Weber, Players Preview Season

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber and selected players met with area media on Thursday afternoon at its annual media day to preview the 2015-16 season. The Wildcats return six lettermen, including five players with starting experience, to go with an influx of 10 newcomers, including seven scholarship players.

K-State will host the first of two public scrimmages on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. at Bramlage Coliseum. The squad officially opens the season with the first of two exhibition games, starting at 7 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 30 against Emporia State.

Head Coach Bruce Weber
Opening statement…
“I know we talked to you guys about 10 days, two weeks ago, and I think we’ve continued to make good progress since then. The same question marks that we had then, haven’t changed. Obviously, we have a lot of inexperience on our team and the only way we are going to solve that is through the course of time and getting experience. And then the other part is the injuries, just continuing to make progress. I went recruiting yesterday and saw some coaches and everyone thought that these early practices is where players are going after it pretty hard. There are a lot of little things; from sprained ankles to groin pulls or muscle pulls, so we’ve had our share of those but the guys have kept a great attitude and they’ve worked very hard. Practices are very, very competitive. We’ve enjoyed it, our staff has enjoyed it, it’s a good group; we’ve said that since this summer. We are just moving forward and looking forward to getting to that live action. We still have a lot to do before we get there.”

On teaching more this year than in previous years… 
“I think that is part of practice. It’s that fine line. Everyday we have to do some teaching but we also have to let them play. I’ve talked to the assistants; we can’t stop them all the time. You have to let them go through some of those mistakes and then correct them later because you have to get some game conditioning. We scrimmaged once with refs last week for 15 minutes. We’ll do it again on Saturday, try to get to 20 minutes or so, and then kind of build up that next Saturday. We’ll have another scrimmage with refs and some people, just so they get to play through those mistakes. We’ll watch film and learn. But how we target it goes back to the summer. With our defensive system, we tried to cover everything just a little bit so now they have to go through a drill guarding a down screener, guarding a back screen, guarding a ball screen, whatever it is; same thing offensively. We have to keep it somewhat simple, but at the same time, we have to teach them things. Because whether we keep it simple, other teams might not. We are going to have to guard that stuff and have to learn it. I think the biggest word is time, right now. We need time. We need time to get experience, we need time to heal up and get healthy and we need time to learn. I think that’s what the portion of this early practice and building the foundation is about.”

On last season and moving forward…
“To be honest, the players got mad after the last time they met with you guys [media] because they said “Coach, we don’t want to talk about it anymore. And I just said, “This is how you deal with it. It’s over, done with, we are moving forward and we have a good group of guys.” We enjoy each other, we practice hard and we want to have a great season. That’s all we can focus on. People said, “What’s your worst loss?” I said, “The last loss.” That’s what I remember. As a coach, as a player, you’re always motivated to do better and move forward to get better. The problem is, most of the time your last loss is the end to your season, except for one or two teams, the NIT and the NCAA champion. Most of the time, you have a loss at the end of the season, so you have to sit with that for that long period of time. I hope that motivates them and drives them to work hard and put time in the gym and do all the things they’re supposed to do to be successful.”

On the motivation of coming off a losing season… 
“I think with this group, we just worry about each day. We are trying to get better; we worry about being ready for the scrimmage on Saturday and then the scrimmage next week and then the exhibition games. That’s all we can focus on. As I said, Coach Snyder has up in the entrance [of the Vanier Family Football Complex] about persistence and keep doing the right things the right way and good things will happen to you. That’s what we have to do.”

On Wesley Iwundu… 
“I’ve been really happy with him the last two or three weeks. I think he has taken a nice step. He had some little injuries. This summer, he was out a little bit, then, in the fall he was out a little bit. I think he fought through those. This past two or three weeks, he has come to practice to be one of the focal points of our practice, to be one of the main guys. He might not be scoring every basket, but he is guarding, he is rebounding, he is doing all the stuff. We talked about it last time I met with you guys; he needs to be a stat stuffer. If we are going to be successful and he is going to be successful, he has to have that [stat] line filled up every game. He is very capable; he has the athleticism, he has the length and he has worked on his scoring. If he does those things, it is going to help us. I think he has embraced it. He came in as one of the other guys. He was never a star in high school, until senior year, or even recruited until senior year. He didn’t get that attention. This is a little different for him, but I like what he has done the last two or three weeks. He has really stepped up. If you know Wes or have been around him, he is just a laid back, cool kid, which is a good thing. I think people enjoy him. Everyone enjoys him: our managers, people on campus come up to him when we’ve been at different things. Fraternity guys or whoever; he’s just a good person. I’m not sure he has that dominant, driving, enthusiastic type of make-up to him, but what he needs to do is what he has done. He comes to practice and plays his butt off and does things the right way. That is going to help him and all of our guys.”

