K-State Opens Diamond Head Classic with SIU Thursday

Will Spradling ranks 17th nationally and second in Big 12 in assist-to-turnover ratio.

Dec. 20, 2011

Game Notes in PDF Format Get Acrobat Reader

Thursday, December 22, 2011 * 3:30 p.m. CST (11:30 a.m. HST) * Diamond Head Classic * Honolulu, Hawai’I * Stan Sheriff Center (10,300)

Television: ESPNU
Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play); Doug Gottlieb (analyst)
Channels: n/a
HD Channels: n/a
Internet: ESPN3.com
Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play); Stan Weber (analyst)
Satellite Radio: XM 190
Live Stats:  www.k-statesports.com/multimedia
Live Audio: www.k-statesports.com/allaccess (free)
Twitter Updates: twitter.com/kstate_gameday
K-State vs. Southern Illinois: 6-0 (W, 57-49; 1/3/1983)
vs. Missouri Valley: 65-31 (3-2 on neutral sites)

Kansas State (7-1) makes its fourth in-season trip to the island of Hawai’i this week, as the Wildcats compete in the third annual Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic set for Thursday-Sunday, Dec. 22-25 at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu.  The three-day, three-game tournament includes six postseason participants from a year ago, including Clemson (NCAA Tournament), Hawai’i (CBI), Long Beach State (NIT), Texas-El Paso (NIT) and Xavier (NCAA).  The Wildcats will open the tournament with Southern Illinois (3-5) at 3:30 p.m. CST (11:30 a.m. HST) on Thursday, Dec. 22 with Roxy Bernstein (play-by-play) and Doug Gottlieb (analyst) on the call for ESPNU.  The winner of this first-round game will face either Clemson (6-4) or UTEP (4-5) in the semifinals at 4 p.m. CST (noon HST) on Friday, Dec. 23 on ESPNU, while the two remaining teams will play at 2 p.m. CST (10 a.m. HST), also on ESPNU. 

In the opposite bracket, Long Beach State (5-5) will play No. 14/15 Xavier (8-1) at 10 p.m. CST (6 p.m. HST) in the third game on Thursday before the final first-round match-up between SEC foe Auburn (7-1) and host Hawai’i (5-4) at midnight CST (8 p.m. HST).  The winner of each bracket will face off in the championship game at 8:30 p.m. CST (4:30 p.m. HST) on Sunday, Dec. 25 on ESPN2.  There will be three consolation games preceding the title contest at 1 p.m. CST (9 a.m. HST; seventh-place game), 3:30 p.m. CST (11:30 a.m. HST; fifth-place game, ESPNU) and 6:30 p.m. CST (2:30 p.m. HST; third-place game, ESPN2), respectively.  

K-State is 4-3 (.571) all-time in Hawai’i, which includes participation in the 1985 and 1998 Maui Invitationals and the 1993 Hawai’i Nike Festival.  The team is 2-0 at the Stan Sheriff Center, which includes wins over Texas State (59-58) and Hawai’i (65-61) in 1993.

Southern Illinois (3-5) enters Thursday’s game on a two-game winning streak after a 80-57 win over Southern Illinois-Edwardsville on Monday night at home.  The Salukishave won three of their last five games, including consecutive wins for the first time this season, after starting the season with three straight defeats.  Under eighth-year head coach Chris Lowery, the squad is averaging 59.4 points on 37.6 percent shooting, including 23.3 percent from 3-point range, to go with 34.4 rebounds, 9.4 assists, 10.0 steals and 4.0 blocks per game.   Historically, SIU is one of nation’s top defensive teams and this season is no different with the Salukis holding foes to 58.5 points on 41.5 percent shooting, including 31.3 percent from 3-point range, while forcing 18.5 turnovers per outing.  The team has a balanced scoring attack with seven players averaging six or more points led by senior forward Mamadou Seck, who paces in nearly every statistical category, including scoring (13.6 ppg.), rebounding (8.5 rpg.), assists (2.4 apg.), steals (1.8 spg.) and minutes played (29.8 mpg.).  Junior Kendal Brown-Surles is also averaging in double figures at 10.5 per game.   
Thursday’s game will mark the seventh meeting between K-State and Southern Illinois on the hardwood, but the first since a 57-49 win at home on Jan. 3, 1983.  Those six previous meetings all came in a 20-year period between 1964 and 1983.  The Wildcats are 6-0 all-time against the Salukis, including four wins at home and two in Carbondale.  This will be the first game on a neutral court.  Despite the six wins, the series has been competitive with three games decided by eight points or less.  Overall, K-State is 65-31 (.677) all-time against teams from the Missouri Valley, including a 3-2 (.600) mark in games at neutral sites.

