Expectations High for 'Cats in 2009-10

MANHATTAN, Kan. The 2008-09 men’s basketball season is barely a week old, and the early ranking for 2009-10 have already placed high expectations for Kansas State next season.


The Wildcats, who return four starters and 10 lettermen from 2008-09, received rankings in both The Sporting News (23rd) and Rivals.com (24th) early 2009-10 Top 25 polls, while the squad was one of “Ten More to Watch” by CBSSports.com.  The team posted both its third consecutive 20-win season and postseason appearance in 2008-09.  K-State advanced to the second round of the NIT, where they lost to top-seeded San Diego State, to conclude the year with a 22-12 overall record and a 9-7 mark in Big 12 play.


In all, K-State was one of four Big 12 teams ranked by The Sporting News, along with Kansas (second), Texas (eighth) and Oklahoma (21st), while the Wildcats were one of three in the Rivals.com poll, along with Kansas (first) and Texas (ninth).


K-State will return five of its six top scorers as well as four of its top five rebounders in 2009-10, including All-Big 12 selections Denis Clemente and Jacob Pullen.  The 2009 Phillips 66 Big 12 Newcomer of the Year and a second team All-Big 12 pick, Clemente led the squad in six categories, including scoring (15.0 ppg.) and assists (3.3 apg.).  Pullen, an honorable mention selection, also led the team in six categories, including minutes (30.2 mpg.), 20-point games (eight), 3-point field goals (75) and steals (54).  The team will also return forward Jamar Samuels (8.3 ppg., 4.7 rpg.), guard Fred Brown (8.1 ppg.) and forward Dominique Sutton (7.5 ppg., 5.4 rpg.).     


In addition to the return of these players, Kansas State will benefit from the influx of one of the nation’s top recruiting classes, which was rated among the top-25 by ESPN/Scout.com (17th) and Rivals.com (21st).  The four-man class includes McDonald’s All-American Wally Judge (Arlington [Fla.] Country Day/Washington, D.C.), high school teammate Rodney McGruder (Arlington [Fla.] Country Day/Washington, D.C.) as well as Jordan Henriquez (Winchendon [Mass.] School/Port Chester, N.Y.) and Nick Russell (Grace Preparatory Academy/Arlington, Texas).


Judge and McGruder led Arlington Country Day to its fifth consecutive 2A state title, which ties Malone (1994-98) for the Florida High School record for most consecutive state titles.  Judge, who was recently named a PARADE magazine second team All-American and a Jordan Brand All-American, posted 21 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks in the championship game, while McGruder added a game-high 34 points on 14-of-25 shooting with 12 rebounds.  For the season, Judge averaged 18.5 points on 64.5 percent shooting with 17.1 rebounds per game, while McGruder averaged a team-high 23.0 points on 51.5 percent shooting with 4.3 rebounds per game.


Russell also led his team, Grace Prep Academy in Arlington, Texas, to its second consecutive TAPPS (Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools) 4A State Championship game, where they lost to Houston Westbury Christian, 73-52.  Russell scored a team-high 19 points in the title contest, while he posted a game-high 25 points in the semifinal overtime win over Argyle Liberty Christian.    He was named TAPPS First Team All-State for the second consecutive season and was a second team All-Area selection by the Dallas Morning News.   

In addition, Henriquez helped Winchendon (Mass.) School to a successful season, as the squad posted a 22-13 overall record and a berth in the National Prep Championship.  The team lost in the first round of the tournament to eventual runner-up Hargrave Military School, 71-69. 


The squad will also benefit from the addition of Connecticut transfer Curtis Kelly, who sat out the 2008-09 under NCAA guidelines. A 6-foot-9, 235-pound forward from the Bronx, N.Y., Kelly played in 51 games in his two-year career (2006-08) with the Huskies, averaging 2.4 points on 50 percent shooting (47-of-94) with 2.2 rebounds in 8.5 minutes per game.  Kelly was the New York Post and New York Daily News Player of the Year in leading Rice High School to the city and state Catholic school championships as a senior in 2005-06.