• WHAT’S UP WITH FOSTER? — Marcus Foster has become a lightning rod for everything going wrong with Kansas State’s basketball team.
The Wildcats, thought by many to be a Top 3 team in the Big 12 this year since Kansas, Oklahoma State and Baylor were expected to be on the decline, are a runaway winner at this point for Big 12 Disappointment of the Year.
And Wildcat fans no doubt are pointing their angry fingers at Foster.
Foster is one of the top talents in the Big 12. At times he can take over a game. When his head is right, he’s one of the Top 50 players in the country.
But it’s hard to do it from the bench.
Kansas State coach Bruce Weber, whose seat is hotter than hot right now, benched his star at the start of Saturday’s Big 12 opener at Oklahoma State. Instead of a jolt going through his body, Foster spent most of the game on the bench basically displaying disinterest.
The television cameras certainly picked up on it. I’m a big believer in body language and Foster’s screamed disgust. This was a time when he should have been a good teammate, cheering those on the floor. Instead he sulked and brooded for everyone to see. I heard someone suggest that maybe he should take the rattle out of his mouth.
Of course who knows what’s going on behind the scenes. It’s obvious that not only are Weber and Foster not on the same page, they’re not even in the same chapter. Foster has to decide if he’s going to man up and accept some responsibility for this situation. I think he’s going to take a look at himself in the mirror and realize he’s got to bring it every night. He’s got to get over it. If he wants to play in “The Show” someday, his stock can only improve by being on the court.
Kansas State needs the Foster of old or it’s going to be a cold winter in Manhattan.
• SHOCKERS SCRAPING BY — Wichita State’s basketball team has resided in Fantasy Land the last two years.
Two years ago, the Shockers were a play or two away from being in the national championship game. Last year, WSU won its first 35 games before losing to Kentucky.
The Shockers are off to a solid start with a 12-2 record. They haven’t exactly been blowing teams out though, with many of their games competitive until the final 2 minutes.
The Missouri Valley Conference isn’t exactly loaded with talent this year. Northern Iowa and Evansville are 12-2 and 11-3, respectively, and Loyola’s cupcake schedule has allowed it to start 11-3. So the Shockers should roll into tournament time with no more than four or five losses.
The Shockers suffer from the same deficiency as Kansas in that they don’t have a lot of height. Can you imagine this season trying to play Kentucky with a lineup that has no starter taller than 6-7?
The Shockers are going to swim or sink with their core four of Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter. Evan Wessel, the fifth starter, plays hard and provides good defense, but he’s undersized and offensively challenged. The Shockers have little experience coming off the bench. The big hope is that 6-7 and 261-pound Shaq Morris can play like he did in WSU’s last game and provide some bulk on the inside.
The Shockers may be able to get as far as the Sweet 16. They are tremendously fun to watch with their fundamental style of play. But they’re probably a player or two short of being an elite team.
• SHIELDS TO CASH IN — The Kansas City Royals know they won’t be bringing back James Shields for this season. Not at his asking price.
Reports are circulating that Shields, who changed the Royals’ clubhouse culture in his brief two-year stopover, has an offer of up to id="mce_marker"00 million over five years.
That offer would be based more on lifetime achievement rather than what Shields can now bring to the table. He has a lot of wear and tear on his arm, even though he never missed a start in two years. He’s a workhorse, a guaranteed 200-inning guy.
But the fact of the matter is he’s good for about 15 wins a year. And paying a guy $20 million for 15 wins seems excessive.
Of course, you can’t put an actual price tag on leadership. Shields was priceless in that area for the Royals. But there are players on the team, especially after the success of last season, who can assume the reigns.
If Shields does get id="mce_marker"00 million, good for him. He won’t be one of those guys who’s just glad to get his money and then sit back. He’ll want to prove he’s worth every penny.