Wildcats Begin A New Era in 2006-07

A new chapter in Kansas State men’s basketball will be written this season, as one of the country’s most successful coaches, Bob Huggins, takes over the reins of the Wildcat program.  A coach with over 500 career victories and 15 NCAA Tournament appearances to his credit, Huggins was named the 21st head men’s basketball coach at Kansas State on March 23, 2006.

 

“K-State is, history-wise, a lot like it was when I went to Cincinnati,” said Huggins at his introductory press conference.  “Cincinnati has a great basketball tradition.  They won national championships, they had great players and great coaches, and they had struggled a little bit.  I see the same situation here.  There is great athletics here.  There is great leadership here.  So there is not any reason why there cannot be great basketball here.”

 

Huggins takes over a program that could return up to four starters and nine lettermen from a team that produced a 15-13 overall record and 6-10 mark in Big 12 Conference play in 2005-06.  The Wildcats finished in a three-way tie for seventh place in the league standings before falling in the first round of the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship to Texas Tech.  The season included a 9-2 mark in non-conference play and recorded impressive wins over Big 12 co-champion Kansas and NCAA Tournament participant Texas A&M, however, the squad could not quite win the close game, ranking third nationally (with three other squads) with a school-record nine losses by five points or less.

 

BACKCOURT

Lance Harris (6-5, 190, Sr., Guard)

Akeem Wright (6-6, 190, Sr., Guard)

Clent Stewart (6-4, 195, Jr., Guard)

Blake Young (6-2, 180, Jr., Guard)

The Wildcats return a solid core of players to the backcourt, including a two-year starting point guard in junior Clent Stewart as well as a pair of experienced shooting guards in seniors Akeem Wright and Lance Harris.  Huggins also added an immediate contributor in honorable mention junior college All-American Blake Young during the spring signing period, who ranked third nationally in scoring at 23.2 points per game.  

 

Stewart returns for his junior season with ample experience running the point, as he has started 49 of the last 57 games for the Wildcats.  Although not a prolific scorer (4.6 ppg.), Stewart demonstrated effective skills in running the offense, as he ranked 15th in the Big 12 in assists, including 11th in league-only contests, and 12th in assist/turnover ratio (1.49), including seventh in league-only games.

 

Young and Wright should also provide valuable minutes behind Stewart at the point in addition to their duties at shooting guard. 

A 6-foot-2, 180-pound guard from Daytona Beach (Fla.) Community College, Young was regarded as the eighth-best junior college player in the nation among JucoJunction.com’s Top 100, including the top shooting guard.  He scored in double figures in all but two games during his team’s 30-game season, while he topped the 30-point barrier on five occasions.  He was named the Mid-Florida Conference Player of the Year as well as a NJCAA Region VII first team selection en route to helping the Falcons to a 25-5 overall record.

 

Regarded for his tenacious defense, Wright saw action in all 28 games for the Wildcats last season with 21 starts.  He ranked among the top four in nearly every category, including second in minutes (28.5), rebounding (5.4 rpg.) and defensive rebounds (4.1 rpg.), third in starts, assists (2.6 apg.) and blocks (0.6 bpg.) and fourth in scoring (6.2 ppg.).  Regularly assigned to the opponent’s best offensive player, Wright was a big reason the Wildcats posted its lowest opponent scoring average (63.9 ppg.) since the inception of the shot clock and 3-point line during the 1986-87 season and the second-lowest field goal percentage defense (39.8) in the last 38 seasons.

 

In addition to Young and Wright, Harris should give the Wildcats another viable option at the shooting guard spot.  He averaged 10.7 points on 41.5 percent shooting last season with 2.4 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 25.6 minutes.  Harris ranked second on the team in 3-point field goals (27) and double-figure scoring (14), while he was third in scoring, field goals and free throws. 

Harris also provides the team significant experience, having seen action in 63 consecutive games, which ranks second on the team behind Cartier Martin’s 70.   

