Wildcats Visit With Area Media on Wednesday

The Wildcats return five players with starting experience in 2010-11, including Preseason Big 12 Player of the Year Jacob Pullen.

Oct. 27, 2010

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Head coach Frank Martin and selected members of the men's basketball team met with the area media on Wednesday as apart of its annual media day festivities.

Head Coach Frank Martin
On whether or not Jacob Pullen was indifferent towards authority when first coming to Kansas State…
“If you meet his mom and dad, you will understand that he understands authority. That is why he is still here. He is one of the kids that has been prepared to deal with authority. He was a worker. He is a great young man. He is intelligent off the charts. No one has ever made him understand how to get better as a basketball player. No one has held demands on him to improve as a basketball player. He had the structure as a young man that allowed him to follow the structure to get better as a player. That is what he has done. There has never been any disagreements between he and I. What we do gets put under a microscope. Any of us in this room that are parents, I do not think your relationship with your teenage son is always one that is in total agreement with what direction you need to go in. The teenage son thinks that he knows more than the father and the father’s job is to make him understand how to continue to be willing to learn and move forward. That does not mean there are disagreements. That means it is two people who are learning from one another. Jake [Pullen] and I have never disagreed. That is the beauty of the whole thing.  To an outsider it might be perceived because I am upset and maybe because he did not play as much as he wanted to when he was a freshman. You do not raise a child in a day. You do not make a basketball player in a week. It is a process. That is why he is and has become the person, the player that he is today.”

 

On whether or not it is surprising to have a player the caliber of Jacob Pullen to stay in a program for four years…

”I think that gets overblown a whole lot. I think you have a lot more of that than the other situation. Why was Butler good last year? Why were we good last year? We had Chris Meriwether, Luis Colon, and Denis Clemente. We had guys that had been around. Kansas, the year that they won it, they had guys in their backcourt that had been together for three years. Their front line guys. Sasha Kaun was a senior. Darrell Arthur was the heralded player, but Darnell Jackson was the featured player. What you saw with Kentucky last year could happen, it could happen every once in a while. Everybody pays attention the three, four, or five special situations and over judge that and do not give light to what college is all about which happens in most places. This year is no different then what we had with Denis [Clemente] last year. It is no different than what we had with Luis Colon. That is what we are here for, to have some of that continuity.”

 

On whether the high preseason ranking has given Jacob Pullen motivation for the upcoming season…

“I do not know. I cannot speak for him. Knowing our locker room, we do not pay too much attention to that. We do not need somebody on the outside saying that we stink to make us work harder. We do not need somebody on the outside saying that we’re good to make us think that we are good. We communicate in that locker room and there are certain goals and visions that we have created that we continue to try to work and try to achieve. We have not done them yet. Those goals and visions have nothing to do with what those outside people think. I think if you ask Jacob [Pullen], it will be similar to how I feel. It is flattering that the other coaches in this league respect our players and the way they play that they voted us number one. That does not happen by mistake. That does not mean the coaches in our league, who I have an unbelievable amount of respect for, joke woke up and said ‘Let’s give Kansas State a chance this year.’ That means that they have competed against our guys and respect our guys to think in a positive manner about us.”

 

On filling the void of the graduated Denis Clemente…

”Everyone makes too big of a deal over his playmaking ability. You go back and look at the games that he has played without Denis [Clemente] on the floor, you realize that he put up the numbers that he needed as a point guard. You go back and look at my junior varsity team in 1985, we played with two point guards. It is what I believe. It is how I believe the game needs to be played. That is who we are. Jake [Pullen] is not the issue. That is why he has been here for four years. He understands and he is a very good player. He has earned the right. He knows and he is leading the team everyday and chasing guys around and making them do right. He understands that the one adjustment he had to make is that for the last two years, the dominant voice as far as running the offense was Denis’ [Clement]. Now that is what he has to take over and he has done that from day one. He was prepared for that job. The issue is not him. The issue is what other guard is going to accept that other responsibility. That is what we are trying to figure out right now.”

