K-State basketball holds Media Day ahead of 2017-18 season

Courtesy: K-State Athletics

MANHATTAN, Kan. – The Kansas State men’s basketball team held their annual media day on Wednesday afternoon inside the Ice Family Basketball Center as Head Coach Bruce Weber and the team previewed the 2017-18 season that kicks off with the team’s first practice on Friday, September 29. K-State opens exhibition play on Sunday, October 29 against Fort Hays State before officially kicking off the season against American on Friday, November 10.

Head Coach Bruce Weber
Opening statement…
“We are excited. It’s the fun part of the college basketball season, and for me especially as a coach. I have always cherished this first month of practice because I get to be on campus – I am not doing recruiting, fundraising and alumni events, but I get to build the foundation of my team.

“I could not be more excited about our group. It started at the end, whatever happened after the Oklahoma game. They came together, there was a renewed focus and a good finish. I talked about at the end last year it was good for our seniors to get into the NCAA Tournament, to get a win and get a taste of it, but I think it was even better for our younger guys to get a taste of it, a drive and motivation to be a part of the tournament. I know it has helped them pushing them to a new gear and another level of intensity from the spring, into the summer and to the fall.

“Our whole summer theme has been about character, being accountable, being responsible and tough. Toughness to win those close games, character to make the right play, and do the right thing for your teammates. We have talked a lot about competitiveness. I think that is going to be one of our strengths. Our depth is going to be so much different. I hate to bring up injuries, but with practice we can actually get after it this year. In the last two years it seemed like we were trying to make sure we had healthy bodies, to have seven or eight guys at practice. I think the depth we have will be a benefit. It will be important for our coaching staff figuring out how to use the depth and keeping all of our guys competitively involved.

“I think consistency will be really a key to us, especially with those older guys. We have Mason Schoen as a senior, but those juniors are going to be so key, especially the three guys that have played a lot of minutes, Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown and Dean Wade. They are going to have to be seniors and play like seniors with consistency. We talked a lot about communicating, not just on the court. Not whether or not you need help-side defense, but the idea of team unity. Being together as a team and communicating as a team. We have done a lot this fall with our strength and conditioning. In our workouts we have been trying to communicate, push and help each other come together to build that team unity. We want our guys to have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder. Our little quote for the summer was, ‘If you never wake up with something to prove, you will never improve.’ We have talked about that all summer, and to me there is no doubt they have improved. Now we have to show them out on the court and come together as a team.

“Obviously, yesterday was not the best day in the history of college basketball. It’s tough on individuals and schools affected, but I know that as an individual I have always tried to have high standards for myself and for our staff. I always want to do things the right way, but by no means am I perfect. We are very proud of the way we do things at K-State. I think our players are people our fans are proud to have as part of our team. A couple years ago I said I want players who K-State fans are proud of, that play, treat and act the right way. I feel really good about our group, and I am excited for this upcoming season.”

On three juniors ability to step up this season…
“The one that has taken off is Barry (Brown). Him and Wes (Iwundu) were boys and he watched Wes’ progress last year, and Wes kind of took responsibility at the end of the year. Something happened at the end of year where he was talking to the coaches and texting us how are we going to guard this, and somehow maybe it got to Barry. He also saw Wes’ success and our success led him to the opportunity to get drafted. Barry spends individual time coming in the gym–the most of anyone on the team. Other guys come in the gym, but Barry does it like Rodney (McGruder), three times instead of two or one. Barry has taken the role as leader on the team individually and on the team through conditioning, winning in every race through example and through talking.

“I think you all know Dean (Wade) has come a long way. I told him I do not expect him to be the greatest leader, but I need him to be a great follower. Kam (Stokes) has made progress and I would like him to lead because he is very intelligent. He has the opportunity to be a good leader and help Barry with that. They are all experienced and they have been through it.

“Mason Schoen is a great individual and wants to coach. I have told Mason to use this time to learn and be an intern. You are a player coach and you can help our team. And we have one kind of x-factor with Mawdo (Sallah). He is older, a little more mature and he has taken on a little bit of leadership already. He is a very intelligent man in the MBA program. He will help with that also. I have a little group text message, one with the whole team, and then I have those four older guys, and now I have stuck Maw in the mix because he may not feel comfortable verbally yet, but he definitely is showing his leadership ability in his example.”

