You probably won't catch Kansas State head coach Frank Martin giving himself or his program too much credit for a successful season in 2007-08. After all, Martin has made it clear that he measures success in championship trophies, which the Wildcats failed to capture in his first season as coach. And although his two best players from a year ago have jumped ship to pursue NBA dreams, Martin's expectations have not been tempered. That fact became rather obvious when the K-State coach sat down with GoPowercat.com following Friday's Manhattan Catbacker event to discuss both the season past and the long road ahead.
What about these Catbacker events do you enjoy the most? Is there one especially satisfying aspect?
Our fans come from all kinds of different places and distances on Wednesday nights and lose their minds to help us win. Then, they get in their cars and drive on some hard winter roads to get back home and go to work that next morning. These events are an opportunity for me to come into their communities. It doesn't make me much of a man if I ask them to come (to Manhattan) 18 or 19 times a year, and I can't go into their communities one time.
There's a lot of buzz around (point guard) Denis Clemente. Fans are excited to see him take the court. What can they expect to get with him?
He's the fastest player I have ever been around with a basketball. I have never coached or coached against anybody that has been faster than him. He is just blazing fast. He's a two-year starter in the ACC, so he has a higher level of confidence about how he approaches the game. He's going to bring a tremendous amount of leadership to our team.
I understand the Miami connection between the two of you, but how exactly did your relationship with Denis come to be?
Art Alvarez coaches the Miami Tropics (Clemente's AAU team). The two of us grew up in the same neighborhood. I've always recruited Miami. When (former K-State coach Bob Huggins) hired me as an assistant, we went in and recruited Denis. At the time, he thought it would be best for him to play at Miami. It kept him close to home. When he needed to leave, he thought the best place to go would be here.
Dispel a rumor for me if you could. Fred Brown is still with the team, correct?
Yes he is.
What the latest rumor on Mike? What are your NBA contacts telling you about his place in draft?
There are teams that wish they had the No. 1 pick, because they think he's hands-down the guy. Obviously, the teams with the first two picks aren't going to show their cards. Those teams are going to be judged on this decision for years and years. They have to make sure that they pick the guy that fits their team and their team's personality.
What do you make of people that say it's possible that he could fall to No. 3? That seems to be a bit of a stretch for me to believe. Can you so much as comprehend that kind of scenario?
If that happens, whoever ends up picking one and two have serious issues.
Now that your first season as a head coach is over, if you could go back and change something, what would you tweak?
Nothing. Not a thing.
What are your expectations for your second season?
Well, we better finish higher than third in the Big 12. That's what we're about. It's not about being happy about what we've already done. We want to compete for championships here.
So give me your take on the your team's newest roster additions.
Abdul Herrera and Buchi Awaji help make us not only a better team, but an older team as well. Then there is Jordan Henriquez. He's a young man that I think will be a pro three years down the road. He has the world in his hands. He can be as good as he wants to be. That's the kind of talent he has. I don't know how prepared Jordan is to come in and play right away, because I don't know if he is strong enough yet. His skill level is very good though. The other two guys are just guys that we think are going to come in and help us tremendously. Otherwise, we wouldn't have went out and got them.
Who is going to be counted on to be the star of this team next year?
Mike was our best player last year and he wasn't our star. We don't approach it that way. When we start preparing for how we want to play next year, we'll play to the team's strengths. Last year, as the year went on, we evolved how we played because of the strengths that Mike (Beasley) and Bill (Walker) brought to the table. I'd like to think our guard play will be a lot more offensive-minded than it was this year. We'll utilize them a heck of a lot more. Our big guys will be big guys. They won't be guys that step away from the rim and shoot 3-pointers. I have a feeling we're going to be more post-up conscious.
Everyone is familiar with the situations of Mike and Bill, but what do the other seniors from last year's team have planned for post-college life?
Blake (Young) got a degree and is in the process of going to play in Russia. Clent (Stewart) also got his degree and took a job with ConocoPhillips. He wanted to go play overseas, but he's engaged to be married. He and the fiancï¿½e get married next summer. She didn't want to go over there until she was married, so he's going to take a job with ConocoPhillips in Tulsa, which is close to his family. Dave (Hoskins) is finishing up his last class to get his degree at the end of the summer term. He's trying to get healthy as fast as he can to try for an opportunity to play somewhere.
Speaking of Dave, how's his rehab going?
It's good. He's good. He just wants somebody to give him a chance. He doesn't even care where it's at. Dave understands. Dave has earned his way in basketball. Nothing has ever been given to him. It's the way he plays. It's who he is. It's the same way now. He wouldn't have it any different. He just wants his leg to be healthy so he can line up and play. As soon as that happens, he just wants somebody to give him a chance.
Is that a realistic possibility?
Because of his commitment and work ethic, I believe so. The doctors don't think the surgery he had should prohibit him from playing again.
Has Blake signed with a team over in Russia yet?
I don't think he has signed yet. He worked out at a camp in Philadelphia for officials from the Russian camp and they offered him a contract immediately.
I got to know Blake rather well this year and thinking about him living in Russia makes me chuckle. That should be quite an experience for both Blake and Russia.
It doesn't seem like it fits. That's kind of what happens when you play abroad. It's more complicated and difficult than everyone, including the guys going over there, realize. You don't just go over there and play. You're leaving the values and culture that you grew up with. You're leaving all that behind.
I understand walk-on guard James Franklin will be seen on your bench again next year. Tell me about that.
James is staying on as a manager, because he still has eligibility left. It's his fifth year in college, so he can stay on as a manager and help us.