The schools have only played six times in their histories, but they share one common link in Jack Hartman.  A coaching legend at both schools, he led SIU to a 142-64 record and the 1967 NIT Championship during an eight-year span from 1962-70 before leading K-State to a school-record 295 wins, five Big Eight titles and nine postseason tournaments (seven NCAA Tournaments) in 16 years from 1970-86.  He also coached two of the schools’ all-time greatest players in Walt Frazier and Rolando Blackman.

The Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic will be the 41st in-season tournament that the Wildcats have participated in since 1935, including the fourth in Hawai’i (following the 1985 and 1998 Maui Invitationals and 1993 Hawai’i Nike Festival).  Overall, the school is 118-72 (.621) all-time in-season tournaments, which includes seven Big Six/Seven/Eight Holiday Tournaments [1947, 1950, 1952, 1958, 1960, 1961 and 1963] and seven other titles (1959 Kansas Tournament, 1987 Sun Met Classic, 1990 BMA Holiday Classic, 1993 Hawai’i Nike Festival, 1994 Capital City Classic, 1995 Otis Spunkmeyer Classic and 2007 Las Vegas Holiday Classic).  This is the sixth tournament outside the continental United States, which includes the three previous trips to Hawai’i, the 2002 Paradise Jam in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands and the 2009 Puerto Rico Tipoff in San Juan, P.R. 
Aside from a 42-point win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22, K-State has already proved to play in a number close games this season, including a pair of overtime contests.  The Wildcats are winning their games by an average of 12.5 points per game, including three games by eight points or less and four more by no more than 13 points.  If you take out the game with UMES, the average winning margin is reduced to just 8.3 points (73.4 ppg. to 65.1 opponent ppg.) this season.

In the first two games, the Wildcats had to rally back from a 15-point deficit against Charleston Southern on Nov. 11 then pull away from Loyola Chicago in the second half on Nov. 14 after leading just 28-23 at halftime.  The UMES game was tied 23-all with 6:16 left in the first half before a big run (69-27) blew open the game.  The George Washington contest on Dec. 1 was again tight with K-State holding a 39-37 edge with 16:11 left before a pivotal 10-0 run broke the game open in a 13-point win.  The Wildcats and Hokies were tied 43-all in the second half before a 10-0 run clinched another win on Dec. 4.  The squad was down as many as eight points in the first half.  In the consecutive overtime games, K-State battled through 17 ties and nine lead changes with West Virginia in an 85-80 double-OT loss on Dec. 8 before a 20-11 run in the last 8:36 helped overcome a nine-point deficit to North Florida and force overtime on Dec. 11.  The Wildcats then blew open the overtime period with 19 points, including 11 from the free throw line.  A 15-4 run midway through the second half against Alabama on Sunday transformed a one-point game (38-37) with 13:48 remaining into a double-digit lead that K-State was able to maintain the rest of the way in a 13-point victory.

K-State has proved to be a balanced team across the board with seven players averaging six or more points, including four in double figures, and five averaging four or more rebounds per game.  No more than 1.2 points separates the team’s leading scorer (Thomas Gipson - 12.6 ppg.) with the No. 4 scorer (Rodney McGruder - 11.4 ppg.), while just 1.1 rebounds separates Gipson’s team-high 7.6 per game average with Jamar Samuels’ No. 3 average of 6.5 boards.  Five players have collected double-digit assists, including 20 or more by Will Spradling (26) and Angel Rodriguez (21).  The Wildcats have had four different leading scorers (with Gipson leading the way five times) and leading rebounders (with Henriquez leading three times), while six players have led or tied in assists.  Overall, the team has posted 27 double-digit scoring games (with Samuels, McGruder, Spradling and Gipson each posting five) and eight double-figure rebounding games (with Gipson totaling three).  In addition, K-State players have tallied six double-doubles already on the season with Gipson grabbing three in the last five games. 