 

On the improvement of Rodney McGruder…

“Rodney is going to be great. Rodney cares. Rodney works. He is better defensively because he takes pride in being a good player. He takes pride in winning. He is not where he needs to be just like a bunch of our guys, but he has gotten better. Offensively he has become a better player. He has gotten better off the dribble. He is a better passer. That is what you hope, that players make strides from freshman to sophomore year and from sophomore to junior and so on.”

 

On who will play a majority of time in the backcourt along with Jacob Pullen…

“I do not know. We have a plethora of guys to choose from and that is a great problem for a coach to have. I do not plan to play seven guys.”

 

On the improvement of Wally Judge from last year…

“He is a lot better. The game has slowed down for him. The speed and strength of the game, he has adjusted to that. He has been in a locker room with a bunch of guys that are just trying to help him grow. Wally is a lot better player.”

 

On if the offseason has slowed down the growth of Wally Judge as a player…

“I do not like speaking for people, but I do not think it has slowed him down. Wally is a special young man. In a culture where we have created in our sport where everyone wants instant gratification, Wally is a kid that has stayed the course. I have said this before. He did not come here because it was going to be easy. He could have gone somewhere else and played 35 minutes a game as a true freshman. He came here because he trusted the people here in helping him become a better person and a better player down the road. His faith in that decision has never once budged. He appreciates who he is and where he is at.”

 

On what Coach Martin would like to see from Freddy Asprilla

“He has been great. He weighted 267 pounds yesterday from 322 or so from when he got here June 1st. He has cut his body fat in half. When you see him on the court, he looks like a completely different human being. Offensively, he is going to give us an unbelievable presence at the rim. He gets his hands on balls; you can throw any pass you want. You could blindfold your guards and throw it to him and he will catch it. He has a great skill set. If you try to double him, he can really pass the ball with his back to the basket. He has a great understand of the game. He has gotten himself in shape so he can keep up with the game. Now he is going to have to go through the same things that all our first year guys go through which are the responsibilities we have defensively and understanding how important it is to take care of that responsibility. The way we defend, we cannot have people out of place because we pay the price. You think of us defensively two years ago when we had all of those freshmen and we tried, but we were not very good. We were better the following year and we were even better last year. We actually have to take that not step again this year.”

 

On how the success has changed the personal life of Coach Martin…

“Not one bit. I am more popular because you guys speak about me a whole lot more, but I have not changed one bit. I am who I have been for 44 years and that is not going to change. I believe in who I am. I believe in the people around me. I enjoy being a basketball coach. I enjoy trying to educate kids. I have an unbelievable family that regardless of how crazy things get around me sometimes helps me be grounded and level headed. I do not think I have changed. I would be surprised if I ever do. I am kind of one of those old, stubborn, set in my ways kind of guys.”

 

On why Kansas State has two exhibition games opposed to only one the previous season…

“We play two exhibition games this season and if John [Currie] and I, in our conversations, decide to change that then we will do that. This year we just chose to play two exhibition games.”

 

On what freshmen Shane Southwell and Nino Williams bring to Kansas State…

“Talk about two extreme opposites of guys who fit exactly who we are. They are similar defensively in the sense that they both fit who we are. Nino [Williams] is a better attack the ball kind of guy. Shane [Southwell] has the makings of being a huge perimeter defender. Nino is a jump shooter and an athletic go get the ball kind of guy. As far as Shane goes, we spoke yesterday as a staff and we are starting to think about putting Shane at the point every once in a while. He has an unbelievable understanding of how to play offensive basketball with a tremendous skill set. He has a court vision that might be the best court vision of any one on our team which is what we thought when we recruited him with passing as his number one skill. They are both long, athletic, great kids. They do not come in here and try to tell people how to do things. They are very open to structure and open to their upperclassmen teammates helping them learn. That has been the most gratifying thing after ten practices is that those young guys have been able to adjust a lot quicker than our previous young guys. That is not just because of them, but it because of how helpful our upperclassman have been.”

