Men's Basketball Newcomers Ready for New Level
The group made up (so far) of Dean Wade, Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown, Carlbe Ervin and Dante Williams each saw success with their respective high school and community college programs before coming to K-State, and they're not planning on slowing down any time soon.
"For the most part, they have all won," explained K-State head coach Bruce Weber. "I think that is impressive... Right now things are good; they are a little naive and coming in with a little bit of a fear factor, which is positive, but they have not backed down from what we have seen."
The new players have been working out, taking classes and helping out with basketball camps in Manhattan since June 12, and they have enjoyed getting accustomed to this new chapter of their lives.
"It feels great to finally be here," said Wade, a 6-foot-8 forward from St. John, Kansas. "I've been waiting for so long since I committed, and now that I'm finally here, it's amazing."
Wade comes to K-State after an exciting high school career where he was selected as the 2014-15 Gatorade Kansas Boys Basketball Player of the Year, as well as being named Mr. Kansas Basketball by the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association (KBCA) after earning consensus No. 1 player in the state of Kansas Class of 2015 honors. He recently was named a PARADE All-American, one of just 30 high school seniors nationally to earn the distinction.
During his senior season, Wade led St. John to a perfect 26-0 record and a third-consecutive state title, including back-to-back Class 2A championships. He averaged 24.9 points per game on 72.5-percent shooting - including 42.5-percent from the 3-point range - with 9.8 rebounds, 3.7 steals, 3.4 assists and 2.9 blocks per game.
"I'll just do whatever the team needs me to do," said Wade. "If they need me to sit on the bench, I'll sit on the bench and if they need me to play, I'll play. (High school), that's all in the past. So I'm letting that go and I'm hoping to have a bright future here."
Though Wade brings a plethora of potential to the program, Weber said Wade will spend much of this summer building his strength.
"Dean's a good player," said Weber, "but he's learning what college basketball is about. His body, (he's working on) gaining the weight and the strength, but he has a lot of skill, a lot of athleticism. When he was here in the spring and played with our guys, he was a real player. He was a factor. He was talking to our older guys and he didn't back down. He'll put his nose into action. He's got a chance to be pretty good."
But it's not just Wade who has been putting in time with strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Price in the weight room, all the newcomers have. As a matter of fact, the newcomers say the weight room has been their biggest adjustment to college basketball so far.
"The first couple of days have been stressful, I'm tired, but it has been really fun," laughed Ervin, 6-foot-3 point guard. "Basketball is a fun sport, and I'm have fun with it every day, but the weight room, the strength coach is crazy! So the weight room, that's been the biggest difference."
A native of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Ervin comes to K-State after spending the past two seasons at Connors State College in Warner, Oklahoma. He helped the Cowboys earn a combined 53-9 record from 2013-15, which included a 30-game winning streak and the top-seed in the 2015 National Junior College Athletics Association (NJCAA) Tournament this past March.
He averaged 16 points on 53-percent shooting (170-of-321) to go with 8.2 assists, 6.3 rebounds and 1.6 steals per game, ranking fourth in the NJCAA in both assists and assists per game during the 2014-15 season.
Though Ervin has competed at a high level, the pace in the weight room and of the Division I game is something he and his newcomer teammates are all still getting accustomed to.
"A lot of them have not lifted, and I am sure they will tell you they are sore already just after three days of weights," said Weber last week. "We will go four days a week of weights and then a couple hours of basketball. And then open gym, then they get to work camp and also take classes in between all that. These first couple weeks will be very trying on them. They are going to be tired, no doubt."
Along with busy schedules inside and out of the gym, these newcomers are also finding time to bond with their new teammates. According to the group, this year's team is closer, and continually growing closer, than ever.
"This team is made up of guys who want to win," said Stokes, a 5-foot-10 point guard from Baltimore, Maryland. "And I need that on my team. It's a great group of guys who handle their business in the classroom, and that helps us on the court. Coach Weber, he's really helped us gel together. We spend a lot of time in the locker room together. We talk, laugh; it's been really good."
Stokes comes to K-State after playing a postgraduate year at Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia. A player with true scoring ability, Stokes played in the 2014 National Prep Showcase on Nov. 21-22, in New Haven, Connecticut, where he averaged 30.5 points, 5.0 assists and 2.5 steals in games against No. 2 Notre Dame Prep and St. Thomas More.
