Spradling MVP for Athletes in Action Tour

Rising sophomore Will Spradling averaged 18 points and five assists during his recent tour with Athletes in Action.

June 17, 2011

By Mark Janssen

Tim Maloney laughs when he thinks of Kansas State sophomore guard Will Spradling.
“You could put a fishing pole on his shoulder and whistle that RFD (Andy Griffith) song and think he’s Opie,” said Maloney.  “He may be only 6-foot and not look old enough, but the truth is he’s a really, really skilled basketball player, and a very intelligent player on the floor.  Once he’s on the floor he can be an assassin.”
Maloney, the Director of Basketball Operations at Baylor, coached the United States’ Athletes In Action team that just went 5-1 in tournament play in Macedonia.  Also on the USA team were A.J. Walton and Cory Jefferson from Baylor, Jordan Juenemann and Jeff Withey of Kansas, plus Colorado’s Austin Default on the 10-man team.
The Wildcat guard led the team in scoring (18 points per game) and assists (5 per game) as he earned Most Valuable Player honors in the competition that included games against AIA teams and National teams from Bulgaria, Kosovo, Poland and the host country.
“I was very pleased with the growth of my game,” said Spradling, who averaged 6.5 points on 40 percent shooting in 34 games this past year as a freshman at K-State.  “I worked on beating people off the dribble, finishing at the rim, and finding outside shooters off the dribble.”
But more than that, head coach Frank Martin encouraged Maloney to test Spradling’s leadership skills that will be needed as a Wildcat in 2011-12.
“Coach came up to me on the first day and told me to take charge of this team … to be a leader,” said Spradling, a product of Shawnee South High School in Overland Park, Kan.  “I was a good leader as a senior, but didn’t do much last year with Jacob (Pullen) around.  Now I need to get back to being that good leader and not wait until my senior season.”
But he added, “You can’t lead on your own.  You have to have others who will help you.  You have to earn that respect through your own hard work and always doing things right.”
Overall, Spradling said of the two-week stay in Macedonia and Kosovo, “It was the biggest confidence booster I’ve ever had in my basketball career.”
Maloney said of Spradling’s play, “I know this.  I hope he comes up with a 24-hour virus when we (Baylor) play them this year.  He’s that good.  He shot the ball well and made some incredible drives.  I really enjoyed coaching him.”
Laughing, Maloney added, “Will was our E.F. Hutton man.  Remember the commercial?  ‘When E.F. Hutton speaks, people listen.’  That’s the way it was with Will.”
And, Maloney is a fan of Martin’s.

“You see his passion, and it’s authentic,” said Maloney.  “Some coaches perform on the sideline and want the attention.  Frank is authentic.  He’s a guy you want to be friends with.”
Martin and Spradling will be better friends this year if the Wildcat guard can continue to grow as a leader.
“He’s told me that being one of only a few returning players with big minutes that I need to be the guy who shows how we work at K-State,” said Spradling, who was one of only three players to play in all 34 games, which included six starts.  “He wants me to take charge every day in showing the others what needs to be done.”
On the overall AIA trip, Spradling said, “I’ve never been real religious, so this was something a little different that I found I wanted to open up to.”
And, the Eastern Europe geography was also totally new to him.
“I had to look them up on internet,” Spradling said of Macedonia, which is a landlocked country surrounded by Kosovo, Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece and Albania.
Oh, as for the food?
“Different,” Spradling admitted with a laugh.  “A lot of chicken and something that looked like sausage.  For breakfast we had a couple pieces of turkey and hard-boiled eggs, which was a stretch for me.”

This article was originally posted in the K-State Sports Extra, the athletics department’s daily email service for fans.  For those that would like to receive this service, click here.  We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou