No. 25 K-State Returns Home Saturday To Face Howard

Freshman Angel Rodriguez has scored in double figures in 2 of last 3 games.

Dec. 30, 2011

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RV/25 KANSAS STATE (10-1) vs. HOWARD (4-10)
Saturday, December 31, 2011 * 1:10 p.m. CT * Manhattan, Kan. * Bramlage Coliseum (12,528)

Television: FOX Sports Midwest HD (ESPN Full Court)
Ben Boyle (play-by-play); Stan Weber (analyst)
Channels: DirecTV 671, Dish 418, AT&T U-verse 748, TWC 309
HD Channels: DirecTV 671-1, Dish 418-1, AT&T 1748, TWC 1309
Radio: K-State Sports Network
Wyatt Thompson (play-by-play); Matt Walters (analyst)
Satellite Radio: Sirius 117/XM 194
Live Stats:
Live Audio: (free)
Twitter Updates:
K-State vs. Howard: 1-0 (W, 93-61; 12/7/1994)
vs. Mid-Eastern Athletic: 24-0 (24-0 at home)

The newly-ranked Kansas State Wildcats (10-1) return home to the friendly confines of Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday afternoon, as the team concludes its non-conference schedule against Howard (4-10) at 1 p.m.  The winners of five in a row, including the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic last week, the Wildcats enter Saturday's game with a 38-game non-conference winning streak at Bramlage Coliseum.  Overall, K-State has won 13 consecutive games at its home venues (includes the Sprint Center game with Alabama on Dec. 17) dating back to last season, including 12 straight at Bramlage Coliseum.  The 12-game streak ties for the second-longest streak in the arena's history (also won 12 from March 1, 1997 to Feb. 14, 1998) and two short of the record of 14 in a row from Feb. 17, 2009 to Jan. 18, 2010.  The squad has also won 23 consecutive games at the "Octogon of Doom" in the month of December, including a perfect 15-0 mark under head coach Frank Martin.  The team is 35-1 (.972) in December at Bramlage Coliseum the past nine seasons with the last loss coming to Rutgers (76-66) on Dec. 28, 2004. 

Saturday's game will be the fourth of six broadcasts that will be available on the entire FOX Sports Midwest footprint, which includes more than 5.9 million cable and satellite homes in six states -- Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Illinois and Indiana.  Other games include Oklahoma on Jan. 28 and Iowa State on Jan. 31.  For fans looking to find the game is in your area, a channel finder for FOX Sports Kansas City/Midwest can be found at

K-State non-conference single-game tickets can be purchased by calling the Athletics Ticket Office at (800) 221.CATS or by visiting online at  These tickets are priced at $30 for chairback and cushion seats and $20 each for bench seating.  In addition, general admission seats for the New Year's Eve contest with Howard are $20, while four or more GA tickets can be purchased for $15 each with a group rate of $10 each for 12 or more tickets.  A limited number of single-game tickets for K-State's nine Big 12 games are also on sale.  The five weekend contests are priced at $70 (chairback/cushion) and $60 (bench), while the three weekday games are $50 (chairback/cushion) and $40 (bench).  All Kansas tickets are $125. 

Howard enters Saturday's game with a 4-10 record after seeing their one-game winning streak end on Thursday night in an 89-34 loss at Kansas.  The squad has faced one of the most difficult schedules in the nation, playing eight (all losses) of their 14 games on the road, including trips to Bowling Green (63-48), Old Dominion (53-43), Rider (74-72), American (77-66), Georgetown (62-48), Oregon State (93-72), Indiana (107-50) and Kansas.  Under second-year coach Kevin Nickelberry, the Bison are averaging 61.9 points on 38.6 percent shooting (292-of-757), including 33.9 percent (63-of-186) from 3-point range, to go with 36 rebounds, 9.1 assists, 6.5 steals and 2.6 blocks per game.  Two players average in double figures led senior Glen Andrews' 11.3 points per game average, while junior Calvin Thompson averages 10.3 points per game. 

Saturday's game will mark the second meeting between K-State and Howard and the first since a 93-61 win by the Wildcats on Dec. 7, 1994.  This will be the second meeting with a Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) school this season, following a 92-50 win over Maryland-Eastern Shore on Nov. 22.  Overall, K-State is 24-0 against the MEAC with all 24 wins coming at home.  The average margin of victory in those 24 games is 27.5 points.  Head coach Frank Martin is 6-0 against schools from the MEAC.