Kansas State has taken advantage of its rebounding skills this season, averaging 35.8 points in the paint and 19.6 points off of second-chance opportunities.  The Wildcats are averaging a Big 12-best 42.0 rebounds per game, including 15.5 on the offensive end, and have out-rebounded their opponent five times in the first eight games.  The team has collected 40 or more rebounds in five games, including a season-best 50 against George Washington and North Florida.  The Wildcats have posted at least 30 points in the paint in each game, including a combined 90 in overtime games with West Virginia (44) and North Florida (46).  The squad has also collected 20 or more second-chance points four times, including three times in the last five outings.  These numbers were particularly important in the overtime win over North Florida on Dec. 11, as K-State posted season-bests in both categories (46 in the paint and 27 second chance), including a decisive 27-8 edge in second-chance points.     

Just eight games into the season, it appears that Kansas State should start its games in the second half.  The Wildcats are averaging 41.1 points on 52.4 percent shooting from the field in the second half compared to just 30.3 points on 35.1 percent shooting in the opening half.  The squad has shot better than 50 percent from the field in the second half in six of eight games, including a season-best 65.6 percent clip (21-of-32) with 56 points against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22.  This trend continued against Alabama on Sunday, as the Wildcats scored 45 points on 63.2 percent shooting (12-of-19) in the second half after opening the game with 26 points on just 33.3 percent shooting (11-of-33).  Only one time this season has the team shot worse in the second half (a season-low 33.3 percent against North Florida).   

The top four scorers - Thomas Gipson, Jamar Samuels, Will Spradling and Rodney McGruder - also are better in the second half with Samuels (9.0 ppg.), Spradling (8.5 ppg.), McGruder (6.4 ppg.) and Gipson (5.5 ppg.) all averaging better than five points after halftime.  The quartet have combined to score 217 of their 361 combined points (60.1 percent) this season in the second half.  In particular, Spradling has tallied 68 of his 96 points after halftime, including all 15 points vs. Loyola Chicago and all 12 points against North Florida.

A trademark of Frank Martin-coached teams are their ability to score points off of opponent’s mistakes.  Since he became head coach in 2007, the Wildcats have scored 2,677 points off of 2,403 turnovers in 146 games - an average of 18.3 points per game.    Nearly 25 percent of the points scored in the past five years have come off of offense generated from turnovers, including the current season, in which the team has outscored its foes, 141-112.  The squad is pressuring its foes into an average of 17.8 turnovers per game, including a season-high 22 by Charleston Southern and 21 against North Florida.  Three times this season the Wildcats have scored 20 or more points off miscues, including 26 vs. UMES, 21 vs. West Virginia and 23 against North Florida.

After subpar efforts against both West Virginia and North Florida, K-State rebounded to hold Alabama to just 58 points on Sunday, including just 14.3 percent shooting from the 3-point line.  It marked the fifth time this season that the squad has held a foe to 65 points or less, including the third time to less than 60 points.  Overall, the Wildcats are allowing 63.2 points on 37.5 percent shooting, including 26.8 percent from 3-point range, to go with a Big 12-high 42 rebounds, 7.0 steals and 6.5 blocks per game.  The team is forcing opponents into 17.8 turnovers per game and averaging 17.6 points off those miscues. 

Heading to Thursday’s game, K-State still ranks among the Top 30 nationally in three defensive categories, including 10th in blocks, 24th in 3-point field goal percentage defense and 29th in field goal percentage defense.  The squad also places in the Big 12’s Top 5 in seven defensive categories, including first in rebounding, second in 3-point field goal percentage defense, offensive rebounds and blocked shots and fourth in field goal percentage defense.  Under Frank Martin, the Wildcats have finished no lower than fourth in rebounding (twice leading the Big 12 in 2007-08 and 2008-09) and have led the league in offensive rebounds each season.  K-State is the only Big 12 school to have three players in the Top 10 in rebounding (Gipson - fourth, Henriquez - seventh and Samuels - ninth), while Jordan Henriquez ranks 10th nationally and first in the Big 12 in blocks with 3.1 per game.

