A few minutes with … Chester Frazier

Chester Frazier just joined the Kansas State basketball program as an assistant coach, but he feels like he has been working with the Wildcats for several months.

That’s not surprising considering he did a big favor for Bruce Weber days before he was hired as head coach.

Weber was considering taking the job, but wanted to make sure Rodney McGruder was returning for his senior season before he did. McGruder grew up in Washington DC, and Frazier (a former point guard for Weber at Illinois) grew up in nearby Baltimore. So Weber called Frazier, who was playing professional basketball in Germany at the time, to ask if he could get McGruder on the phone and find out if he was committed to K-State after the departure of Frank Martin. All while not saying anything about Weber’s interest in becoming the next coach.

Not the easiest of tasks, considering Weber’s request came at 3 in the morning (German time) and Frazier had never met McGruder. But Frazier delivered.

“My phone rang and it was Coach Weber,” Frazier said. “He said, ‘Chester, you have to call Rodney.’ All right what’s going on? ‘Well, I might get the Kansas State job and I need you to see what’s going on. He’s their best player.’”

Frazier took a moment to wake up and then called a friend associated with DC Assault, McGruder’s former AAU basketball team. He obtained McGruder’s cell phone number and had him on the phone about 30 minutes later.

McGruder was more than happy to talk.

“It wasn’t really weird,” McGruder said. “One of my good friends is friends with Chester. He said Chester was going to give me a call. I had seen him play before when he was at Illinois. I was cool with it. I was sitting on my couch watching TV. He was just asking me about my situation. I said, ‘Yeah, I’ll stick around. I love K-State.’”

The rest, as they say, is history. Weber became K-State’s head coach a few days later, and he was so impressed by Frazier’s connections (and overall basketball knowledge) that he figured he would be a good recruiter that he offered him a position on his staff.

Frazier moved to Manhattan earlier this week and is excited to get started. He was also nice enough to share a few of his thoughts on his new gig.

What attracted you to this job?

Being an assistant at this level was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. You know, when I was in Germany playing Coach and I kind of talked about it. But as time went on we got more serious about it.
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Angel Rodriguez thinks his game will fit right in with new coach Bruce Weber

When a new coach arrives, few positions face more change than point guard. With that in mind, Angel Rodriguez had a little thinking to do when Frank Martin left for South Carolina and Bruce Weber was hired at Kansas State.

The sophomore point guard had a successful first season with the Wildcats, and became a starter as the season went along. But his up-tempo style, his aggressiveness and his tendency to create his own shot aren’t for everybody.

Some coaches like their point guard to shoot first. Others like their point guard to pass all the time.

Ultimately, Rodriguez decided his game would fit in – and maybe even thrive – with Weber’s coaching style. Two months after the coaching change, he has no regrets.

“I am loving everything about this new coaching staff,” Rodriguez said following a practice earlier this week. “They are nice people. I like their system. It just seems like we are going to enjoy playing for Coach Bruce and his people.”
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Frank Martin talks Jeremy Jones, crushes former Detroit QB Scott Mitchell in process

Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin had an interesting response to a question about junior guard Jeremy Jones on Thursday.

Jones, a junior college transfer who was considered to be one of the best around at Seward last year, is averaging 3.2 points, 0.9 rebounds and 0.8 assists for the Wildcats in a backup role. He has had his moments, such as a 10-point game against Howard and two good efforts in the Diamond Head Classic. But he has had several forgettable nights, too.

Anyway, when Martin was asked about his progress, he talked a little about Jones but also went on an amusing tangent about former Detroit Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell. Here it is:

“Jeremy is a good player,” Martin said. “Jeremy is still not as comfortable as he needs to be. The problem for him right now is that there are other guys on the team and those other guys are doing things a little bit better than him.

“I understand everyone always loves a guy who doesn’t play. I remember being a kid, I always loved the Dolphins’ backups. There was a guy named Scott Mitchell, and I always said, ‘God, he’s good.’ Every time they put him in, the game was over, he would complete five passes and everyone would say, ‘God is he good.’

“Detroit went out and signed him for a gazillion dollars and if he completed 10 passes for the Detroit Lions it was one too many. Everybody always loves a guy who doesn’t play. I understand that. I’ve been a fan, too. I understand how it works.
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How K-State vs. West Virginia became reality and what is next for the series

When the Kansas State basketball team announced it would play West Virginia this season, many circled Thursday’s game at Intrust Bank Arena as the most-appealing nonconference game on the schedule.

Frank Martin vs. his mentor. Former coach Bob Huggins returning to Kansas to face the team he left after one season. The Wildcats in Wichita.

It was, and is, a very intriguing game. With West Virginia set to join the Big 12, it could be the start of an exciting rivalry.

Funny thing is, when Martin and Huggins began talking about playing each other they envisioned something totally different.

“It started out we were going to play in Kansas City,” Huggins told me today by phone. “We had an idea to do what some other people just started to do a couple years ago, which is Frank, Andy Kennedy (Mississippi coach) myself and somebody else go to a neutral site and play double headers, then go someplace else the next season and play a different team. You know, make it a three-year cycle. We just never really got that off the ground.”
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Jamar Samuels suspended three games

Kansas State fans will have to wait a while to see the new and improved Jamar Samuels in a live game.

