By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Last week, it was Jacob Pullen who had his homecoming game in Chicago, and today it's Frank Martin who takes his turn as Kansas State plays Florida, in Sunrise, Fla., just a 30-minute drive north of where he grew up in Miami.
In prepping for the Gators, Martin says it's "... just another game. You scout, you watch tape and you get your guys ready."
But once arriving in southern Florida, he knows there will be family distractions, as well as scores of friends wanting at least a handshake and offer a pat on the back.
Miami was home for the first 33 years of Martin's life, and while the buildings are taller and oceans are nearby, he says, "I was always around good people. I have a small family by number, but very strong in strength and love. That was what I found so appealing about Manhattan in that family is so important. The look is different and the traffic is different, but if you look at what life is all about, the two (southern Florida and Manhattan) are very similar."
Saturday's 2:30 tipoff (Central time) at the Bank Atlantic Center, the home of the National Hockey League's Florida Panthers, is part of the one-day Orange Bowl Classic that will have 7-2 Miami playing 9-0 Central Florida at noon, followed by No. 6 and 9-1 K-State versus No. 24 and 7-2 Florida. K-State's game will be televised by Fox Sports Net.
The game will also be a homecoming for Doug Edwards, KSU's director of student-athlete development, plus sophomore Martavious Irving and junior Freddy Asprilla.
Asprilla started his collegiate career at Florida International, where he was the 2008-09 Sun Belt Freshman of the Year, while Irving, a native of Fort Lauderdale, played at Boyd Anderson High School, which is also the school that produced K-State great Mitch Richmond.
"The only thing that sells more than television is taking your product and putting it on display so everybody can see in areas where you recruit," said Martin, who also coached for 15 years in the Miami area at Miami Senior High School and Booker T. Washington High School. "Everyone in that community is talking about these two games and the K-State name is in the conversation on every news outlet."
ABOUT THE GATORS: The Gators have won six of their last seven games, including back-to-back victories over American (67-48) and Kent State (65-52), since suffering a home loss to No. 2/2 Ohio State on Nov. 16. The team rattled off four consecutive wins after the loss to the Buckeyes, including home victories over North Carolina A&T (105-55), Morehead State (61-55) and Florida Atlantic (79-66) to go along with a big road victory over archrival Florida State (55-51). The Gators' other loss came against UCF, 57-54, on Dec. 1 in Orlando. The team returns eight letterwinners, including all five starters, from a squad that posted a 21-13 overall record and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2009-10.
The Gators are averaging 70.9 points on 48.2 percent shooting from the field, including 31.8 percent from 3-point range. Sophomore Kenny Boynton and junior Erving Walker lead the team in scoring at 12.1 points per game and have combined for 36 of the team's 48 3-point field goals. Seniors Vernon Macklin, Chandler Parsons and Alex Tyus pack a powerful punch down low for the Gators, combining to average 33.2 points and 15.1 rebounds per game.
WHAT'S NEXT FOR PULLEN: With 1,669 points, Jacob Pullen is 17 points behind Bob Boozer, who ranks fourth in all-time scoring in school history.
Already the school's career record holder for 3-point field goals attempted (694), he became the leader in 3-point field goals made (now at 245) in the win over Emporia State on Nov. 29, breaking his second-place tie with Askia Jones (237, 1989-94) and passing former leader Steve Henson (240, 1987-90).
His next record could come in steals, where his 181 career thefts trail Henson by nine. He is also second in free throws made (396), third in assists (380), free throws attempted (519), steals per game (1.59) and consecutive games started (81), fourth in double-digit scoring games (84), minutes played (3,257) and fifth in consecutive games played (114) and games started (95).
STATISTICALLY: Pullen continues to lead the Wildcats in scoring with a 16.3 average. Also in twin figures are Curtis Kelly at 11.6 and Rodney McGruder at 11.0.
Top rebounders are Jamar Samuels and Rodney McGruder at 6.4 and 6.2 points, respectively.
K-State reserves are averaging 31 points per game, which is a 10-point advantage over its opponents.
14 AND COUNTING: K-State has won 14 straight games in the month of December, which includes a 7-0 mark this year. It's the longest winning streak in the month since 1948.