Kansas State has taken advantage of its size in the paint to post twice as many blocked shots (52-26) as their opponents this season, averaging nearly 6.5 blocks per game.  The Wildcats have posted at least six blocked shots in six of eight contests, including a season-best 11 blocks against North Florida.  Most of these blocks have come by way of 7-footer Jordan Henriquez, who ranks 10th nationally with 3.1 per game.  Henriquez has tallied 25 blocked shots on the year, which is just one shy of the entire opponent total, and represents nearly 48 percent of the team’s total.  His 25 blocks are nearly identical to his freshman total (26) and more than half to his total his sophomore (43) season.  Henriquez has recorded at least two blocks in every game this season and the Wildcats are now 22-4 (.846) when he registers at least two blocks in a game in his career.

It took an overtime period, but K-State’s non-conference winning streak at Bramlage Coliseum moved to 38 games on Dec. 4 with a 79-68 victory over North Florida.  The Wildcats also extended their homecourt winning streak in Manhattan in the month of December to 23 games at the “Octogon of Doom,” including a 15-0 mark under Frank Martin.  The last loss non-conference at home came to Rutgers, 76-66, on Dec. 28, 2004.  Overall, K-State is 35-1 (.971) in December at Bramlage Coliseum the past nine years (2002-10).  Martin has posted a solid 24-6 (.800) record in the month since 2007-08.   

K-State played consecutive overtime games last week for the first time in nearly 50 years, as the Wildcats lost in two overtimes to West Virginia, 85-80, on Dec. 8 at INTRUST Bank Arena in Wichita before coming home to knock off a pesky North Florida squad, 79-68, in single overtime on Dec. 11.  It marked just the second time in school history that the team has played in back-to-back overtime games and the first time since they played in three consecutive from Feb. 3-15, 1964 (all on the road and all wins).  The two-overtime loss to the Mountaineers was just the 13th in school history to go at least two overtimes, while it was the first since the Wildcats knocked off Xavier, 101-96, in two overtimes to advance to the Elite Eight on March 25, 2010.  Overall, the squad is now 66-39 (.629) in overtime games, including 30-11 (.732) at home.  The North Florida game was the first home non-conference regular-season overtime contest since a 69-67 victory over Tennessee State on Nov. 28, 2000. 

K-State had quite the effective game on the boards against George Washington, totaling a season-high 50 on the night, including 33 on the defensive end.  Three Wildcats registered double-digit rebounds, including a season-best 13 by freshman Thomas Gipson, a career-best 11 by junior Jordan Henriquez and 10 by senior Jamar Samuels.  Gipson had his first double-double (and first by a Wildcat freshman since Michael Beasley had one against Wisconsin in the 2008 NCAA Tournament) against the Colonials with a team-high 17 points, while Samuels recorded his sixth (of now seven) career double-double with 10 points.  It marked the first time in more than 11 years that three players tallied double-figure rebounds with two having double-doubles. The last time came in an overtime win over Tennessee State on Nov. 28, 2000 when three players - Kelvin Howell (11 points, 14 rebounds), Larry Reid (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Travis Reynolds (14 points and 14 rebounds) - registered double-doubles.

The Wildcats equaled their season-high of 50 rebounds, including a season-best 25 offensive rebounds, against North Florida with Gipson again leading the way with a game-high 12 boards.  Five other players totaled at least four rebounds.  Gipson managed his third double-double in four outings against the Ospreys, posting his first career 20-point game with 23 on the day.  It marked the first time since the 2009-10 season that the squad has collected at least 50 rebounds in a game twice in a season.