The senior forward, who put on more than 30 pounds of muscle this offseason and has earned compliments from Wildcats basketball coach Frank Martin recently, has been suspended three games for a violation of team rules.

He will miss today’s exhibition opener against Fort Hays State, the regular-season opener against Charleston Southern and a Nov. 14 game against Loyola Chicago.

“Jamar understands that student-athletes at K-State have expectations and there are consequences when you don’t live up to those expectations,” Martin said in a release. “However, I have been pleased with how he has handled his obligations since this setback and I expect this to continue.”

TCU will help K-State basketball recruiting

The addition of TCU to the Big 12 is important to Kansas State for many reasons that have been analyzed all week. On Thursday, Wildcats basketball coach Frank Martin pointed out an advantage that hasn’t been discussed.

Playing the Horned Frogs on a yearly basis will help provide a recruiting boost in one of his go-to areas.

“I’m ecstatic about it. We recruit Dallas a lot,” Martin said. “One thing we tell parents is, ‘Hey, we play down in Austin or we play in Waco or — before — at Texas A&M,’ but that’s not Dallas. That means that’s a long drive for somebody after work on a Wednesday that needs to get where they need to get to watch a game. It’s not Dallas.

“Now, we’ll go play in Dallas. That’s going to be great. That’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for us in recruiting.”

TCU, located in Fort Worth, is a short drive from just about anywhere in the Dallas metroplex.

K-State currently has one player from the area (freshman big man Thomas Gipson) on its roster. Perhaps the Wildcats will be able to add more in the near future with TCU on the schedule.

“It’s a real neat deal,” Martin said. “I think it’s a great deal.”

Catching up with Nino Williams

This isn’t the greatest photo of Nino Williams. With Jordan Henriquez shooting a basketball directly behind him, and no numbers on those Kansas State practice jerseys, a casual fan might have trouble identifying him at first glance.

But it is an appropriate photo of Williams.

Throughout the past year, this is all we’ve seen of the redshirt freshman. He came to K-State as a four-star guard with plenty of upside, but when he suffered two concussions and tweaked his hamstring before Big 12 play began he decided to sit out the season with a redshirt.

He only got to play in three games.

It was a terrible string of luck that could shake the confidence of anyone. But when Williams thinks back on it, he does so with an upbeat attitude.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Williams told me recently at a Catbacker Event. “In some ways, I guess, it was a good thing to happen to me.”

No wonder he is beginning to earn the nickname, “Smiley.”

“Besides basketball, I learned life lessons with the team last year,” Williams said. “I learned a lot, like never giving up … I’m going to put myself out there. How good I get this summer all depends on me. How much I play next season depends on me.
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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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Matt Figger hard at work after promotion

Matt Figger didn’t get much time to savor his promotion to recruiting coordinator on the Kansas State basketball team.

After earning the title two weeks ago, he immediately began preparing for the first day that class of 2013 recruits could receive calls from college coaches. With that day, and plenty of phone calls, in his rearview mirror he took a few minutes to discuss his new role and what the future holds for the Wildcats.

As you might expect, recruiting is the No. 1 thing on the assistant coach’s mind these days.

“The class of 2013, that’s a big recruiting class for us,” Figger said. “We’re going to need a few guys. Next year is not so bad, but 2013 is really our target year, because we have so many juniors. Replacing that many players is not an easy deal.”

But by no means impossible. Last year, the Wildcats knew Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly would graduate. Then they watched four players unexpectedly transfer from the program. By the time K-State announced its latest recruiting class, it had signed six new players.

The process was difficult, Figger said, because most of the high school seniors K-State had targeted during the fall had already decided to sign elsewhere. In many ways, the Wildcats had to start their recruiting efforts all over.

They ended up landing Angel Rodriguez, Jeremy Jones, Omari Lawrence and James Watson in addition to Thomas Gipson and Adrian Diaz. Figger is high on all six, and says the Wildcats have the potential to be a better team next season.
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Frank Martin challenges Jamar Samuels

Of Kansas State’s seven returning scholarship basketball players, it’s pretty easy to identify who will make up the core of next year’s team.

Rodney McGruder will likely be the best player on the roster. Will Spradling is eager to enter the starting lineup after a promising freshman season. And Jamar Samuels will be a fifth-year senior.

Yes, Shane Southwell and Jordan Henriquez ended last season on upswings, and walk-on Victor Ojeleye could very well be named a captain, but those are the three who (for now, anyway) figure to make the biggest impact for the Wildcats next season — both on and off the court.

I asked K-State coach Frank Martin about all three earlier this week, and it turns out he has a pretty good idea of who his most dependable players will be next season, too.

But instead of a trio, he sees a duo.

He is most confident in McGruder and Spradling.

“Those are the two guys that have shown the willingness to be consistent with who they are, with their approach, with their work ethic,” Martin said. Read More »