its best player, Jacob Pullen. Washington State had no interest in fouling the senior guard and trapped him with a double team. Spradling was supposed to be nearby to receive an outlet pass, but was out of position and the Wildcats called timeout. In the ensuing huddle, Frank Martin challenged Spradling.

“I told him, ‘You don’t want the ball at the end of the game? What’s the problem?’” Martin said. “He said, ‘Are you kidding me? Yes I want it.’ So I said, ‘Go get the ball.’”

He did. K-State ran the same play when it returned to the court with success and got the ball to Spradling. The Cougars saw a freshman with the ball and couldn’t foul him fast enough. With 16 seconds remaining, Washington State had the man it wanted at the foul line. But so did K-State.

“I knew he was making them,” Pullen said. Read More »

For Curtis Kelly, benching = Kryptonite

curtiskellyThe staring, the yelling, the running … By now Curtis Kelly is used to all that.

Midway through his third year at Kansas State, the senior forward long ago learned how to deal with, and often appreciate, the many forms of tough love constantly thrown at him by his basketball coach.

“I like that stuff,” Kelly said. “It helps keeps me motivated.”

Well, it used to anyway. But as Frank Martin discovered in the middle of November, sometimes the tough have to get tougher. It was then that Martin decided to bench Kelly for three games.

He felt Kelly was underperforming in practice, and realized his usual tactics weren’t doing the trick with Kelly like they had in the past. So, like a doctor increasing a patient’s medicine dosage, Martin amped up his motivational techniques.

Kelly didn’t see it coming. And it sent a shiver down his spine the way all the staring, the yelling and the running no longer could.

“I’m only scared when he don’t play me,” Kelly said. “That’s my Kryptonite, and now he knows that.”
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Postgame: K-State 81, Gonzaga 64

How big is today’s CBE Classic championship game between fourth-ranked Kansas State and top-ranked Duke?

So big that there is virtually no way to over hype it.

The Wildcats are striving for a marquee victory that will prove themselves capable of handling high expectations. The Blue Devils and coach Mike Krzyzewski are, well, Duke: the defending national champion everyone loves to hate. Except Frank Martin, that is.

“I look at two things,” Martin said. “No. 1, it’s hard to be good for one year. They’ve been good for 28 years. They’ve competed for national championships and conference championships for 28 years. That’s ridiculous.

The other part of it, which shows the kind of man that leads that program, and the people that he demands to have in that program, USA Basketball had become the laughing stock of the world. All of a sudden he engages in USA basketball and now USA basketball is back to dominating the world.

“It’s going to be a privilege to tell my grand kids one day that I was able and fortunate enough to sit on the bench opposite Coach K, and try to prepare a team to compete against his.”
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Postgame: K-State 76, Presbyterian 67

In the wake of Thursday’s way-too-close victory over Presbyterian, Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin talked a lot about leadership.

Right now he doesn’t think the Wildcats have much of it.

“We’re the most immature team I’ve ever coached,” Martin said. “Great team. Great kids. But we’re the most immature team I’ve ever coached.”

After watching an uninspired effort that led to a 76-67 victory over the Blue Hose, he labeled junior walk-on Victor Ojeleye as the best leader on the roster and said what the Wildcats’ locker room needed most right now was the return of Luis Colon.

Not even senior guard Jacob Pullen is apparently doing his part.

“Jacob was great early,” Martin said. “He hasn’t been lately.”
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Postgame: K-State 73, Va. Tech 57

Anyone who wanted to know what Kansas State looked like without Jacob Pullen or Curtis Kelly got their wish yesterday.

Turns out the Wildcats can hold their own without their two most heralded players.

With Pullen in foul trouble and on the bench for all but two minutes of the first half, and Kelly serving an ongoing suspension, K-State used an assortment of different players against the 22nd-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies. They all did their part. The Wildcats found a way to take a one-point halftime lead and pull away for a 73-57 victory once Pullen returned to the game.

Here’s a look at who contributed most under the unusual circumstances:
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