K-State has announced several options for ticket holders to ensure that every seat in Bramlage Coliseum is filled for next Saturday's Big 12 opener with No. 8/8 Missouri.  With the football team playing in the Cotton Bowl on Friday, season ticket holders who plan on attending the bowl game and are unable to attend the basketball game can donate their tickets to Fort Riley soldiers and families and area youth organizations by emailing with their name and ticket location or by calling (800) 221.CATS.  Season ticket holders can also sell their tickets online through Powercat Ticket Exchange.  

K-State will conclude the non-conference portion of its schedule on Saturday by hosting Howard.  The Wildcats have posted a 57-12 (.826) record in non-conference play under head coach Frank Martin, including five straight seasons of at least 10 wins.  The 57 wins are the most over a five-year span in non-conference play.  Overall, the team has collected 10 or more wins in non-conference play in six consecutive seasons dating back to 2006-07.  The squad will play just 12 non-conference games in 2011-12 due to the expanded 18-game Big 12 Conference slate.  It is the fewest non-conference games in a single-season since playing 11 during the 2005-06 season.  K-State is one of three Big 12 teams to have already reached double-digit wins, while the 10-1 mark trails just Baylor (13-0) and Missouri (12-0).     

K-State has been stellar in the second month of the season under head coach Frank Martin, posting a 27-6 (.818) overall record in December since 2007-08, including a perfect 15-0 mark at Bramlage Coliseum.  The 27 wins are the most of any month under Martin, three more than the 24 won in November.  The Wildcats have also won 23 consecutive games at their home venue in Manhattan in the month with the last loss coming to Rutgers, 76-66, on Dec. 28, 2004.  Overall, the team is 35-1 (.972) in December at Bramlage Coliseum since 2002.  Saturday's game will mark the consecutive on New Year's Eve after defeating North Florida, 100-76, in 2010, while it will be the seventh time (4-2 record) that the Wildcats have played on the date.

K-State is closing in on a milestone as a program, as the Wildcats are just two victories shy of 1,500.  The school currently stands at 1,498-1,057 (.586) in 108 seasons, which ranks 41st all-time in NCAA Division I history.  The school could become the sixth current Big 12 program to eclipse the milestone, following Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State and Missouri.  The Wildcats could become the fifth team to top 1,500 wins this season, joining St. Joseph's, Ohio State, Michigan State and Washington State.  The school is currently three wins ahead of both Iowa and Tennessee, which have 1,495 wins entering New Year's Eve. 

K-State earned its first regular-season tournament title since 2006, as the Wildcats captured the 2011 Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic with wins over Southern Illinois (83-58), UTEP (78-70) and Long Beach State (77-60).  It was the first tournament title since winning the 2006 Las Vegas Holiday Classic and the first under head coach Frank Martin.  The squad averaged nearly 80 points (79.3 ppg.) during the three-game tournament on 49.7 percent shooting (78-of-157), including 51.3 percent (20-of-39) from 3-point range, while holding its opponents to just 62.7 points on 36.6 percent shooting (59-of-161).  Junior Rodney McGruder was named the tournament MVP after averaging 15.0 points on 64 percent shooting, including a career-best 28 points in the final against LBSU.  Senior Jamar Samuels was also named to the all-tournament team after averaging 11.7 points and a team-best 8.3 rebounds per game.  Four players averaged in double figures, while eight averaged more than five points.  It also marked the first time since the 1964 Big Eight Holiday Tournament in Kansas City that the Wildcats won three tournament games.

After playing a bevy of close games to start the season, K-State has rattled off five consecutive wins by an average margin of nearly 15 points per game (14.8), including almost 17 points per game (16.6) during the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic.  If you remove the North Florida game which went to overtime, the Wildcats have been even better in the last four games, averaging 77.2 points on 48.3 percent (101-of-209) shooting, including 45.1 percent (23-of-51) from 3-point range, while holding foes to 61.5 points on 38.6 percent (83-of-215) shooting in nearly a 16-point (15.8) per game margin of victory. Prior to the five-game winning streak, K-State won five of its first six games by 12.7 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 the 42-point win over UMES, the average winning margin is reduced to just 8.3 points (73.4 ppg. to 65.1 opponent ppg.) during that span.    