On adjusting new guys into the system…
“I think the best thing that has happened is the older guys have set the example. They come every day with the mindset of not letting down in practice taking a play off, or not running hard in conditioning. They have set the example in conditioning whether (strength and conditioning coach) Ben (O’Donnell) says 6 a.m. or 2 p.m. The younger guys have no choice but to do it the way the older guys are doing it. Levi (Stockard III) joked with me the other day that ‘you are killing me, coach’. It does not mean he is going to back down, he saw that example. Some are a little different, some are better in the weight room, conditioning, on the court, and picking up basketball easier. That is the job of the coaches is to help them get in the lineup more easily. We start Friday officially, we have a month until our first exhibition game and six weeks until our first game. We still have time to help our guys and make progress. I talked to some of our guys that I am not worried about them October 29, maybe not even November 11, but I am worried about them making progress by December and January.

On feeling toward Wesley Iwundu getting drafted…
“It was really exciting for our program, for him and his family. I think the example he set by putting in the work and getting results showed a lot. He was not a top-50 recruit, but if you put the time in it with the God-gifts, the length and athleticism he set an example for Barry and some of the other guys with his hard work ethic. I texted Rodney and Wes as they started camp that I was excited to watch their progress.”

On the foreign trip impact on Xavier Sneed…
I think Xavier gets not talked about as much because of Barry, Dean and Kamau. He had some nice moments for us last year. He will tell you he hit a Big 12 wall to be honest after playing against the top teams every game. He came back and said told me he understands how hard it is, how hard he has to work and all the things you guys have been preaching. There was no doubt when he went to Belize, whatever it is that movie with Dr. Evil and he is trying to find his mojo–Austin Powers. He came back and had a mojo that I did not see. He is playing with so much confidence out there and that’s part of growing up, and I expect him to have a really good year. He had some figuring it out as a freshman, but now you take off as a sophomore.”

On taking on a chip on your shoulder mentality because of Barry Brown…
“I think he has been the leader with that. It is a young man who got recruited a little bit later, but you go back and see that he was on an unbelievable AAU team, but he was seventh man. The people in Florida and the SEC had recruited him late after we had recruited him and were in there. He has kind of come here since he got here with that mentality, and he has great drive. I hope that one of your best players is the one working early and working hard, it has to be contagious for the rest of your guys.”

On Cartier Diarra following injury…
“He is an unbelievable athlete. He went from a 43-inch vertical jump, had an ACL surgery and then we tested him after and he is up to a 45-inch vertical jump less than a year later. He has great athleticism and strength. He is like DJ (Johnson), when DJ sat out that whole time, I told DJ use that time to get better, or at least get your free throws better, you have to figure out something. Now it is going to be experience and refining his skills. I am very confident he is going to be a nice factor for our team.

On options on the front line…
“There is no doubt that is the question mark on our team. Consistency from the older guys and the development of our big guys. You have five options beside Dean, and we will look to play small ball with Brian Patrick, Amaad Wainright or Xavier could play when teams go small on us.

“We have the graduate student, Mawdo Sallah. I call him grandpa now, he kind of smiles, but I do not know if he is mad or not, we will see as it goes. He is one of the older guys on our team. He gives you experience, he played in the NCAA Tournament right before us, which is ironic. He played against Villanova and had eight and eight. I think he got 13 rebounds at Iowa State. He gives us that older guy that knows what is going on. He wants to get better. He comes up in the office and is watching film.

“We have Makol [Mawien] who is as talented as anyone of the big guys. I would not say to Dean, but he has a lot of skills and ability. He wants to play out on the court maybe a little too much. He can do things out on the court, but we want him to use his athleticism inside. He is versatile and gives us a four of five look.

“James Love was with us in the summer and broke his foot in October. It took him nine months to get back, but now he is starting to get back in shape. He gives us physicality, he has been around us for a little bit, but he is still trying to regain strength.

