By Mark Janssen
MANHATTAN, Kan. - Alex Potuzak estimates the population of Agenda to be "less than 100," and Cuba to be "less than 200," and Clyde to be "600 to 800."
In other words, one section of Bramlage Coliseum could hold them all, plus their pets and livestock.
So, which one of those dots on the map does Potuzak (POE-dah-zhawk) call home?
"Now, that's a tough question," said the Wildcat freshman basketballer. "I grew up on the farm near Agenda for the first 14 years, but spent a lot of time in Cuba going to school, and then the best four years of my life going to high school (Clifton-Clyde) in Clyde. I guess I would just say north central Kansas is my hometown."
If it boils down to having four years of fun, Potuzak may also add Manhattan to his list of homes.
"I'm having a ball," said Potuzak of his first year at K-State as a member of the Wildcat basketball team. "You talk about a dream, this is a dream."
Let's backtrack on how this dream became reality for the 5-foot-8 sixth-grader, 6-2 eighth grader, 6-6 high school freshman, and 6-11 prep senior/K-State freshman.
Back then, and even today, Potuzak has lived a life of looking a tad odd at what he does so very well.
• At 6-foot-9, he ran first in the Class 1A mile run in a clocking of 4:31 at the 2010 state meet.
• The lanky Potuzak was also ninth at the 2009 state cross country championships.
• A skydiver at that height ... 6-9? He's done it! "Now, that was a blast," he says.
• And now, playing Big 12 hoops at 6-11, but just 200 pounds?
Potuzak's high school tie with K-State was two-fold.
He attended Frank Martin's basketball camp following his junior season, but it also helped that he grew up near the community of Concordia, where he became acquainted with Cloud County Community College coach Kevin Muff, who just happened to be the college roommate and teammate of current K-State assistant Brad Underwood.
"It's one of those stories of knowing someone, who connects you with someone else, who is in tight with the right person," Potuzak said. "I talked on the phone with them, and apparently enough was said because here I am."
Potuzak paused and gave a soft smile before adding, "This really is a crazy story. I was coming here no matter what, but I still wanted more basketball. I had that internal drive to keep doing what I was doing. I had constantly improved through the years, and I think I can continue to improve. (Pause) I already know I have."
Potuzak has played a total of 17 minutes spaced out over eight games with his lone bucket coming against Alcorn State making for a .3 scoring average.
"I only remember getting down the court as fast as I could," Potuzak said in almost play-by-play style. "I was on the right side of the floor and it was a pretty easy shot on a break-away. I saw it go in and was excited beyond imagination. I couldn't help smiling."
Those 45- to 90-second moments on the court in perhaps every third or fourth game are earned through K-State's daily two-hour practices.
To that, he says, "It doesn't bother me a bit. My goal is just to improve this team. If that means only practice, it's perfectly fine with me. It's tough. I will admit that. But it's such a thrill and honor to be a part of this team that it's worth it."
While Potuzak's point average is only a fraction of a point, in the K-State classrooms the civil engineer major scored a perfect 4.0 taking Calculus I, Chemistry I, Geology and Introduction to Civil Engineering in his first semester.
"It was only 12 hours, so it wasn't too bad," Potuzak said. "You do learn the value of time management."
Asked the last time he ever received a "B" or lower, he answered in all seriousness, "As a grade or on a test? As a grade, never ... unless it was elementary school, but I did get a 'C' on a final this semester, but my grade was high enough that I got an 'A' overall. It just taught me that I need to be more careful."
While not on the same level as a Jacob Pullen, Potuzak draws some significant cheers of his own when his No. 31 is called late in the game when the Wildcats are up by 20-plus.
"That caught me by surprise," said Potuzak of his Kansas State fan club. "I think it all started on Midnight Madness when the announcer couldn't pronounce my name. I've noticed it in the games that I've played in, but I'm trying to do a better job zoning into the game and not paying attention to the fans."
One of those cheering loudest for Potuzak is coach Frank Martin, and the same is true in return.
"I couldn't trust him any more than I do," said Potuzak. "He's one of those guys that you just trust."
And has he been the victim of one of those Martin stares?
"Of course," Potuzak answered. Smiling, he continued, "That officially makes you a part of the team."