SE: Weber Points to Lawrence as a Bright Spot

Omari Lawrence

Aug. 1, 2012

By Mark Janssen

Kansas State’s 10-day basketball trip to Brazil is coming up in two weeks, but before then, Wildcat coach Bruce Weber has sent his troops home for “a needed break.”

“They’ve been in summer school and going through our workouts all summer, and if they didn’t get home now, they wouldn’t have another chance until Christmas,” said Weber. “This will be good for them.”

Weber said the team would return to Manhattan on August 3 for five practices before leaving for Brazil where they will play professional teams in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janiero.

For K-State fans, there will be an August 4 workout at 2 p.m., which will be open to the public. The session will include a scrimmage and autograph session.

Weber says he’s been pleased with the progression of the team, but improvement is still needed with each roster member, which includes returning standout Rodney McGruder.

“He’s older and well established, but we’re still trying to get him to become a more complete player and do a better job without the ball,” said Weber.

The first-year Wildcat coach points to 6-foot-3 junior guard Omari Lawrence as the surprise of the summer camp, which has included three 40-minute on-court sessions each week, plus strength and conditioning workouts four days a week.

“To be honest, he didn’t have a good spring, but he came back and lost at least 15 pounds since May and has proven he wants to be a part of it,” said Weber of Lawrence, who was a transfer from St. John’s and was limited to just nine games and five total points scored last year. “He’s athletic, aggressive, and along with Nino (Williams), is one of the X-factor guys. Those are energy guys who are challenging each other for minutes.”

Another plus has been Will Spradling, who saw his shooting percentages drop from 40 percent to 36 percent overall, and from 37 percent to 34 percent from three-point range between his freshman and sophomore seasons.

“A lot of it was mental with Will, but it’s also like a baseball hitter in a slump,” said Weber. “You get out of a slump by going back to the basics in terms of foot work, placement of the ball and just putting more time in.”

Weber said that Angel Rodriguez had also improved his shot, but added, “The biggest thing for Angel is that we want to see him make the easy point-guard plays. If he can learn to do that and continue to score like he does, he has a chance to be pretty good.”

Weber added that he wants to see the assist-to-turnover ratio for Rodriguez to improve from the near 1-to-1 of his freshman year, to 2-to-1 this year, and eventually 3-to-1.

Of freshmen Michael Orris (6-2) and Darrell Johnson (6-8), Weber said, “We have older guys at the guard position who are very physical and they defend hard. Mike needs to learn how to deal with that. He’s fine in pick-up games that are up and down, but in the half-court things get pretty physical for him.

“DJ really competes, but his game needs to grow,” said Weber. “He played high school football, so there was a four-to five-month period each year where he didn’t put much time into basketball.”

Weber said that he hoped that Thomas Gipson would lose a little weight so his minutes could become more extended, and that Jordan Henriquez will become more of a scoring threat in the paint to go along with his 12- to 15-foot scoring range.

If there’s an overall concern to the team, Weber said, “I’m not sure how quick we are. We are a physical team and we’re athletic, but I’m not sure about our quickness.”

Weber added, “We have seven or eight guys who are pretty good. The fight is for those eight, nine and 10 positions that will finish out our top two units.”

K-STATE ANNOUNCES NON-CON SCHEDULE: A tilt with Elite Eight participant Florida in the Sprint Center and 10 games in the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum highlight Kansas State’s 2012-13 men’s basketball non-conference schedule announced Tuesday.

Under first-year head coach Bruce Weber, the Wildcats could play as many as 15 non-conference games in 2012-13, including six consecutive at home to start the season.

The six-game home stand includes two in the NIT Season Tip-Off, which has not announced its complete field.  K-State is one of four schools, along with Michigan, Pittsburgh and Virginia, to host regional opening rounds of the tournament with hopes of advancing to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and finals on November 21-23.  Unlike other tournaments, the team must win its two home games to advance to New York City.

K-State previously announced neutral site games with Gonzaga in Seattle and Florida in Kansas City.  The Wildcats and Bulldogs will play in the 10th annual State Farm Battle in Seattle at 8 p.m., CT Saturday, December 15 at KeyArena.  The squad will play Florida in the third annual Hy-Vee Wildcat Classic at the Sprint Center at 7 p.m., CT Saturday, December 22.  Both games will air nationally on ESPN2.

BIG MONDAY: Kansas State will be making two appearances on ESPN’s Big Monday in 2013, which will include a February 1 date at the University of Kansas, and Bob Huggins’ return to Bramlage Coliseum with his West Virginia team on February 18.

It was Huggins who jump-started the Wildcats program in 2006-07 with a 23-victory season before returning to his roots in West Virginia after one season at K-State.

The full 2012-13 schedule will be announced at a later date, but will include a full 18-game round-robin Big 12 format. K-State fans are reminded that they have until August 15 to retain and pay for their season-ticket seats for the upcoming season.

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 either Mark Janssen or Kansas State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.