Frank Martin introduced his team to fans for the first time this season earlier on Saturday as Kansas State practiced in front of, from my and GoPowercat.com's Rob Cassidy's best guesses, about 4,000 fans prior to the K-State/Oklahoma football game.
And, yep, it was every bit a practice as the "scrimmage" was broken down into short stints of minutes, five at a time, with guys switching teams during two-minute breaks in between sequences. Assistant coaches led each group, with Martin sometimes sitting, sometimes pacing, sometimes talking with his guys while taking in the performance
As one would expect, there were as many good moments as there were iffy ones, as many reasons for optimism as there are areas for concern. If you know Family Guy and Stewie Griffin, you know his like for the compliment sandwich approach to things, so let's start with the "something good."
- Thomas Gipson is a man-child.
While not extremely tall, Gipson's body is extremely thick, especially from his midsection to his shoulders. Why is that important? Ask Jamar Samuels, who, now in his senior season, should know the tricks and tools to be able to deny a wider or stronger opponent. Not so much. When the two hooked up, Gipson was easily able to keep Samuels' long arms down and athleticism at bay. The freshman also showed a soft touch on several shots after spinning toward the baseline. Defensively, Gipson got lost a few times when his man would go up the lane to set a high screen, meaning he needs to improve his help defense principles.
That said, give the kid time to develop, both this year and into next, and he could be more than just solid down the road.
- Angel Rodriguez is the pitbull on defense that Frank Martin said he is.
He got after a couple of different guards at times, including Spradling and newcomer Jeremy Jones, which was good to see. Rodriguez also showed good ability to knock down open shots both off ball screens and in the open floor. However, his situational recognition will be a shock to K-State fans who have been spoiled the past few seasons with experienced guard play. A couple of times, Rodriguez called out instructions to his teammates only to have a coach step-in and correct him.
Toward the end of the scrimmage, Rodriguez's group was down by two points with about 45 seconds to go after a score. The opposition crossed half court and the guard yelled for his team to foul, which it did with about 25 seconds left. Assistant coach Lamont Evans immediately said "Not yet! Not yet!" and then pulled him to the side to further explain.
|Will Spradling looks like he wants |
to score this season.
Later, at the very end of the exhibition, Rodriguez's team trailed by a point with 10 seconds remaining. Spradling dribbled the ball out front and nobody attempted to foul him to stop the clock. Spradling dribbled more, made a pass and his team basically ran out the clock - all while Brad Underwood yelled for the guards to foul.
Obviously, in a game, that's a loss. And yes, this was only practice, but it was a good reminder that EVERY situation the young players face this year will be a first. First time against college competition, first time in every road venue they play, heck, the first time they lace 'em up at home will be...the first time.
- Spradling does have the look of someone who not only can score consistently, but wants to score consistently. If he does, it will be a great weapon from the outside as Rodney McGruder, Shane Southwell and others slash inside.
- McGruder started quietly today, but his confidence also looks improved. Even without the ball, his moves are decisive, and he understands his time will eventually come - both within possessions and within game flow.
- While Samuels got banged around a little bit, he is noticeably thicker through his upper body. It's good to see, but his game looks unchanged. Still gets a little wild around the rim. Still doesn't understand why, exactly, he is the one that gets called for a foul. Bets are off on his vow to avoid technical fouls, for that reason, by the way.
- Jeremy Jones needs a lot of time with Scott Greenawalt. I guess it shouldn't surprise me by now, but how stark the difference is between even two-year guys and new players in terms of build is amazing. Jones did knock down a three or two, and looked good doing it, but his frame makes me wonder how he'll adapt to the pounding of 18 conference games.
- Overall, this team is extremely athletic and showed it could put Jordan Henriquez-Roberts and Adrian Diaz on the floor at the same time if it wants. It is height not seen maybe ever in Manhattan. And, Diaz is impressively fluid around the rim.
- Overall, overall, K-State was picked sixth in the Big 12 by the coaches. To be fair, that included Missouri at fourth, and Kansas was expected to have a couple of guys who won't be there. What I'm saying is that even with my thought that Iowa State is underrated, the Wildcats have the feel of a third or fourth-best team in the Big 12. They have to grow, of course, but that's my feel for this team's upside at this point.