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 four averaging five or more rebounds per game.  No more than 1.8 points separates the team's leading scorer (Rodney McGruder - 12.4 ppg.) with the No. 4 scorer (Thomas Gipson - 10.6 ppg.), while just 1.9 rebounds separates Gipson and Samuels' team-high 7.1 per game average with McGruder's No. 4 average of 5.2 boards.  The team has seen eight different players collect 34 double-digit scoring games with Samuels posting eight in nine games played and eight double-digit rebounding games (with Gipson totaling three).  The Wildcats have had five different scoring leaders (with Gipson leading the way five times) and four different leading rebounders (with Henriquez leading four times), while eight players have led or tied in assists.  Seven players have collected double-figure assists, including 20+ by Will Spradling (31), Angel Rodriguez (27), Shane Southwell (26) and Martavious Irving (21), and four players have double-figure steals (led by Spradling and Irving's 11 each).  In addition, K-State players have tallied seven double-doubles already on the season with Gipson and Samuels each with three.

Adding to the K-State's balanced attack is the production it is getting from its bench, where the Wildcats are averaging 24.8 points this season, including 30.6 points during the current five-game winning streak.  During wins over Alabama (35), Southern Illinois (48) and UTEP (42), the team received nearly half of its scoring from the bench (125 of 232 points), including double-figure efforts by Angel Rodriguez (3), Jordan Henriquez (1) and Jamar Samuels (1).  In fact, Rodriguez collected double figures in each contest from the bench, including a season-best 17 against SIU, averaging 15.3 points on 52 percent shooting from the field.  He was not alone in his production, as the Wildcats got 17 points and eight rebounds from Henriquez in the win over the Crimson Tide and Samuels added 14 points in the victory over the Salukis.  Reserves Adrian Diaz and Jeremy Jones were also both key components in several wins during the stretch, as Diaz collected nine and eight points, respectively, in back-to-back games against SIU and UTEP and Jones scored eight points in each contest.  Overall, the 48-point bench effort against SIU was the most of the Frank Martin era, while the 90 combined bench points were the most in consecutive games under Martin.     

One of the key components of K-State's five-game winning streak has been the play of its defense, which has allowed its opponents  62.8 points on 39.1 percent shooting, including 29.4 percent from 3-point range.  The Wildcats have held all five opponents to 70 points or less, including three to 60 points or less.  For the season, the team has held seven foes to under 65 points, including four under 60 points.  Overall, K-State is allowing 63.1 points on 37.3 percent shooting, including 27.7 percent from 3-point range, to go with a 41.6 rebounds, 6.1 steals and 5.7 blocks per game.  The squad is forcing opponents into 16.5 turnovers per game. 

Heading to Saturday's game, K-State 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 six defensive categories, including second in rebounding, 3-point field goal percentage defense, offensive rebounds, third in blocked shots and fifth 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 15 in rebounding (Jamar Samuels - fifth, Thomas Gipson - sixth, Jordan Henriquez - 11th), while Henriquez ranks 10th nationally and second in the Big 12 in blocks.

Kansas State has taken advantage of its rebounding skills this season, averaging 35.3 points in the paint and 18.8 points off of second-chance opportunities.  The Wildcats are averaging 41.6 rebounds per game, including 15.3 on the offensive end, and have out-rebounded their opponent eight times in the first 11 games, including each of the last five games.  The team has collected 40 or more rebounds in six 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 eight outings.  These numbers were particularily 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.

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 2,725 points off of 2,442 turnovers in 149 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, 189-154.  The squad is pressuring its foes into an average of 16.5 turnovers per game, including a season-high 22 by Charleston Southern and 21 against North Florida.  Four 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.      

Kansas State has taken advantage of its size in the paint to post twice as many blocked shots (63-31) as their opponents this season, averaging nearly 5.7 blocks per game.  The Wildcats have posted at least six blocked shots in six of 11 contests, including a season-best 11 blocks against North Florida on Dec. 11.  Most of these blocks have come by way of 7-footer Jordan Henriquez, who ranks 10th nationally with 2.7 per game.  Henriquez has tallied 30 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 30 blocks are nearly identical to his freshman total (26) and more than halfway to his sophomore (43) total.  Henriquez has recorded at least two blocks in 10 of 11 games this season and the Wildcats are now 24-4 (.857) when he registers at least two blocks in a game in his career.

K-State played consecutive overtime games on Dec. 4 and 8 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 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.

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.