After playing two close games to start the season, K-State finally was able to coast to a 42-point victory against Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22.  However, it was a close contest between the teams in the first half with the score knotted at 23-all with 6:16 remaining and just a 36-29 lead for the Wildcats at the break.  From this last tie at 6:16 mark of the first half, the squad used quite the run - 69-27 - between the halves to gain the big victory.  During this run, K-State connected on 61 percent (25-of-41) from the field, including 42.9 percent (6-of-14) from 3-point range, and 81.3 percent (13-of-16) from the free throw line, while holding UMES to 23.5 percent (8-of-34) from the field, including 15.4 percent (2-of-13) from long range, and 47.4 percent (9-of-19) from the free throw line.  In the second half alone, the Wildcats shot 65.6 percent (21-of-32) from the field.

K-State opened the season on Nov. 11 with a come-from-behind victory over Charleston Southern, 72-67, before a sold-out crowd at Bramlage Coliseum.  Down as many as 15 points in the second half, the Wildcats used a 19-4 run over an 11-minute span early in the half to tie it at 60-all at the 4:35 mark before taking over the lead for good with 2:24 left.  The 15-point deficit overcome for victory (52-37) was one of the biggest in recent history for K-State, as it ties for fifth currently behind a pair of 17-point deficits in wins against Bradley (47-30) on Nov. 25, 1995 and California (38-21) on Dec. 29, 1995 and two 16-point deficits in wins against LaSalle (57-41) on Jan. 5, 1994 and New Mexico (30-14) on Nov. 23, 2005.  The 14-point deficit at halftime (49-35) ties for the largest overcome for victory since a 98-90 overtime win against Arizona State on Nov. 24, 1998 at the Maui Invitational.  It was also the largest deficit overcome at home since the 1995-96 season behind the Bradley game on Nov. 25, 1995.

Head coach Frank Martin became the fourth K-State head coach to earn his 100th career victory, including the second-fastest, in the 69-61 win at Virginia Tech on Dec. 4.  He joined Naismith Hall of Fame coaches Jack Gardner (147-81, 1939-42, 1946-53) and Fred “Tex” Winter (261-118, 1954-68) and all-time wins leader Jack Hartman (295-169; 1970-86).  He is the first to do so since Hartman did it midway through the 1975-76 season.  Martin accomplished the feat in just 143 games, which is one shy of the 142 it took Winter to produce his 100th victory midway through the 1958-59 season.  Hartman’s 100th win came in 149 games, while Gardner did it in his 170th game in his second stint as head coach in 1950-51.  The 2009-10 Big 12 Coach of the Year, Martin is the first Wildcat coach to post a 20-win season in each of his first four years and joined Lon Kruger as the only head coaches in school history to guide teams to the postseason in his first four seasons.

Freshman Thomas Gipson has made quite the impact just a few games into the 2011-12 campaign.  A 6-foot-7, 275-pound forward, he is the first freshman since Michael Beasley to pace the team in both scoring (12.6 ppg.) and rebounding (7.6 rpg.), while connecting on 49.4 percent from the field in eight starts.  He has been even better in the last seven games, leading the team in scoring against Loyola Chicago (19), Maryland-Eastern Shore (13), George Washington (17) and North Florida (23), while averaging 14.1 points on 50 percent shooting with 8.7 rebounds in 26.1 minutes per game.  Against George Washington, Gipson became the first freshman since Beasley in 2007-08 to collect a double-double with 17 points on 6-of-11 shooting and season-best 13 rebounds.  He followed that up with his second double-double with 15 points (including a 7-of-8 effort from the free throw line) in the double-overtime loss to West Virginia.  He made it three double-doubles in four games against North Florida with a season-high 23 points and game-high 12 boards.  After struggling in the opener with Charleston Southern (two points, zero rebounds), he broke out against Loyola, recording 19 points to go with seven rebounds (including a 12-point, 6-rebound effort in second half).  Although he struggled statistically, he still became the first true freshman to start an opener since the three rookies - Ron Anderson, Beasley and Jacob Pullen - earned the starting nod against Sacramento State on Nov. 9, 2007.

