Weber, Players Preview Season at Media Day

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MANHATTAN, Kan.
– Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber and selected players met with the media on Monday afternoon at its annual media day kickoff at the Ice Family Basketball Center.

The Wildcats, who are just a little over a week into practice, return nine lettermen and six players with starting experience in 2016-17, including All-Big 12 Third Team selection Wesley Iwundu and All-Newcomer honorees Barry Brown and Dean Wade. Overall, the squad returns five of their top six scorers from last season, along with nearly 70 percent of their rebounding, assist, steal and minute totals. 

K-State hosts the first of two exhibition games on Friday, October 28 against Division II foe Pittsburg State before officially tipping the season off at 8 p.m., on Friday, November 11 against Western Illinois.

2016 Kansas State Men’s Basketball Media Day Quotes
Head Coach Bruce Weber
On Kamau Stokes and dealing with his injury…
“When it happened first in the game he really did not do anything and he came to the bench. It was a free throw right after he did it and he kind of limped but he said he was fine. He sat down and a couple minutes later I said go back in the game. All of a sudden, you can see him grimace, he fell down and that was it. Even after the game, he said he was fine and said he could do anything. It was a tough setback for him and for us at the time. Any time that you get away from basketball for four or five months, when you do not play live, it takes a while to get back. The trip this summer helped us and really helped him. We have to be careful with him. Mentally he has to go through the fear factor. We obviously need him and we just got to be patient with him but he also has to work at it to get that knee back.”

On Dean Wade and his confidence… 
“Last year I joked how good he was but I told you guys not to tell him. Now I have gotten to the point where I tell him that he is a good player. He got to believe that. I talked to his father after the scrimmage on Saturday and I told him that I think Dean is getting close to where he started to feel that he is a good player. He is in the gym. We always get the coaches, graduate assistants or managers, come in at night and they always text us when the players are in. There is a lot of nights when it is 9 at night and Dean is in here, shooting. That is a positive and a big step for him. I think his biggest step will be when we play good teams that have good power forwards or forwards. He has to remind himself that he is a good player and that will be his final step. He has played well. On Saturday (at the scrimmage) he was 4-for-6 from 3-point range and led us on the Play Hard Chart. I think he has been a pretty good factor I would say pretty much every day at the practices so far.”

On impressions with Wade’s development and what his next step is…
“The biggest thing when he got here was his body. He had to get stronger and put the weight on to deal with the physicality of college basketball and especially the Big 12. He started to make a lot of progress, but people forget that he had pneumonia. He practiced one day out of 14 and trying to play games. We had another setback, last spring, when he got the flu. Out of our four weeks of workouts he missed two weeks. More than anything, during that time he lost a lot of weight. It has been up and down and finally it looks like he is staying around 228-230 pounds. His bench press also has jumped up. The body was the first thing, the second is his confidence. Like I talked about, he is a good enough player, the confidence and his preparation has to be there. Then, just that “old man” understanding the game, knowing when to go, when not to. Being always under control, being in the zone all the time and it comes over the course of a time of being relax and confident. If he can take that step he will be one of the better players in the league.” 

On importance to reach the postseason…
“It is very important for our program, our guys, especially seniors and there is no doubt about that. We were very close last year. When you really look at it whether is Kamau’s injury or the close games. We were probably three or four possessions away from being in the NCAA Tournament but we did not get there. Now after a year of experience, trip to Europe, adding a couple of guys, you hope that all adds up to having success and getting back in the tournament.” 

On D.J. Johnson and his leadership…
“D.J. has been with us from the start. He has been through some positive things like winning the Big 12 Championship and going to NCAA Tournaments. Then, all the surgeries, boots and doubts but he has stayed very focused and worked very hard. He is making it through all the practices (so far) and it has been two years since he has been able to do that. He has done a really good job with his body, he is just a physical specimen, he is in shape, he is strong and lean. It all adds up when he is feeling good about himself.”

Senior Forward Wesley Iwundu
On getting to the NCAA Tournament this season…
“It’s high up there on our goal list. We know what we have to do this year to get there, so we’re preparing every day to get to that spot at the end of the year.”