“And then the two freshman. Each one gives you a different look. Levi (Stockard) is very skilled, I used to call him big bodied, but he has probably lost 40 pounds. Now we have to get stronger, get in the weight room. I keep encouraging him that it is a slow process in getting there, but he has great skills and a great feel of the game. Last Wednesday, we had our team workout and he had some plays and did some nice things for us. Nigel (Shadd) has a good body and is athletic, but he has to learn the game and improve his skills.

“I think it is going to be by committee and I am hoping one of two of them will slowly take steps forward to help us, but in the long run it is going to be by committee.”

On depth creating competitiveness…
“It was on the board the first day they got here this summer that there is competition here. If you want minutes you will have to be in the gym, watching film and busting your butt in practice every day. A lot of times in practice we had to be so careful last year, and we could not go as hard or do this or that edge of toughness to win some of those close games. Do they have the experience? No, but we sure have a lot of bodies now that we can use all of them to help us.”

On Brian Patrick…
“He is kind of that quiet x-factor. Xavier is the x-factor, but I called him last week with a bunch of recruiting in the last two and a half weeks. I called him on the road and told him we need to get that motor turned on. Obviously we saw last year he can make shots, he has a big body. He is more athletic than he shows, but when he does show it, he is a great one that could end up being the small ball four of three. He can handle the basketball and do some things with his athleticism. I think a big key with any of those guys will be rebounding. Whether it is him, Xavier or Amaad, which one of them is going to get those extra rebounds for us to earn those minutes.”

On Mike McGuirl…
“Mike was the biggest surprise of the summer. He is strong already, he has great work ethic, he is in the gym and he is intelligent. He can sure shoot the basketball. I think the biggest surprise is that he did not back down to anybody. He has taken those older guys on. He has had a little bit of a setback, he has missed quite a bit. About two weeks ago, I said to all you guys sitting there riding bikes that instead of conditioning. I feel for you, I do not like injuries, but you better get your butts in gear because you are going to make up the conditioning and try to practice. All of the sudden, we did not have anyone on the bikes, and they were all in conditioning and I think practice and competition heals a lot of those injuries.”

Senior Guard Mason Schoen
On the upcoming season…
“I am feeling good about this upcoming season. We have had a very good offseason in the spring, summer and the fall, so I am feeling good. We have had great workouts, been super competitive, we have all gotten stronger in the weight room and better on the court. So, I am ready for it.”

On how the team looks right now…
“I am not going to lie we definitely lost a few key players last year, but we have a lot of new faces in the program this year. We all played well this summer and so I am ready to see where that takes us.”

Junior Forward Dean Wade
On being a leader on the team…
“I take it one day at a time. I am always trying to help the younger guys, I was in their position once so I know how it felt. We also have Mason [Schoen] here and he has been through the rings a few times, and he always has our backs, he still helps me to this day.”

On reflecting on tape from last season…
“I see someone who was not aggressive enough, offensively and defensively, especially in rebounding. But I also see a ton of room to grow. Hopefully this offseason I have grown enough to expand my game.”

On potential for this season…
“We have three returning starters, the most in the Big 12 and we have some transfers. We’re young still, but I think we have some potential. I think the sky is the limit.”

On games where he felt comfortable last season…
“The three of the earlier Big 12 games I was clicking. I think it was more of a confidence thing, I was just having fun out there.”

Junior Guard Barry Brown
On Wesley Iwundu’s influence on his leadership style…
“Wes (Iwundu) was a big influence with some of the key points he implemented and how he led by example. I took those and tried to add them into how I lead this team. Hopefully we can it to the tournament this year like we did last year.”

On the team playing with a chip on their shoulder…
“I feel that I have brought that competitive nature to the team. That is what we are going to have to have in order to be a good team and individual players. We have to play with that grit because the guy you are going against is competing for your minutes. If everyone goes hard it is only going to help carry over to the games.”

On the strengths for this year’s team…
“This year’s team is going to be competitive. We have a lot of flexible guys that can play multiple positions. We’re going to be athletic, long, shoot the three at a higher efficiency and get to the basket. I feel that we are going to improve in every statistic.”

