It’s time to sift through the carnage that is Kansas State basketball.
After Tuesday’s jolting announcement that leading scorer Marcus Foster and Trey Harris had been jettisoned by head coach Bruce Weber, and that Jevon Thomas is transferring reportedly to play closer to home, we have to take a closer look now that the smoke has cleared.
When you add in that Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams have exhausted their eligibility, Weber had better be at a whiz-bang level on the recruiting trail.
On a positive note, he has already secured Kansas’ top player, St. John’s Dean Wade. Dante Williams, a big man, and guard Barry Brown will certainly have the opportunity to log heavy minutes. But when a Top 100 or 200 recruit sees what’s transpiring with such an exodus of players, he has to wonder what is going on.
Maybe Weber will do it the Bill Snyder way, hoping he can polish his diamonds in the rough into top-notch players. He’s not going to lure the same type of players that Bill Self gets at Kansas, though that was the case when Bob Huggins was in Manhattan and landed Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. Frank Martin brought in some quality talent, the best being Jacob Pullen.
The Wildcats return about 20 points a game, most of that by Jeff Edwards and Wesley Iwandu. Both players fell far short of expectations this season, especially Iwandu. Apparently he suffered from “Fosteritis” as he looked like a future star as a freshman.
As far as Foster, his departure shouldn’t have come as any surprise. It was evident early that he didn’t have the same hungry attitude that he brought with him his first year as a freshman when he looked like the steal of the recruiting season, a player teams like KU, Duke and Kentucky certainly could have used.
Foster pouted early on and his obvious displeasure became a focal point and took away from the team. His bench languishing was pointed out by TV announcers on several occasions. He looked like a petulant child who should have just packed up his bags and gone home. Later in the year he did show signs of being a good teammate, but his game had disappeared.
The departures of Harris and Thomas can be negated. They were never going to be huge factors, though Thomas was a starter. However, if Nigel Johnson can play the way he did against KU in Manhattan, he’ll step right in.
It will help Weber that D.J. Johnson will return from a redshirt year. He’s a Gipson clone and will provide energy, size and toughness. I’m assuming he’ll be back, there’s been no word otherwise.
Stephen Hurt and Brandon Bolden, big men who arrived with decent credentials, never panned out. Hurt is clearly the better of the two and might surprise some people next year. Bolden provides size to go up against in practice, but will contribute little.
Kansas State fans certainly are getting antsy. Weber was celebrated when he produced a Big 12 championship with Martin’s players, so they know he can coach. But getting the caliber of players that Huggins, Martin, and former assistants Brad Underwood and Delonte Hill brought in is going to be the key to Weber’s future.
Weber wasn’t the most popular hire in Manhattan, especially when fans saw how his Illinois teams steadily regressed after he reached the NCAA championship game with Self’s leftovers. They have seen this movie before and know how it ends.
Another down year for Weber and you might hear the cries again for Underwood or Steve Henson, both former popular Kansas State players and coaches who are from McPherson.