SE: Meet the Newcomers | K-State Men’s Basketball

September 8, 2015
By Kelly McHugh-Stewart




  
This year’s Wildcat men’s basketball team is filled with new faces of players from around the nation. Coming to K-State from coast to coast, these 10 newcomers each bring unique playing styles and personalities to this year’s Wildcat squad. Tune in every other Tuesday as K-State Sports Extra – partnered with K-StateHD.TV – shares their stories. 
  
TWO OF A KIND
Juniors Zach Winter and Austin Budke come to K-State after spending two years at Hutchinson Community College where they saw a plethora of success during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. 
  
The two were key players on the Blue Dragon roster as Budke, a 6-foot-6 forward, started all 35 games in 2014-15 and averaged 12.7 points per game, while Winter, a 6-foot-3 guard, started 34 games and led the team in assists as he averaged 3.1 per game. The duo led the Blue Dragons to a 55-14 overall record in their two seasons, won the Region VI Championship and earned a No. 6 seed in the NJCAA National Tournament. 
  
Both Kansas natives – Budke from Beloit and Winter from Andover – having the opportunity to continue their basketball careers with the Wildcats was an opportunity too good to pass up.
  
“K-State fit because, academics wise, it was one of the only schools around that offered my major (chemical engineering),” explained Budke. “So that was a good fit, and then the basketball program was, obviously, great. Knowing that I would have the opportunity to get a good chemical engineering degree while also having the opportunity to be a part of a basketball program like K-State’s, it was a no brainer.”
  
Plus, having the chance to continue their playing careers together meant a lot to the two. 
  
“I always knew I wanted to come to K-State, and it all just worked out for Austin and me,” said Winter. “Austin and I came up in the spring, played some pickup with the team and coach let us walk on. We were roommates for two years and became best friends at Hutch, so we were both really excited that not just one of us could walk on, but both of us could. We’re really happy that it all worked out.” 
  
Budke and Winter came to K-State earlier in the summer and have since been spending their days getting used to their new team, coaches and schedule. 
  
“It’s been awesome so far. We’ve had a long summer, but it’s been a productive summer,” explained Budke. “That’s something new to me. During my two years at Hutch, we weren’t required to work out during the summer, so this is my first summer on the full grind of basketball workouts, class and everything, so it’s been a transition.”
  
Added Winters on adjusting to a new schedule, “You’re always busy. We have weights, conditioning, practice, then on top of all that there’s meetings too. You’re always doing something, but I think that’s good because it keeps us busy, engaged and focused, also I feel like I’ve improved a lot. The weights program here has helped a lot just with all my technical skills with basketball as well, with all the individual workouts we get in.” 
  
Despite the fact that there are so many new faces on this year’s Wildcat roster, Budke said the team chemistry couldn’t be better. He said he likes what he’s seeing from this group and that he’s never been on a more motivated, close-knit team. 
  
“What I really like about this team is everyone is very committed to what they’re doing,” explained Budke. “Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to work hard. Everyone comes in every day and puts it all on the line. Everyone practices hard; we’re competitive against each other on the court and in the weight room, but then in the locker room, we put it all aside. It’s fun to come in and go to work with everyone on your team knowing we’re all fighting for the same goal.”
  
LIVIN’ THE DREAM
Pierson McAtee grew up idolizing guys like Jacob Pullen and Rodney McGruder. 
  
He remembers cheering the Wildcats to a Big 12 Championship in 2013 and has been in the stands for every K-State victory over KU (some of his fondest Wildcat memories, he said). 
  
He was one of the team’s ball boys when he was young, a passionate fan throughout high school, and today he’s right where he’s always dreamed he would be – he’s a Wildcat.
  
“It’s very surreal, it’s a dream come true,” said McAtee about playing with K-State men’s basketball. “To play for you hometown college, it’s amazing, especially when that college is the greatest college in the country. After sitting up in the stands, being down there on the court for the first game is going to be surreal for sure.”
   
McAtee walked on with the Wildcat men’s basketball program after lettering three years with the Manhattan High Indians. The 6-foot-6 forward helped lead the Indians to a school-record 18 wins, including the program’s first Centennial League title and a trip to the semifinals of the Class 6A sub-state tournament as a senior in 2014-15. He averaged 14.3 points and 7.0 rebounds per game his senior season and was named the Sports Radio 1350 KMAN/McDonald’s Student-Athlete of the Year.
  
“I think I’ve grown a lot,” said McAtee of his first summer with the Cats. “I put a lot of weight on in the weight room; that was my number one priority. Getting used to the faster speed of the game has been an adjustment, but I think I’m doing well so far.”
  
McAtee’s father, Jamie, has been K-State Athletics’ orthopedic surgeon for 16 years, so McAtee grew up close to the Wildcat men’s basketball program. He’s seen the family atmosphere first-hand and has always hoped to, one day, be a part of it. 
  
“I chose to come to K-State because of the family atmosphere,” said McAtee. “I grew up in Manhattan, and I loved K-State growing up. The coaching staff gave me the opportunity, and I’m very excited to be on this team.”
  
Describing himself as a “swing guard, a stretch forward,” McAtee said his playing style is one that brings high energy to the court. Growing and adjusting more and more every day, the young Wildcat fan turned Wildcat player is ready for his first season playing for his hometown team. 
  
“My goals are just to get better, to get in the system, play my role to the best of my ability and to win a lot of games,” McAtee closed. 
  
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-ES on Friday, Nov. 13, for the first game of the regular season.
   
Single-game tickets for Kansas State’s game with Colorado State in the Wichita Wildcat Classic as well as the Holiday and 6-Game Mini-Plans went on sale to the public today. For more information about these tickets, please click here
  
Season tickets for the 2015-16 season are now 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, or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.