During his high school career at City College High School in Baltimore, Stokes led his team to a perfect 27-0 record and a 2014 Class 3A State title en route to a No. 18 ranking in the final USA Today Super 25 High School poll.
"K-State is a very family-orientated place, and that was the main thing that stuck out to me," said Stokes when asked what brought him to Manhattan, Kansas. "Also, the education, we have a great support system here. I also liked Coach Weber and Coach (Chester) Frazier, he's also from Baltimore. You can't get any better than this."
Like Stokes, Williams, a 6-foot-11 center from Arlington, Texas, has also enjoyed his first few weeks at K-State.
"It's been really fun," said Williams. "We're all just getting used to the schedule, all the vigorous and hard work, but things have been very good. I feel like we're all family, everyone has each other's back and that's really what brought me to K-State because I could see that everybody was really close. I could see they had each other's backs and that they counted on each other."
Williams, rated as the No. 16 player in the state of Texas for the Class of 2015 by TexasHoops.com, helped Bowie High School to a 25-10 record where he set the school record for blocks after averaging eight per game. He was named the Class 3-5A Defensive Player of the Year and was invited to participate in the Adidas All-Star trip to Italy in June of 2014.
"I pride myself on defense, because defense leads to offense," explained Williams. "Defense, basically, is offense because if there was no defense, you'd never get the ball back to score."
Coming to K-State from St. Petersburg, Florida, is Brown, a 6-foot-3 guard, who was the first of the group to commit to K-State, and he is excited to finally be a part of this K-State family.
"We're all one team now. We're all coming together really quick," said Brown. "We're gelling real nice and we're about to become a family in a little bit."
After an exciting year with Gibbs High School where Brown averaged 20.5 points, 4.9 rebounds, 3.2 steals and 2.9 assists per game, he was rated No. 21 on the FloridaHoops.com Top 100 for 2015.
"I think I can add leadership, I'm vocal on the floor," said Brown. "I can score the ball but also I bring defense to the table, and I'll also bring energy, lots of energy."
This group of Wildcat newcomers is a lively bunch, ready to spend their summer working hard and show K-State Nation what they are made of.
"Dean, three state championships is impressive and even his freshmen year when he was not quite as big of a factor, they were still pretty good. Kamau won a couple state championships and city champions, Barry took his team to the (state) Final Four, and Carlbe led his team to the No. 1 seed in the NJCAA National Tournament and they won 30 in a row," said Weber. "I don't care where you are playing, that is tough to do, and he was the leader of that group. Even Dante did a nice job at his place and they got pretty deep into the playoffs and into districts - so this group, this is a group that has won."
2015-16 MEN'S HOOPS SCHEDULE RELEASED
Nine games at Bramlage Coliseum, the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at the Sprint Center and a return to INTRUST Bank Arena for the Wichita Wildcat Classic highlight the 2015-16 Kansas State men's basketball non-conference schedule.
The non-conference slate could include as many as six teams that participated in the postseason a year ago, including three from the 2015 NCAA Tournament. Competition could come from as many as nine different conferences, including the Atlantic 10, ACC, Big Ten, Big Sky, Mountain West and SEC.
The 113th season of K-State men's basketball begins Friday, November 6, when the Wildcats host Division II foe Fort Hays State in an exhibition game. The season officially gets underway a week later on Friday, November 13, when the squad hosts Maryland-Eastern Shore in the first of two opening round games of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic.
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RHOLEDER EARNS SCHOLARSHIP IN 2015-16 SEASON
Men's basketball walk-on Brian Rohleder will receive an athletic scholarship for the 2015-16 season, head coach Bruce Weber announced recently.
"This is one of those days that you really enjoy as a coach," said head coach Bruce Weber. "To be able to reward someone like Brian, who has done at the right way both on the court and in the classroom, is very exciting. He has worked as hard as anyone we have had in our program."
An Academic All-Big 12 First Team selection as a junior, Rohleder has seen action in 42 games in his three-year career at K-State, including playing in 16 games with one start in 2014-15. After playing in eight games as a true freshman in 2011-12, he redshirted the 2012-13 season before returning to the court and playing in 18 games in 2013-14.
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