By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Had Shane Southwell only not fouled out just five minutes into the second half Saturday at Texas A&M, might have the outcome been different?
Debate the topic if you wish, but it is fact that the 6-foot-6 freshman provided K-State's first four points of the game, plus contributed two assists in just 10 minutes of court time.
In gaining his first three starts of the year against Texas Tech, Missouri and A&M, Southwell has provided extra height, not to mention overall athleticism to the Wildcats' lineup that has helped in contributing a total of 11 points, plus 10 rebounds, nine assists and four blocked shots.
"I just try to do what I do," said Southwell of his role heading into tonight's game at 8 against Baylor on ESPN's Big Monday telecast from Bramlage Coliseum. "I'm another ball handler, a passer, and I hope to hit the open shot if need be."
Prior to the last three games, Southwell had played an average of just 4.4 minutes per game with a total of eight points and 14 rebounds in 13 games.
It was during the semester break that Southwell says, "There was a two-week span that I practiced very well and felt I was one of the better players on the court. Coach (Frank Martin) gave me a chance to start, and I'm trying to make the most of the opportunity."
That's also the way Martin saw it: "His growth has gone from a happy-go-lucky kid to someone who started practicing consistently well. I probably should have played him before, but I didn't because I wasn't doing my job the right way."
Southwell's arrival on the court started at the defensive end. As he says, "Coach doesn't care how good you are offensively, if you don't play defense, you're not going to play."
And at both ends of the court, Southwell smiles as he says, "It's taken a while to learn our schemes. It's been tough. If someone tries to tell you that they didn't have a period of adjustment, they're lying. That's especially true coming out of high school."
Southwell, a product of Harlem, came out of Rice High School, which also produced current teammate Curtis Kelly.
"I've known him since I was seven or eight," Southwell said of Kelly, who lived about five or 10 minutes away in the Bronx. "He was like a big brother to me. We also played in the same AAU program (Gauchos)."
Southwell defines Harlem as an "... urban culture with a lot of African-Americans. It's a busy place where you're looking over your shoulder a lot."
So much so, that Southwell's mother, Susan, did her best to protect her son from the famed playgrounds of New York City.
"She preferred a more structured life on and off the court. If I went to the playgrounds, I'm not sure if I would be here right now," said Southwell. "It's a win-lose deal. The positive is that it makes you tougher to go against older people, but the negative is that it can trap you. You could end up with those same guys you're playing with also being your neighborhood thugs and you become trapped into being their friend."
At Rice, Southwell was ranked as the 131st best player in the nation by Rivals.com and the seventh best player in the city by NYCHoops.net.
Southwell chose K-State over offers from South Carolina and Marquette, in part, due to knowing Kelly, plus the coach Martin-influence.
"From what others said, I knew he was going to get the best out of me every single day," said Southwell. "He's tough on everybody, but I received some good advice early, and that was that you can't look at how he expresses his message, but you have to read through all the yelling and cursing, and hear the message."
Good News, Bad News
There were plenty of chances for a K-State win at Texas A&M on Saturday, but not enough plays were made, which resulted in a 64-56 loss.
In particular, coach Frank Martin talked about the stretch run: "We come out and three of four possessions are turnovers. It's hard to win games if you turn the basketball over."
GOOD - K-State allowed A&M to shoot just 37 percent from the field; BAD - The Wildcats were just 5-of-20 from 3-point range.
"I thought we got shots and did a decent job of passing the basketball, but it's hard to have many assists when (12) you shoot 28 percent in a half," said Martin. "I thought we took decent shots, but we just didn't hit any."
GOOD - The Wildcats had more assists than A&M (12-7), more blocked shots (7-3), and an equal number of steals (5-5); BAD - The Wildcats were out-rebounded, 39-30.
GOOD - Curtis Kelly had a double-double of 15 points and 14 rebounds; BAD - Kelly had an unnecessary lane violation on a free throw, plus a violation on an inbounds pass that allowed the Aggies a total of four points in the eight-point loss.
GOOD - K-State made four more field goals (20-16); BAD - The Wildcats made just 58 percent from the line and were out-scored 27-11 from the charity stripe.
"We obviously put them on the line way too much. They shot 37 free throws, and if you go on the road and they shoot 37 free throws and we shoot 19, and then you go 5-for-20 from the 3-point line, it's hard to win," said Martin. "I thought our defensive effort was good enough to win, and offensively did better today, but we just didn't make shots."
Staying in the Moment
That's what Martin said of tonight's game with Baylor. It does no good to look back to the losses to A&M and Missouri, and certainly is no time to look ahead to Saturday's game with Kansas.
"We played better today," Martin said after the loss to the Aggies. "I understand the scoreboard doesn't show what people want to see, but we got better today and gave ourselves a chance to win this game."
And, K-State (1-4, 13-7) will have to play better again to have a chance to defeat the 3-2, 13-5 Baylor Bears tonight.
Baylor is led by preseason all-Big 12 candidate LaceDarius Dunn, who averages 21.3 points per game, and is the same talent that swished nine treys in an 83-65 win the last time he visited Bramlage Coliseum in 2009.
The Bears also feature one of the top freshmen in the league in 6-11 Perry Jones III, who is averaging 14.1 points on 57 percent shooting, plus 7.0 rebounds a game.
Kansas State next travels to Kansas on Saturday for a 6 p.m,. start against the 18-1 Jayhawks. The Wildcats next home game will be on Feb. 2, against Nebraska in a 7 p.m. start.