SE: A Group of Tiggers

October 5, 2015
By Kelly McHugh-Stewart
  
There’s only one type of player K-State head coach Bruce Weber wants in his gym, and that’s a Tigger. 
  
If you’re a Tigger, you’re good. The Wildcat head coach likes Tiggers, but he doesn’t like Eeyores.  
  
“I always talk about Tigger and Eeyore, and we’ve got some Tiggers,” Weber said about this year’s K-State men’s basketball team. The group of reporters he was speaking to let out a laugh when he mentioned the popular Winnie the Pooh characters. “Eeyores are no fun to coach or be friends with, but we have Tiggers. We have guys who are happy, bouncing around, flying around and enjoying it.”
  
While using a children’s book character to describe a basketball team may seem a bit humorous, it’s one of Weber’s favorite metaphors because “it’s so extreme,” he said. 
  
And, the comparison couldn’t be more spot-on.
  
This year’s K-State men’s basketball team is excited. They’re a hard-working group who has given it their all so far and won’t be slowing down any time soon.  
  
With many new faces on this year’s roster, they’ve pushed the past aside and are building a new identity for themselves.  
  
“I like the competitive spirit of this team,” said senior guard Justin Edwards. “We have some funny guys, but when we play open gym everyone gets after it. When we’re in workouts, we all get after it no matter if you’re a senior or a freshman, everyone goes at each other and that’s what I like the most.”
  
With games just around the corner, K-State held its first official practice of the 2015-16 season on Friday afternoon.
  
“This staff is very excited; we’ve had a very good summer,” said Weber. “They’ve been very coachable. They work very hard. You want to gain weight and strength over the summer and that’s definitely happened. This group, I feel good about them.”
  
K-State returns six players from last season’s roster, but only three have significant playing time with junior Wesley Iwundu leading the way.
  
Iwundu, a 6-foot-7 guard, said he put on weight over the summer and is stronger than he’s ever felt. 
  
“He’s been the guy that’s been in major games and has played big roles in major games, so I don’t want to put pressure on him, but it would be nice if he really stepped up,” said Weber about Iwundu. “He’s one of those guys who just does everything and is a major factor… He doesn’t have to give us 20 points, but he has to give us a great stat line.”
  
Last season, Iwundu averaged 5.8 points and 3.5 rebounds per game along with 23 total steals and a team-high 61 assists. He played a key role on defense as his duties often included covering the opposing team’s best shooter.
  
“A good stat line for me this year would be: 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists,” Iwundu explained. “I still have my game on defense too, so I’m ready to hold the best player on the other team. Whatever I have to do for us to win and to put our team in a good position, I’m ready for it.”
  
Along with the team’s six returners – Iwundu, Edwards, seniors Stephen Hurt and Brian Rohleder, junior D.J. Johnson and sophomore Mason Schoen – K-State welcomes 10 newcomers to its gym. Three of the newcomers, juniors Carlbe Ervin, Austin Budke and Zach Winter, are transfers, while Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown, Isaiah Maurice, Dante Williams, Ron Freeman, Pierson McAtee and Dean Wade make up the Wildcats’ 2015-16 freshman class. 
    
“This year there are only three returners with a lot of playing time from last year and the new guys know that,” explained Edwards. “So they’re coming in wanting to play and fighting more and more. Last year, I think players knew they had secure spots, but this year, since players don’t have a secure spot, everyone is working harder and competing harder.”
  
Practices are underway and K-State’s two exhibition games are right around the corner. 
   
“This is my most enjoyable time (of the year),” said Weber. “I was gone (recruiting) 18 days in September, so now you come back, have practice, and you can have a real life and concentrate on what you enjoy, and that’s coaching. We’re starting with that foundation and building through practice each day. We just have to stay focused on the journey and keeping people confident, happy and excited. 
  
“October 30, it won’t be long until our first exhibition game. That will be upon us quickly.”
  
The Wildcats tip off the 2015-16 season with a pair of exhibition games – Emporia State on Friday, Oct. 30, and Fort Hays State on Friday, Nov. 6 – in Bramlage Coliseum. The Cats will host Maryland-Eastern Shore on Friday, Nov. 13, for the first game of the regular season.
         
Single-game tickets for the 2015-16 season went on sale today. For more information on tickets for the 19-game home schedule and information on the Wildcats’ 2015-16 promotions schedule, please click here. 
  
Season tickets for the 2015-16 season are also available and can be purchased in a variety of ways, including toll free at (800) 221.CATS (2287), online at www.kstatesports.com/tickets and in-person at the Athletics Ticket Office located in Bramlage Coliseum. 

 

We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact Kelly McHugh-Stewart or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.