Thomas Gipson was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week on Dec. 12 after posting consecutive double-doubles in overtime games with West Virginia and North Florida.  He is the first K-State true freshman to earn the weekly honor since Michael Beasley collected the award for the eighth and final time on March 3, 2008.  Gipson averaged 19.0 points on 53.8 percent shooting (14-of-26) in helping K-State split the two overtime games with 11.0 rebounds in 32.5 minutes per game.  He recorded double-doubles in each contest, becoming the first freshman since Beasley to do so in consecutive games.  
Sophomore Will Spradling has solidified the starting point guard spot so far this season, averaging 12.0 points on 40.6 percent shooting with a team-best 3.3 assists and 2.8 rebounds in 31.5 minutes per game in eight starts.  He has registered double figures in five of eight games, including a season-best 16 against West Virginia on 6-of-11 field goals, including 4-of-8 from long range.His 16-point outing was just one short of his career-high of 17 against Baylor on Jan. 24, 2011 and two ahead of his 15-point efforts against Charleston Southern and Loyola Chicago this season.  Perhaps his greatest improvement so far has been in taking care of the ball, where he ranks 17th nationally and second in the Big 12 with a 2.89 assist-to-turnover ratio (26-9).  Since the opener where he turned it over three times, he has had two turnover-free games and four others where he had just one miscue.  He has 14 assists to just two turnovers in the last two games, including a near double-double against North Florida with a career-best nine assists (to just one turnover) to go with 12 points.  Last season, Spradling had a solid 1.6 assist-to-turnover ratio (63-40).

In addition to his ball-handling skills, Will Spradling has continued to demonstrate his toughness on the court, registering a team-best 14 charges.  He has posted at least one charge in every game this season, including a career-best three each on three occasions.  For his career, he has taken 35 charges in 42 games, which is two more than second-place Jamar Samuels (33).     

Will Spradling has also proven to be key in clutch situations, scoring 68 of his 96 points this season after halftime.  He is averaging 8.5 points on 45.2 percent shooting after halftime compared to just 3.0 points on 36 percent shooting in the first half.  He has also converted 11 of his team-best 15 3-point field goals in the second half/overtime, along with 18 of his team-best 26 assists. 

Senior Jamar Samuels has been a key component to the Wildcats’ 7-1 start to season, ranking second on the team in scoring (12.2 ppg.) and third in rebounding (6.5 rpg.).  Despite missing the exhibition game and the first two games due to violations of team rules, he responded well so far, collecting double-digit scoring games in five of six contests and consecutive double-doubles (vs. George Washington and Virginia Tech) for the first time in his career.  Much like Spradling, Samuels seems to do his best work in the second half, where he is averaging a team-best 9.0 points on 72.7 percent shooting (16-of-22) to go with 3.5 rebounds.  He was stellar after halftime against Virginia Tech, posting a double-double with 15 points on 6-of-6 field goals with 13 rebounds.  He also scored all 14 of his points against Alabama in the second half, including a 9-of-11 effort from the free throw line.  

Senior Jamar Samuels was named the Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week on Dec. 5 after averaging a double-double in wins over George Washington and Virginia Tech.  Samuels, who earned the weekly honor for the first time in his career, averaged 13.5 points on 64.7 percent shooting (11-of-17), including 50 percent (1-of-2) from 3-point range, in the two wins with 12.0 rebounds in 27.0 minutes per game.  He recorded double-doubles in each contest, marking the first time in his career he has done that in back-to-back games, and raised his career total to seven.  He began the week with a 10-point, 10-rebound effort in the win over George Washington.  Playing in front of numerous friends and family from nearly Washington, D.C., in the Wildcats’ first road game, he was sensational in the clutch against Virginia Tech.  He snagged a game-high 17 points on 7-of-8 field goals to go with a career-tying 14 rebounds in 28 minutes.  After struggling in the first half due to foul problems, he registered a double-double in the second half alone with 15 points on 6-of-6 shooting and 13 rebounds.  Although Samuels had just eight points in a loss to West Virginia, he became the 23rd player in school and the third under Frank Martin to eclipse the 1,000-point barrier.

