SE: Wildcats Complete Brazilian Trip at 2-2

Rodney McGruder was one of three players to average nine points per game

Aug. 18, 2012

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By Mark Janssen

Four games, experienced gained, a coming together in chemistry and most importantly, lessons learned.

That's how Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber summed up the swing through Brazil in the last week, which included stops in Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

"The big thing is we learned a lot about our team in what was truly a road-trip setting," said Weber. "We were forced to deal with distractions, plus these guys that we played were pros with teams made up of guys in their upper-20s. I'm not sure if our guys realized how good these teams would be and how physical games would be."

The Wildcats finished their game schedule with a 2-2 record with wins over Mogi Das Cruzes (79-72) and Pindamonhangaba Club (59-46), and losses to Sao Jose dos Campos (81-67) and Tijuca Club (74-72).

A fifth game scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled, with Weber saying, "It's part of being on an international trip. There are a lot of things out of your control."

K-State's offensive numbers were modest for the four games as it averaged just 69.3 points on 41 percent shooting, which included 31 percent from three-point range, taking 17 long-range attempts per game. The Wildcats were 76 percent from the foul line.

"To be a really good team, we're going to have to shoot the ball better," said Weber. "As coaches, we learned that we're going to have to teach some guys how to get open through basketball plays. Part of it was that we didn't have enough offense in to get the best shots, but we also didn't shoot it real well."

With Weber substituting five at a time and balancing minutes between the players from 16 to 22 per game, K-State was led by sophomore Angel Rodriguez with a 10.3 average for the four games, plus he led in assists with 4.8 per game and steals with 2.3.

Contributing nine points per game were Rodney McGruder, Adrian Diaz and Nino Williams, while Jordan Henriquez and Will Spradling each averaged 8.5 points per game. Williams and Diaz were true on 60 and 58 percent of their shots, respectively.

Tops in rebounding were Williams at six per game, while freshman D.J. Johnson averaged 5.3. Also, Diaz blocked a total of 10 shots during the four games.

Weber called the 6-foot-8 Johnson "... the surprise of the trip. He was very active and played with a good motor."

Also impressing Weber with his toughness was freshman Mike Orris, who played extended minutes in the last two games after Martavious Irving tweaked a hamstring.

"Mike really made a nice step and didn't back down in a very physical game," said Weber.

Overall, Weber said, "Consistency is a big priority. Even looking at last year, we had guys that showed some bright moments, but were not consistent. On this trip, Angel played well in the first two games, but then just didn't have as good of concentration and focus after that. That's just one example.

"Taking care of the ball is our biggest dilemma," said Weber. "We have to make better decisions and become better passers."

Off the court, Weber said, "To be able to see both Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro has been amazing. The trip to see the Christ the Redeemer statue is one of the most breathtaking sight-seeing experiences of my life. The trip to Sugar Loaf with the two cable cars going up to the top was a bit scary, but we have gotten the chance to experience a lot of Brazilian culture and just the opportunity to travel abroad is always a great time."

Another trip highlight was visiting the favelas, or the poorest area of Rio de Janeiro, to conduct a basketball clinic.

"That was an eye-opening experience for our team," said Weber. "It's a place that's like our ghettos where kids K through 17 stay from early in the morning until early evening just so they have a safe place to be. Our guys played soccer, volleyball and basketball with them, plus signed autographs. To see the eyes of those kids light up was really meaningful for all of us."

The trip was capped by a team dinner and samba dancing Wednesday evening and then a day at the beach on Thursday before jetting home later that night.

The team arrived back in Manhattan on Friday afternoon and will start classes on Monday. Weber indicated the work in the weight room would begin next week, followed by the start of conditioning work by the middle of September.

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