A Game-Winner to Remember

Editor's Note: The following is a story written for Kansas State Official Sports Report by OSR writer Mark Janssen. Official Sports Report will be honoring Kansas State's five senior basketball players this week with each having a unique story from their Wildcat career. Saluted in Senior Day games Saturday will be Kari Kincaid and Ashley Sweat from the women's team, and Chris Merriewether, Luis Colon and Denis Clemente from the men's side. We hope you enjoy their reflection on their days as a Wildcat.

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Never in junior high, never in high school ... never ever had Chris Merriewether accounted for the game-winning points in the final seconds of a game.

That is, until Feb. 17 against Nebraska in Bramlage Coliseum. Then with 24 seconds left on the clock, and the scoreboard shinning 87-87, it was the Kansas State senior who positioned himself at the foul line ... 15 feet away from victory, or defeat.

Having not shot a competitive free throw since Jan. 16, Merriewether calmly ... OK, somewhat calmly ... rattled the first one in, and then swished the next in what would be a 91-87 Kansas State victory.

"The first one could have gone anywhere," chuckled Merriewether. "Frank (Martin) gives me a tough time that it hit the front, the back, and both sides of the rim ... but the second one was pure."

For Merriewether, it was the old story of preparation meeting opportunity.

"I had gone to Ahearn (Field House) that morning and made 75 free throws," Merriewether said. "I had a meeting, so I almost didn't go, but the coaches have been stressing shooting extra shots, so I did. I didn't have time for 100, but I did get in 75."

And the rest is in the victory column.

"It was a situation where I told myself it was just like practice," he said. "In practice you always pretend that the game is on the line."

And this night it was, and Merriewether won it for the Wildcats.

In his four-year K-State career, it will be the brightest of his personal shining moments.

Saturday, Merriewether, a product of Jacksonville, Fla., will join Luis Colon and Denis Clemente in playing their final game in Bramlage Coliseum when the Wildcats entertain Iowa State at 5 p.m.

"It will mean so much to stand by those guys," Merriewether said of Senior Day. "Lou and I came here together to try to turn this thing around with coach (Bob) Huggins and coach Martin. People always ask me about what it was like to play with Mike (Beasley), and it was great. But I always add how great it has been to play with Lou. We've been through a lot together. All that hard work is now paying off."

Paying off with a No. 6 national ranking and a 24-4 record.

"Some would have laughed four years ago if it would have been mentioned that we would be in this position," Merriewether said. "But it's been a work in progress and no one is laughing now."

Merriewether points to the 23-12 2006-07 season as the turning point. It was his freshman season.

"We didn't make the NCAA Tournament, but we were in the conversation and made it into postseason for the first time in years," Merriewether said of reaching the NIT. "Now, we've had four 20-win seasons."

Laughing, Merriewether said, "I tell the freshmen every day that it's a process. I tell them that they've had the silver spoon treatment. When I started, it was the plastic spoon. People didn't expect anything from us."

Merriewether says in 10 years he will remember Bramlage Coliseum as being "the loudest place ever," and a place where "blood, sweat and tears were left on the court."

He says he will miss his K-State basketball family and will always remember wins over No. 1 Texas this year and No. 2 Kansas as a sophomore.

Asked how he will top Clent Stewart's marriage proposal last year on Senior Night, Merriewether, who is already engaged, laughed as he said, "Kudos to Clent. That one can't be topped. I just want to win and play our best game of the year."