 

FRONTCOURT

Serge Afeli (6-9, 235, Sr., Forward)

Cartier Martin (6-7, 220, Sr., Guard/Forward)

David Hoskins (6-5, 225, Jr., Guard/Forward)

Darren Kent (6-10, 210, So., Forward)

Deilvez Yearby (6-6, 205, So., Forward)

Jason Bennett (7-3, 265, Fr., Center)

Luis Colon (6-10, 260, Fr., Center)

 

One of the biggest question marks entering the season is the status of returning All-Big 12 second team selection Cartier Martin, who was suspended indefinitely by the university in late May. 

 

Just the third Wildcat in the Big 12 era to be selected to the coaches’ All-Big 12 second team, Martin paced the squad in nearly every category last season, including scoring (18.0 ppg.), rebounding (6.6 rpg.), field goals (161), 3-point field goals (50), free throws (132), free throw shooting (84.1) and minutes (32.8).  His 18.0 scoring average was the highest by a Wildcat since 1993-94, while he became just the third player since 1990-91 to top 500 points in a single-season. 

 

Martin ranked among the top 15 in eight Big 12 categories and was one of just three players (joining Texas A&M’s Joseph Jones as the only returning) to rank in the Big 12’s top 10 in scoring, rebounding, double-doubles, field goal percentage and free throw percentage.  A decision on his status is expected by October.

 

Despite the indecision on Martin, there is some depth at the small forward spot with the return of two lettermen in junior David Hoskins and sophomore Deilvez Yearby.

 

A member of the league’s All-Newcomer team, Hoskins was the team’s second-leading scorer a year ago at 13.1 points per game, while he was second in double figure scoring games (20), field goals (123), field goalpercentage (50.8), free throws (119), steals (0.9 spg.) and offensive rebounds (2.4 rpg.).  A starter in 21 of the team’s 28 games, he scored in double figures in 10 of the team’s last 13 contests, including a career-tying 25 points against Texas Tech in the Big 12 Championship.

 

Hoskins ranked among the top 20 in three Big 12 categories, including offensive rebounds (11th), free throw percentage (14th) and scoring (19th).  He was the only player this past season to be named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week twice, earning the honor first on Nov. 28 and then on Dec. 12. 

 

Yearby could provide some time behind Hoskins at the small forward spot after seeing action in 14 games as a true freshman.  He averaged 4.3 minutes per game, but did see action in each of the last five contests.

 

Senior Serge Afeli and sophomore Darren Kent, along with freshmen Jason Bennett and Luis Colon, are the four candidates who will provide the competition for the Wildcats at the power forward and center positions.

 

An Ivory Coast native, Afeli is the lone senior in the frontcourt after seeing time in 18 games a year ago, including seven Big 12 contests.  He averaged 0.6 points and 2.3 rebounds in 6.7 minutes per game.

 

As a true freshman, Kent saw action in seven of the first eight contests, but was hampered much of the rest of the year by a concussion.  He averaged 1.6 points on a perfect 6-of-6 shooting with 0.6 rebounds per game. 

 

At 7-foot-3 and 265 pounds, Bennett is the tallest player to ever sign with K-State and one of just five seven-footers in its history. 

 

Rated as the 30th-best high school player, including the sixth-best center prospect, he was a four-year starter at Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Fla., where he helped the Apaches capture back-to-back Class 2A state titles in 2005 and 2006.  He averaged 12.5 points, 13.5 rebounds and 8.0 blocks en route to earning first team all-state honors.

 

The 6-foot-10 native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, Colon averaged 15.5 points, 9.8 rebounds and a Miami-Dade County-best 4.5 blocks per game en route to guiding Krop High School to a school-best 29-4 overall record and a No. 1 ranking for the majority of the season.  He earned numerous honors during his senior season, including honorable mention Class 6A All-State and first team All-Dade County honors from the Miami Herald.