 

On if Coach Martin considers this freshman class as a core of players for the future…

“I do not know. Those five freshmen last year were pretty darn good. You better have good freshman every year if you want a chance in maintaining continuity in the program. You better have freshman that come in and every once in a while you have one special difference maker as a freshman. But for the most part, you better have freshman that come in that are going to help you win games. People think that only players that come in and score 26 points and grab 11 rebounds are the ones who help you win. There is a lot more that goes into what helps a team win. I call it fantasy league epidemic. Everybody thinks that the person with the numbers is responsible for winning and it does not work that way. Winning games is a little deeper than who puts up numbers. Freshman need to understand that. We have been good. Our assistants have been unbelievable. The guys come in here with an open mind to learn and work.”

 

On whether the team’s attitude will change because of the loss of the “underdog” role…

“I am not going to change. So why would they change? It is who we are. We are not going to get wrapped up. Do you know what I am going to answer when we stub our toe for the very first time? Well your guys did not handle the pressure very well. Well neither does any other team when they lose their first game when they are picked the top five in the country. It is what it is. We are not playing to coach a game or play a game. We are playing to prepare our team to grow as this year’s team, not last year’s team, to give us a chance this January when we get into Big 12 play and to become the best team that we can be. If at the end of the year that means that we get an opportunity to have a chance to play in the type of games that last year’s team played in then so be it. If we did not, but the team still competed their hearts out and everybody got better then so be it. We are not going to get wrapped up because somebody thinks we are different. You know what real pressure is? When nobody thinks you are any good. Then nobody holds anybody accountable in your own organization. These expectations, they are positive. Now everybody takes pride in all of the work that has taken place over the last four years. Every sacrifice that every young man has made in that locker room to make themselves better, that gives them all an added incentive in a positive way to continue to do their jobs. We will not be perfect, but does that not mean that we will not prepare everyday to win every game? Of course we will prepare to win every game. That is our job. I cannot sit here and say we will go 26-7. There are six games on our schedule that I do not think we can win. How can I make that decision? We are going to prepare game to game to game and try to win the next game on the schedule. If it is not good enough on a night, then it is not good enough. We are not going to quit on our team as coaches. Players are not going to quit on each other.”

 

On what Coach Martin has learned as a father that has helped coach the team…

“Patience. When you get that phone call that your child misbehaved in school, I do not care how aggravated you are that next day, he is still your child. So you better figure out a way to handle that moment and continue to raise that child the next day. It is no different than coaching basketball players. Whether they have a good day or bad day, they are kids who are trying to find out who they are. That is my job, to not overreact or under react and to have the patience to handle everyone in their own individual way and to help them become better people. If I can do that, I think I am doing my job.”

 

On who is the most improved player on the team…

“Jake [Pullen]. Confidence. Everybody has good players. The ones that play with unbelievable confidence are the ones that take that next step. Jake right now is playing at that level because of the confidence he has gained as a player. That has made him way better than he has been at any other time. Kansas has good players. Texas has good players. We have good players. The difference is confidence. The ones that really believe in who they are, the game slows down. The game slows down so it is not as fast. They are not trying to make that decision at ultra light speed. It just slows down. They see the next play. They do not see after it happens. Jacob is starting to get to that point.”

 

On how dangerous Jacob Pullen will be this season with his new level of confidence…

“He will be as dangerous as the man upstairs wants him to be. Jake is a good player. Jake has earned to right to be a good player.”

