It might only be June, but Kansas State men's basketball is already hard at work and looking forward to next season. And so far in summer workouts, head coach Bruce Weber has seen a lot of competition from his Wildcats. Weber discussed the league's competitiveness and touched on some news regarding a few players during the Big 12's summer teleconference this week.
There's a good chance the conference will lose three or four players at the very, very top of the NBA draft, but with some of the new additions coming into the conference around the league, could it be possible that maybe this conference will be as good as it was last year, if not even better with the additions that programs have made?
WEBER: "I don't think there's any doubt. We feel good about our group, but when you start looking around and talking about all of the other schools and the players they've picked up, the returning players. I know we're losing some really good ones, obviously Marcus Smart and the Kansas kids, but we still have some very good players returning… I don't know if it's any better, but I think that (the Big 12) can be very competitive where we were last year and maybe a little more seasoned. That Texas team is now a little older. Oklahoma is a year older. Both of them had a lot of young guys. Hopefully we're a little older, a little more mature and even have teams make further runs into the NCAA Tournament. "
What have summer workouts been like for you and your team with so many new faces on the court?
WEBER: "Well, we have returning guys that were here that didn't get to play last year with Justin Edwards and Brandon Bolden. They're not new faces, but now they're being held a little more accountable because now it's their turn. They have to step up to the plate and get something done. We do have three new players with Stephen Hurt, our big kid that came from Northwest Florida State College and is a really good story. He lost weight, really improved his game and was really highly recruited player last year and we were fortunate to get him. Tre Harris has been a nice surprise for us. A young man that went to Edwardsville High School in Illinois and then decided to do a postgrad, he really changed his body at Fisburne (Military School). He can shoot the ball from long range and is a hard worker and comes from a basketball family. And then Malek Harris is the young man we got late. He gives us some athleticism and definitely some depth at that four or three position or forward position.
"I think the biggest thing when you talk about the workouts is we have a lot of competition. Last year we pretty much knew who was going to play. This year, I'm not sure. I think we're going to have great depth and our staff and I are going to have to do a good job of using a lot of players. I hope we get them to play hard all the time and value the minutes. That's what we've seen so far from the workouts."
With Thomas Gipson out (and D.J. Johnson undergoing surgery and Nino Williams a minor procedure this offseason), has Brandon Bolden had to step up more?
WEBER: "In the spring we only had one big guy… Nino is just coming back. This week was his first live stuff. So Brandon got all the attention in the spring for the four weeks. Now with him and Stephen Hurt and Nino, at least we have a little bit of competitiveness with that. I do not think we will have D.J. or Thomas in live contact-type action the rest of the summer. It'll probably be August when we return to school just to make sure they both heal up. Those guys can do workouts, weights and conditioning, and all that type of stuff. Brandon gets a lot of reps and a lot of attention. He has gone much harder because of the competition. He has no choice. Stephen Hurt is a big body and he's tall and if he gets his body on you, you're in trouble. Nino plays hard all the time. He might be a little undersized but plays hard. So that competition, pushing each other, has definitely helped."
Maybe there are some people who don't have as good of an idea of just what kind of athlete Justin Edwards is and what he brings to the table. Could you preview what you expect from him this coming season?
WEBER: "He has a legit vertical jump of 46 (inches). Now, he's said he did 51 at another time. Somebody measured him at that. But with our guys, we always do the NBA testing, and his one-step jump was 46 inches. Just that says a lot. He's got a strong upper body and gained probably 16 to 18 pounds last year. He had not lifted weights much previously so he's really developed his upper body. He has to get a little bit quicker, that vertical moving. Side to side, he has to probably get a little bit better on that, get down in the stance and do some of that footwork type of thing a little bit better. And he can shoot the 3-ball very well, which has probably been our surprise. He made some three's at Maine, but that wasn't his thing. It was more getting to the hoop, dunking on people, getting out in transition. But he's really worked on his shooting this year and in his offseason and taken a step there. Even with him, there's competition. It's Wesley Iwundu, Marcus Foster, Tre Harris. You got to play everyday. If you don't, somebody else is going to out-compete you."