SE: Wildcats Begin Play in Brazil

Guard Rodney McGruder is entering his senior year

Aug. 10, 2012

By Mark Janssen

The unofficial opening of the Bruce Weber era as basketball coach of the Kansas State Wildcats is set to tipoff in Brazil today at 3 p.m. CT against Sao Jose Dos Campos in what will be the first of five games played in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro during the next week.

On the trip, Weber indicated the starting lineup would be rotated and minutes would be of far more value than winning or losing the games.

“We want to win, but we’re going to make sure that everybody plays, and we’ll be rotating the starting lineups and rotating the groups of players on the floor,” said Weber. “We just want to go play. If you don’t win, the experience will carry some value.”

That time will include minutes for freshman newcomers in 6-foot-8 Darrell Johnson and 6-foot-2 Michael Orris.

“I think our summer practices have been very beneficial in helping our freshmen learn about the intensity of college basketball,” Weber said. “The freshmen have to learn that they have to play during every play and not take any plays off. There are good defenders going against them all the time.”

Of the biggest adjustment from the prep ranks, Johnson said, “I’m not the biggest guy anymore. I’m learning how to go hard at all times.”

The Wildcats played four 10-minute quarters in an open scrimmage this past Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum with junior Omari Lawrence and sophomore Adrian Diaz being the leading scorers with 15 points apiece. Johnson added 14 and Nino Williams scored 13.

On the scrimmage, Weber said, “I liked our energy. We got up-and-down pretty good and lots of guys were involved.  We still have work to do, but it was nice to play a scrimmage in front of a crowd and give our team an actual live game situation.”

Of the overall summer of work, Weber said he was pleased with the guard depth demonstrated with the likes of Angel Rodriguez, Will Spradling, Martavious Irving and Orris playing the point, while Rodney McGruder, Shane Southwell and Lawrence completing the guard play.

Inside will be the cast of Jordan Henriquez, Thomas Gipson, Johnson, Diaz and Williams.

Weber said one of the keys of the trip will be to get a better feel of the “… freedom of the offense. We’ve struggled, whether a two-on-one fast break or playing half-court basketball. There are times when some of them think they have to make a play every time they touch it, so they need to learn that it’s not all bad to move the basketball and let the defense break down.”

Defensively, he added, “I love their aggressiveness. Last year, they tried to deny all-out, but we want to tweak that approach and protect the basket a little more. But the guys have a great mentality of rebounding, which was emphasized by the former staff, and I hope they keep that mentality. They really crash the boards.”

On the transition of coaching staffs, the new Wildcat coach said, “Coach Martin did a great job of getting them to play hard and compete hard. We’re trying to continue that. The heart is there and the intensity is there. What we have to do is keep our poise and composure. That’s important, too.”

THE BRAZIL SCHEDULE: K-State will play its first game today against Sao Jose Dos Campos at 3 p.m., before tilts with Mogi Das Cruzes Club team at 3 p.m., on Saturday  and Pingdamonhangaba Club team at 9 a.m., on Sunday.  Upon moving to Rio de Janeiro, the squad will play Tijuca Club team at 4 p.m., on Monday and Botafogo Club team at 4 p.m., on Wednesday.

“This is an exciting and important time for our team,” said Weber. “This is going to be a great opportunity for them to get to know us better and spend some quality time together in a country with great history. The five games against various Brazilian clubs are going to be a great challenge as we continue to develop as a team.”

From the players’ point of view, McGruder said, “I’m anxious to see how we all come together and how we play against people besides each other.”

Henriquez added of the trip, “I want to see us playing together and doing the right things all the time.”

The NCAA allows teams to take a foreign trip once every four years, but this is the first such trip for K-State men’s basketball since the Wildcats traveled to Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2004. Other trips outside the country were to Sweden, the Netherlands and Japan.

THE BIG 12 SCHEDULE: Nine national television games, including Big Monday tilts with Kansas and West Virginia, highlight the Big 12 Conference portion of the Kansas State men’s basketball released on Thursday by league officials.

For the second year in a row, Big 12 teams will play an 18-game round-robin schedule, while welcoming conference newcomers TCU and West Virginia to the fold.  The Wildcats, who are coming off their sixth consecutive 20-win season and 26th NCAA Tournament appearance in 2011-12, will play home-and-home contests with all nine conference foes for just the second time since the Big Eight era.  In all, the squad will play 10 games against teams that advanced to the postseason in 2011-12, including five in Bramlage Coliseum.

All but one of K-State’s 18 conference contests will be on one of the Big 12’s family of television partners, including nine on ESPN, ESPN2 or ESPNU.

The complete men’s basketball schedule can be found here.

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.