 

On how Jacob Pullen developed this new level of confidence…

“Little by little. I go back to the same thing. You do not wake up one morning and say ‘I am a great player.’ You have to go through experiences and challenges that sometimes make you question if you can do it or not. I think that will and that fight to make you continue to do your job and to strive and chase your goals and become better gives you that confidence. Jacob has been through the challenges of growing. He has made mistakes. Mistakes you will never know about. That is between him and me. That is what is great about Jacob. He continues to positive and continues to come in and get better. He has embraced the job of leading the team. Two years ago when he was a sophomore, I sat here and told you guys that he has embraced the responsibility of leading the charge. He and Denis embraced that responsibility. They were willing to accept. A lot of guys do not want that responsibility to win and lose. They do not want that daily responsibility to be held accountable. He and Denis embraced it. Let’s remember, Jacob is still a very young kid. Jacob is an impressive young man.”

 

On the development of Curtis Kelly…

“I do not know. I have probably destroyed it in the last 10 days. Curt is a good player. He was good player in high school. He was a good player when he went to UConn. He did not handle things very well. I have told you guys that one of the reasons we chose to take him on a transfer was because during the recruiting process, he did not pass blame over to anybody else. He accepted that his failures at UConn were on his shoulders and the decisions that he made. When you hear someone say that, it kind of makes you think that here is someone that has been humbled and has an appetite for a second chance. That is what he has done. Early on last year, he was inconsistent with his effort and the understanding of the things we needed to do. As the year went on, he got better. He improved and I think our team improved. He set a single season record for blocked shots which gave us a dimension defensively that we did not have before which was a guy that could protect the rim. He gave us an option to score the ball at the rim. Hopefully this year we can allow him to face up and play 15, 16, 17 feet in where he is very good from. I expect him to continue to grow as he continues to regain the belief in himself. As for the things that he can do as a player, I think we will allow him to continue and grow.”

Sophomore Forward Wally Judge

On his neck injury…

“It was due to a birth-defect. I guess from being in high school and being bigger that most of the guys my age, no one ever noticed it. When I took a bump in the McDonald’s (All-American) Game, it kind of showed up and that is how they found it. But it was a pretty tough off-season. I really was not able to put in the work that I hoped for, since the surgery and the fact that I was in a neck brace. But now that I am back, I feel better than ever. Since the surgery happen, they said that I will be able to get stronger than I ever was.”

 

On the pressures of being a highly-touted freshman…

“I felt a lot of pressure to live up to what people expected of me. After talking to coach Martin a bunch of times, he let me know that I cannot live up to the expectations of what people have for me, I can only be what I can be.”

 

On how Jacob Pullen has helped him…

“He has been a great mentor. A lot of the time, he is my roommate on the road, and we would sit and talk about a lot of things, whether it be from high school to this year to next year. He expressed to me what it takes to be a leader. There is one moment that I will never forget; after the BYU game I talked to the reporters and when we were leaving, he put his arm around my shoulder and said he was proud of me and he could see me becoming a leader one day.”

 

Sophomore Guard Nick Russell

On the upcoming season…

“I feel great and a lot better. The second time around it seems a lot easier and smoother. You know more and know what to expect. Coming from the off-season to now I feel like I have gotten so much better and stronger mentally.”

 

On depth of the backcourt…

“Our backcourt is very deep. With the incoming freshman, Shane Southwell, Will Spradling, Juevol Myles, and Jacob (Pullen), Martavious (Irving) and myself it is very deep and we should be really strong.”

 

Junior Forward Jamar Samuels

On his health…

“My ankles have been bothering ever since the Europe trip, but I am trying to get it back together and I am working hard and trying to get back on the floor.”

 

On intensity of practices…

“We still have not even started the bubble drill yet. I know that when we start that there are going to be a lot of fights, scratches and bruises and things like that. The way that it is intense right now, just shows how good of a team we are.”

 

Sophomore Guard Rodney McGruder

On the changes from last year to this year…

“I see my role changing a lot. A lot of our leaders from last year graduated, so as a returning guys, I need to step up and take on the a different role from last year.”

 

On the team’s expectations…

“It is the same as last year, even though we started off last year being unranked and unknown. We have the same mindset as last year. We know that we have to work hard and the coaches are pushing us to do that. Coach Martin does not stress the fact that we are ranked in the Top 5 in the country so that really does not matter to us right now.”