Kansas State is closing in on a milestone as a program, as the Wildcats are just eight victories shy of 1,500.  The school currently stands at 1,494-1,059 (.585) in 108 seasons, which ranks 41st all-time in NCAA Division I history.  K-State would become the sixth current Big 12 program (West Virginia already has more than 1,600) to eclipse the milestone, following Kansas (2,041), Texas (1,643), Oklahoma (1,531), Oklahoma State (1,522) and Missouri (1,506).  The Cowboys and Tigers earned their 1,500th victories last season.  The Wildcats could become the seventh team to top 1,500 wins this season, joining St. Joseph’s (1,502), Ohio State (1,501), Michigan State (1,498), Washington State (1,497), Tennessee (1,491) and Iowa (1,490).

K-State elevated the talent of its front court on Nov. 21, as coach Frank Martin announced the additions of high school standouts Laimonas Chatkevicius (pronounced Lie-MOAN-us Shh-CAVE-VEE-us; Klaipeda, Lithuania/South Kent [Conn.] Prep) and Robert Upshaw (Fresno, Calif./San Joaquin Memorial) for the 2012-13 season.

“Once again our assistants, as they have done every year since we have been here, did an unbelievable job of identifying the right people for our program and organizing the recruitment and being diligent in their efforts to land two guys that we had targeted since the summer,” said Martin.  “We are extremely excited about two guys that were right at the top of our list.”

A 7-foot, 275-pound center, Upshaw is rated among the Top 50 high school players for the Class of 2012, including a ranking of No. 43 on the Rivals150 by Rivals.com and No. 49 on the ESPNU100.  He is also ranked among the Top 50 by CBSSports.com (40) and MaxPreps.com (44).  In addition, he is regarded as one of the top centers in the nation, ranking eighth at the position nationally by Rivals.com and 10th by ESPN.  Upshaw is also rated the fourth-best high school prospect in the state of California by ESPN.   Upshaw is a rising senior for head coach Pat Geil at San Joaquin Memorial High School in Fresno, Calif., which also produced 7-foot twins Brook (New Jersey Nets) and Robin Lopez (Phoenix Suns) as well as guard Quincy Pondexter (New Orleans Hornets).  He did not play as a junior in 2010-11 due to California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) transfer rules after leaving Edison High School for Memorial.  Upshaw helped Edison win 41 games as a freshman and sophomore, including 25 victories in 2008-09.

A 6-foot-10, 230-pound center, Chatkevicius is currently playing his senior season at South Kent Prep Academy in South Kent, Conn., for head coach Kelvin Jefferson.  South Kent played their first games this past weekend against La Jolla and St. John’s Military at the National Prep School Invitational in New Haven, Conn.  A native of Klaipeda, Lithuania, Chatkevicius came to the U.S. in the summer of 2009 to experience high school basketball before playing his junior season in his native country.  He also played as a member of Kansas City’s Spiece MoKan AAU organization this past summer for head coach Matt Suther.  Chatkevicius played in three games for Lithuania during the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championships in Hamberg, Germany.  The Lithuanian team posted a 4-1 record and finished in the tournament behind champion Team USA and Poland.  The squad also finished second in Group A to Team USA.  He also played his club team Klaipedos SM as both a sophomore and junior in Lithuania.  He averaged 5.5 points and 2.5 rebounds in four games in 2009-10 and 3.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in four games in 2010-11.    

Kansas State was selected to finish sixth in the preseason 2011-12 Big 12 Conference coaches’ poll released by the league office in early October.  The Wildcats received 39 points to earn sixth place in the new 10-team conference configuration, just 12 points behind fifth-place Texas (51) and six points ahead of seventh-place Oklahoma State (33).  The coaches were deadlocked on the preseason favorite with Kansas and Texas A&M each garnering 73 points, however, the Jayhawks did receive five of 10 first-place votes.  Baylor (63) and Missouri (61) followed the preseason duo in third and fourth-places, respectively, while Texas and K-State rounded out the top 6.  The rest of the poll included OSU, Iowa State (27), Oklahoma (15) and Texas Tech (15).  The sixth-place prediction is the lowest since K-State was picked eighth prior to the 2008-09 season.  The Wildcats, who tied Texas A&M for third place in the Big 12 in 2010-11, are one of only two teams to finish in the league’s top-4 and receive a bye at the Phillips 66 Big 12 Championship each of the past five seasons.  With only 10 teams, the top-6 will earn a bye in the 2012 event with the lower four seeds playing on the first day.  Of note, coaches are not allowed to vote for their own teams.