Junior Guard Kamau Stokes
On adjusting to his leadership role…
“I came in my freshman year having to adjust very quickly. I have been starting since my freshman year, that leadership role is something I have been working towards for the past two years and this year I really get to show it.”

On what he has seen from the team heading into the season…
“I feel that everyone is working hard. We had a great summer and this past month was our toughest of the year.

On taking character and consistency into account moving forward…
“It definitely carries over from last year. Especially having all these new guys, we need to continue to keep that up and the guys who were here last year have been doing a great job of it.”

On how motivational last year’s NCAA tournament was…
“It was real motivational. We know we can get there and we just have to get these new guys on board so we can get back to that point.”

On how much success is tied to himself and Barry Brown in the backcourt…
“A lot of our success is tied to Barry and I in the backcourt. The ball is going to be in our hands most of the time and we have to make plays for everybody else. We also have to be leaders.”

Sophomore Forward Xavier Sneed
On the learning process last year…
“It was great for me. I got some great minutes, average probably 18 a game last year. That experience, having that under my belt will really help me out coming into this year. Coming into Division I basketball, especially being in the Big 12, is going to be pretty hard. It was a big jump for me. I had a solid year but I hope to have a better year this year.”

On the trip to play in Belize this summer…
“It was pretty big for me, especially this year, working on everything that I see I have flaws in from last year. Just coming in and being able to do that every day on a consistent basis and just getting better at that.”

On being more aggressive this year…
“Last year I feel like I settled a lot, but this year showing my all-around game, being able to shoot, attack the hole and play defense is a big key for me this year.”

On their defense this coming year…
“I have seen really good things in open gym and things have started to click. Seeing players come around it was great for us. It can be a really big year for us and we can be in the top part of the NCAA in allowed points and some things like that as well.”

Redshirt Freshman Guard Cartier Diarra
On his style of play…
“I am more of a slasher or driver, pass-first point guard. I like to get into the paint and draw defenders then pass it out to my open teammates. I like to see my teammates get into the flow of the game and feel good. Their energy reciprocates and they find me. I want to do whatever coach needs. Whatever we need to do to win, that is the most important to me.”

On his role with the team…
“I feel like it is going to be a good role. I feel like we have a lot of pieces. Everyone is needed and everyone brings their own taste to the team. Everyone has a piece that another player does not have, so I think that is why we are going to be a good team this year, we all work together and complete a puzzle.”

On improvements coming off a knee injury from last season…
“When I first came here, I tested my vertical and I was at 43’ and now I am at 45’. I am pretty excited about that. I feel better than before.”

On the offseason training…
“He [Coach Weber] pushes us past our limits, anything we say we think we cannot do, he is pushing us there and we complete it. We’ve had big gains from everyone…It has been a great offseason and great summer.”

Freshman Guard Mike McGuirl
On getting used to the college life…
It has gotten easier as I have adjusted to it. I have gotten more used to this lifestyle, of working hard everyday while staying in the classroom and focusing on keeping my grades up.”

On the newcomers getting adjusted…
“All the new guys, old guys, everyone works hard and is trying to help everyone on the team and help the team win.”

On his focus throughout the summer…
“I just came in and tried to work hard and compete. I know how to compete and I know how to play to win, so that is what I try to do everyday.”

Freshman Forward Nigel Shadd
On the difference between high school and college basketball…
“Just the competition really because I come from a small school so coming here to this big institution it is a big difference.”

On the upcoming season…
“I am excited for the competition especially. Not only in the Big 12 but also non-conference. We play Washington State and American University. I know some people that are on those teams so it will be great competition, not only for the team but for me personally.”

On the weight training program…
“The first time it was tough because before I came here I did not have that much weight training. My high school was very small and they barely had any room for a weight room so I did not have a weight room. I did not know the proper footwork or anything for some of the weights. After a while, putting the extra time in really helped, especially with Ben [O’Donnell]. He is a great teacher and motivator.”

On the competition this summer…
“Mak [Mawien] has definitely stood out. He is a very versatile big, he can shoot and he can drive. It is quite impressive what he can do, that is why I kind of look up to him for how he plays, how aggressive he is and his drive on the court.”

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