On the Big 12 this season…
“It’s going to be a pretty even league this year. I’m pretty sure KU will be considered the top contender again, but it’s going to be a fight to get there, but we’re looking forward to it.”

On his responsibilities as a senior to keep this team on track…
“I kind of got used to my role last year, so this year I know what’s expected of me as a senior. D.J. [Johnson] and I need to lead the young guys and be that big help for them. We’re just ready to go out there and show everybody what we can do, and just kind of get to it this year.” 

Senior Forward D.J. Johnson
On the pressure this senior season…
“It’s easier, especially when the younger guys come in ready to work and are really ambitious, just like Wes [Iwundu] and I. That makes it a lot easier, and we don’t think about it. I know when game time comes around, we’ve done everything we can to prepare ourselves to get a win, so I’m not too concerned about it.”

On what he took away from playing a full season last year…
“Another year of having those younger guys like Kamau [Stokes], Barry [Brown] and Wes [Iwundu] – well not so much Wes – but having those young guards and having another year under our belts will be a big help after looking around at our competition and seeing how much older they were. And now the time’s here, they’ve got a year under their belt, they continued to improve and got in the gym and shot, so I’m really excited for this season.”

On Kamau Stokes’ return…
“It will be nice to have him back; just another addition. Carlbe [Ervin] was a big help last year as well when Kamau went down and Carlbe has grown a lot too and gotten a lot better. But, it’s great to have Kamau back as well. Two true points guard are great to have.”

Senior Guard Carlbe Ervin II
On his role this season…
“Finding Dean [Wade] and just helping other people get open shots, making free throws and hitting shots when I’m open.”

On this team’s goal of getting to the NCAA Tournament…
“I’m very confident. We have more depth and right now an eight-player rotation. We got a lot of people that know what they are doing now. And experience, D.J. [Johnson] is really, really healthy and Wes [Iwundu] is shooting the ball well. Everything is going well right now.”

On the most improved player since last year…
“Barry [Brown] is shooting the ball well and Wes [Iwundu] is shooting the ball really well. I don’t know, I honestly don’t know between them.”

Sophomore Forward Dean Wade
On what he took away from the trip to Europe…
“It just gave me confidence all around. You’re playing against guys that have been playing in the pros since they were like 16 years old over there. They know all of the tricks and trades, and just to go over there and compete and get a little head start before a lot of other teams do with the team practices over the summer, it just gave me a little boost – more than last year, a little bit of self-confidence this year.” 

On his development heading into this season…
“I think a lot of it was in my mind. I just didn’t have self-confidence. This year I’ve just been working about getting my mindset right and getting stronger in the weight room. It was a hard process at first last year going from (Class) 2A to the Big 12, the toughest conference in the nation, but this year I feel like it’s all coming a lot easier for me.”

On if he accomplished his goals this offseason…
“If I didn’t, I think I got close to it. I worked hard almost every day. I think I could’ve gotten into the gym a couple more times than I did, but overall I think I had a pretty productive summer… My post moves, I worked on them hard. I was focusing on them all summer, trying to get them down, so when they switch on me, I can take guards into the post. I think I got everything down in the post that I needed to get down and a little extra.”

Sophomore Guard Barry Brown
On what he’s learned after one season…
“I think, just the in’s and out’s of college basketball and knowing what the coaches are expecting, knowing what it’s going to take to eventually win a Big 12 Championship and making it to the NCAA Tournament. The older guys tell us day-in and day-out what it takes because they’ve been there before. We’re trying to get to where they’ve been already. Just every day, they’re telling us about hard we’re working, the work that needs to be put in and the time outside of basketball on the court with film and stuff like that needs to be put in to get to that stage.”

On emulating Wesley Iwundu’s game and leadership…
“Wes is just a really hard worker. I think that alone makes the teammates around him want to work hard and get to the stage that he’s at right now … Just being more vocal and showing more action. He’ll say something and then actually show you how it’s supposed to be done so you have both of those things. Overall, he’s just a good teammate.”

On having success as a freshman…
“It was great. It was fun. It was a great experience. I’m sorry Kamau went down, but I got a lot more minutes and it was just a good experience to get some time under my belt coming into this next season.”