Junior Rodney McGruder followed up his most valuable player performance at the Diamond Head Classic with his first career Phillips 66 Big 12 Player of the Week award on Monday.  In helping the Wildcats win their first regular-season tournament title since 2006, he averaged 15.0 points on 64 percent shooting, including 44.4 percent from 3-point range, with 6.0 rebounds in 24.3 minutes per game.  He scored in double figures in two of three games, including a career-best 28 points in the championship game against Long Beach State on Christmas Day.  He went a near perfect 10-of-11 from the field against the 49ers, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range, to go with a 6-of-7 effort from the free throw line.  He also added six rebounds and a steal in 25 minutes.  The 28 points surpassed his previous high of 24 against UMKC on Dec. 23, 2010, while it was his seventh career 20-point game and his third this season.  Remarkably, by making 10-of-11 field goals, he posted one of the best shooting nights by an individual in school history.  Only Joe Wright (11-of-11 vs. Oklahoma State on Jan. 23, 1985) and Eddie Elder (11-of-11 vs. Colorado on Feb. 23, 1985) had a better field goal percentage in a game in school history when attempting more than 10 shots.  A perfect shooting effort (with a minimum of five attempts) has been done eight other times at K-State.

McGruder paces four Wildcats in double figures with a team-high 12.4 points per game on 44.1 percent shooting to go with 5.2 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game.  He is the third Wildcat to receive a weekly award this season.  Senior Jamar Samuels was named the Big 12 Player of the Week on Dec. 5, while freshman Thomas Gipson was Rookie of the Week on Dec. 12.

Senior Jamar Samuels has been a key component to the Wildcats' 10-1 start to season, tying for the lead in rebounding (7.1 rpg.) and second in scoring (12.0 ppg.).  Despite missing the exhibition game and the first two games due to violations of team rules, he responded well so far, collecting double-figure scoring games in eight of nine contests (including five in a row) and back-to-back double-doubles (vs. George Washington and Virginia Tech) for the first time in his career.  He continued his stellar play in Hawai'i , earning Diamond Head Classic All-Tournament team honors after averaging 11.7 points, a team-best 8.3 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 28.7 minutes per game.  He also took advantage of his opportunities from the free throw line in tournament, scoring 21 of his 35 points from the line on 77.8 percent (21-of-27) shooting.  In the last five games, he has scored 36 of his 61 points from the charity stripe, while connecting on 78.3 percent (36-of-46) from the 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. 

Sophomore Will Spradling has solidified the starting point guard spot so far this season, averaging 11.7 points on 45.2 percent shooting with a team-best 2.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds in a team-high 30.4 minutes per game in 11 starts.  He has registered double figures in seven of 11 games, including tying his career-high with 17 points against Long Beach State.  He also scored 16 points against West Virginia to go with a pair of 15-point efforts against Charleston Southern and Loyola Chicago.  Perhaps his greatest improvement so far has been in taking care of the ball, where he leads the team with a 1.94 assist-to-turnover ratio (31-16).  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 against North Florida and Alabama, including a near double-double against the Ospreys with a career-best nine assists (to just one turnover) to go with 12 points. 
In addition to his ball-handling skills, Will Spradling has continued to demonstrate his toughness on the court, registering a team-best 18 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 39 charges in 45 games, which is two more than second-place Jamar Samuels (35).     

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 rebounding (7.1 rpg.) to go with 10.6 points per game in 11 starts.  He scored in double figures in five games, leading the team against Loyola Chicago (19), UMES (13), George Washington (17) and North Florida (23), while collecting three double-doubles.  He became the first freshman since Beasley in 2007-08 to collect a double-double with 17 points and season-best 13 rebounds against George Washington.  He followed that up with his second double-double with 15 points in the loss to West Virginia, earning Phillips 66 Big 12 Rookie of the Week honors.  He made it three double-doubles in four games against North Florida with a season-high 23 points and game-high 12 boards. 

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 and No. 49 on the ESPNU100.  He is also ranked among the Top 50 by (40) and (44).  In addition, he is regarded as one of the top centers in the nation, ranking eighth at the position nationally by 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.   

UP NEXT: VS. 17/18 KANSAS (9-3)
K-State opens up the grueling 18-game Big 12 schedule on Wednesday, Jan. 4 against No. 17/18 Kansas (9-3) at Allen Fieldhouse at 7 p.m.  The game will be broadcast on the Big 12 Network (as well as ESPN Full Court and with Dave Armstrong and Reid Gettys on the call.  The Wildcats are 49-49 all-time in conference openers, including a 3-7 mark against the Jayhawks.