Looking to maintain the program’s momentum and consistency, head coach Frank Martin announced coaching staff promotions in early June, including the elevation of Lamont Evans as a full-time assistant.  In addition, he also promoted Brad Underwood to associate head coach and assistant coach Matt Figger to recruiting coordinator.  Evans has played a pivotal role in the development of the program the past three years, beginning as an undergraduate manager in 2008-09 the continuing as a graduate manager from 2009-11.  During this span, he helped K-State post a 74-31 (.705) record, which including three trips to the postseason highlighted by consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2010 and 2011.  A native of Eleuthera, Bahamas, Evans came to the U.S. at the age of 5, eventually settling in Deerfield Beach, Fla.  He played his first two years of college basketball at Seminole (Fla.) Junior College in Sanford, Fla., and St. Catharine College in St. Catharine, Ky., before enrolling as Drake in 1999.  He played two seasons for the Bulldogs, appearing in 42 games from 1999 to 2001.  For his career, he averaged 8.0 points on 41.5 percent shooting with 5.8 assists, 2.8 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game.  He spent seven years playing professionally, including stops internationally in Slovenia, Germany, Finland, Belgium and Venezuela.  A former Wildcat lettermen, Underwood is in his 24th season as a college coach, including his sixth at K-State.  He received much acclaim last season, as Martin took his suggestion of adjusting the offensive scheme to the “pinch-post” in early January.  Figger is in his 19th season as a coach, including his fifth at K-State and assumes the recruiting coordinator position.

Junior Rodney McGruder and sophomore Will Spradling both competed for all-stars teams in Europe this past summer.  Spradling played for Athletes in Action’s tour of Macedonia and Kosovo in Eastern Europe from May 25-30, while McGruder played with the East Coast All-Stars during their trip to the Four Nations Cup in Estonia in early August.  Spradling, playing alongside Big 12 brethren Cory Jefferson and A.J. Walton of Baylor and Jordan Juenemann and Jeff Withey of Kansas helped the AIA squad to a 6-1 record, including the tournament championship against Poland.  He was named the most valuable player and to the All-Tournament team.  He scored 20 or more points twice in the tournament, including a team-high 23 in the team’s only loss to Poland (May 24) and a team-best 25 vs.  the Bulgarian U20 National Team (May 27).  He posted 14 vs. Bulgaria Select (May 26), while he had eight points and four assists vs. the Kosovoan National Team (May 31).  McGruder was named to the Four Nations Cup All-Tournament, as the East Coast All-Stars finished third in the event behind Estonia (2-1) and Georgia (2-1) and ahead of fourth-place Sweden (1-2).  He was the only All-Star named to the all-tournament team after averaging 13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 2.7 steals in the three-game tournament.  He hit the game-winning shot in the win over Sweden (August 5) before pouring in 22 points and 14 rebounds in the 98-81 loss to Georgia (August 6). 

Senior Victor Ojeleye was recently elected by his peers to serve as Vice-Chair of the Big 12’s Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC) during the 2011-12 athletics season.  A two-time first team Academic All-Big 12 selection, Ojeleye saw action in 24 games as a junior in 2010-11, averaging 1.8 points on 46.2 percent shooting with 1.6 rebounds in 8.0 minutes per game.  He scored in 10 games, including a season-high 12 points against North Florida on Dec. 31, 2010.  A double major in accounting and finance, Ojeleye earned the inaugural Dr. Gerald Lage Award from the Big 12 in 2010-11, which is given to student-athletes who have earned 100 or more hours of credit with a cumulative 3.8 GPA.  He also has been named to the Fall and Spring Big 12 Commissioner’s Honor Rolls each of the past two years, including a perfect 4.0 GPA during the Spring 2011 semester.