 

SCHEDULE

Five nationally-televised games, including a pair of regular season contests on ESPN on ABC for the first time in school history, highlight the 31-game regular season schedule for the Wildcats in 2006-07.

 

“We are obviously excited about the exposure all these television opportunities give our program,” said head coach Bob Huggins.  “I think every kid in America wants to see their team showcased on national television for their family and friends back home.  Now that we have these opportunities, we need to continue to prepare ourselves for the challenges that we will face in the upcoming season.”

 

The five national games equal the 1989-90 team for the most nationally-televised appearances in school history.

 

K-State will play its first game on ABC Sports in nearly 20 years on Saturday, Feb. 3 when the Wildcats face reigning Big 12 co-champion Texas in Austin at 2:30 p.m.  The Wildcats' other appearance on the network will be at Saturday, March 3, as they entertain Oklahoma in Bramlage Coliseum at 2:30 p.m.  K-State has played just one contest on ABC Sports in its history, losing the Big Eight Tournament final to Oklahoma on March 13, 1988. 

 

Kansas State will be making its first appearance on ESPN’s “Big Monday” telecast since the 2001-02 season with its home games against Texas Tech on Jan. 8 and Kansas on Feb. 19.  It will be the Wildcats’ eighth and ninth appearances on “Big Monday” dating back to the 1992 season and the first since losing to Kansas on Feb. 4, 2002.  K-State’s last contest on ESPN came on March 6, 2003 when the Wildcats upset No. 10 Texas, 58-48.

 

In addition to the national telecasts, Kansas State will have nine regular season games broadcast on ESPN Plus as apart of the Big 12 Conference Television network package, beginning with the league opener at Texas A&M on Jan. 6.  The network will also televise road games at Missouri on Jan. 13 (3 p.m.), Iowa State on Jan. 20 (12:30 p.m.), Kansas on Feb. 7 (8 p.m.), Colorado on Feb. 24 (3 p.m.) and Oklahoma State on Feb. 27 (8 p.m.) as well as home games against Missouri on Jan. 31 (8 p.m.), Colorado on Feb. 10 (5 p.m.) and Iowa State on Feb. 17 (5 p.m.).

 

“I think this will be a challenging schedule for our players,” Huggins said.  “I think playing the four road games plus the games in the Las Vegas Holiday Classic and the contest with Xavier in Cincinnati will give our team the opportunity to prove themselves against some quality competition.  These non-conference games will also prove to be vital in helping prepare us for an always-tough Big 12 schedule.”

 

Kansas State will face up to 15 teams from nine different conferences and the independent ranks during the non-conference portion of its 2006-07 schedule, including members of the Atlantic 10, Big East, Missouri Valley, Mountain West and Pacific-10 Conferences.  There are five first time opponents, including Chicago State, Cleveland State, Kennesaw (Ga.) State, Maryland-Eastern Shore and William & Mary. 

 

The non-conference slate will provide numerous tests for Huggins' first squad with eight games to be played away from Bramlage Coliseum, which ties four other squads for the most in school history. 

 

The road schedule is highlighted by a pair of games at the Las Vegas Holiday Classic and a neutral-site contest against Xavier at U.S. Bank Arena in Cincinnati. Nine of the potential opponents won 16 or more contests during the 2005-06 campaign, while three California, Wichita State and Xavier advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

 

The always-difficult Big 12 schedule begins for K-State on Saturday, Jan. 6, as the Wildcats open conference play on the road for the fourth consecutive season against NCAA Tournament participant Texas A&M at 7 p.m.  The game marks the first league opener for the program in College Station since the 2000-01 season.  The contest is the first of seven games against six league foes that advanced to either the NCAA Tournament or NIT in 2005-06.

 

The 11th annual Phillips 66 Big 12 Men’s Basketball Championship runs from Thursday, March 8 to Sunday, March 11 at the Ford Center in Oklahoma City, Okla.