On the Big 12 preseason poll…
“You have a lot of experienced teams. It makes logical sense for them to be picked up in that top group. You have three teams that are possibly top 10, top 12 teams. You have another three teams that are possible top 25 teams. So, especially when you look at returning players, that’s our big question. People don’t even know our guys. One of our coaches, or somebody, read one of those reports to me and they had guys on the report that aren’t even factors on our team. It just kind of hit me, people don’t know. We feel good about our guys. We feel good about the freshmen. The older guys have made steps in the right direction. As I said, if we keep doing the right thing everyday and working our butts off and continue improving, I think we will be fine. We will be very, very competitive. In this league, it’s been number one RPI the past two years. It probably has a great chance of doing that again. You could be fifth, sixth, seventh, or eighth and still be a really good team, a top 50 RPI team.”

Senior Forward Stephen Hurt
On differences between year one and year two with K-State…
“I have definitely learned to understand the offense more and understand the offensive sets. I have also learned to understand our defense more and know where to be to make it easier on myself on offense and defense.”

On the team chemistry…
“The chemistry this year is great. Everyone came in and gelled together nicely. Everyone came in with a focused mindset and ready to work hard and put their best foot forward for this season to make a run for the NCAA Tournament.”

On being a leader on the team…
“You can also put Brian (Rohleder) and D.J. (Johnson) into that position. We are the older guys and have been around the most. We have to show the younger guys a good example and good leadership so they know what we are expecting moving forward.”

Senior Guard Brian Rohleder
On urgency on the team…
“I think everyone is excited to go and prove to everybody that we are a good team to go and show that we are going to be more than what people think we are going to be this year. We need to prove to ourselves that we are a good team.”

On the newcomers…
“The new guys have really impressed me. Their competitiveness in workouts and in practices. All of the spots are up for grabs and that really pushes everyone to compete. I really like Kamau Stokes and Barry Brown because those guys have been going at the point guard position. They have been pushing me too and I think everyone has really been pushing each other. I am excited to see how those guys develop as the season goes on and I think they will really help our team.”

On being ranked tied for 8th in the Big 12…
“We know what we have and we know that we are a brand new team. We have been working really hard in the offseason and we have brand new team chemistry, so we are really excited about the season and where we are going to go.”

Junior Forward Wesley Iwundu
On leadership role on the team…
“I just tell the other guys the right things to do and the right spots to be in. When the coaches are getting on them I just go and talk to them one on one and let them know that is the coaches job, so they cannot take it to heart.”

On the new guys on the team…
“Everybody plays hard and nobody takes plays off. Everybody is in tune and listening to what the coaches are saying.”

On expectations to be a leading scorer…
“I have been stepping up in practice so things are going good right now. I hope to keep things going in the right direction. More is expected of me, but I think things are headed in the right direction. We have some good scorers on the team but I want to make sure I do everything well.”

Junior Forward D.J. Johnson
On transition back into playing…
“It has been pretty hard but the coaches have done a good job transitioning me in. They have me go a couple of days and then take a couple of days off. Transition has been great and now I am back in practice full time.”

On Coach Weber saying he could have helped the team a lot last year…
“I hope I could have helped the team last year. We needed rebounds and energy and Nino [Williams] and those guys could only do so much. We needed another experienced big too and I think that could have been me so I hope I could have helped the team a lot last year.”

On the new faces on the team…
“I like this team a lot. The guys get along really well and we have good chemistry on and off of the court so it can only go up from here.”

Freshman Guard Kamau Stokes
On being roommates with Barry Brown…
“We have to know where each other are on the court so it translates over a lot. Even off the court we help each other and make sure each other are good. The chemistry we have built from living with each other has really translated a lot onto the court.”

On strengths of the team…
“We do anything possible to win. That is what we have in these guys and our defense is going to play a great factor in our season this year.”

On Big 12 rankings…
“It definitely fires us up, but we do not worry about it. We do not worry about it because as long as we do what we need to do then everything else is go with the flow.”

Freshman Forward Dean Wade
On reputation of the team…
“We are not picked to do very well in the conference so we have a chip on our shoulders. We are just trying to work hard.”

On playing against bigger players…
“I played AAU stuff, so I played against some of the top players in the nation. The difference is the physicality and the speed of it, but other than that it is normal. AAU helped me with playing against bigger and more athletic people so that helped me transition to playing with my teammates.” 

On improvements from the spring…
“Strength. I have gained some weight and put a lot of strength on. The weight room has helped me a lot. In high school I had weights class, but every day in the weight room is intense the whole time so the intensity has been the biggest change.”