NEW YORK, N.Y. – Bruce Weber is in a unique position as Kansas State coach. He’s got a team at his disposal that certainly doesn’t lack depth — entering the game, 11 different players averaged at least 14 minutes per game — or experience.
But the difference between Weber’s more lax, free-flowing coaching style and that of the uber-intense Frank Martin creates an awkward partnership. These guys have spent as many as three years having one system, one style, one set of rules ingrained into every fiber of their being, and now everything that they’ve been taught about college basketball is changing.
It’s something that every coach has to deal with when he takes over a new job, but not every coach is inheriting a roster of players that actively decided to play basketball for Frank Martin. It’s something that will take time to develop.
Take a look at a guy like Rodney McGruder. He came into Wednesday’s Preseason NIT semifinal game with Delaware averaging 10.5 points and shooting 14.3% from three. The Wildcats won 66-63, but McGruder finished with just eight points on 4-14 shooting from the field. He’s not exactly in a rhythm.
“Rod wants to do so well, he almost thinks to much and worries to much,” Weber said “Relax, come off the screen, hit the shot. Let the game come to you.”
“I asked him today, are you a good player? Than be a good player.”
The biggest issue Kansas State has had is on the offensive end of the floor. We touched on the struggles McGruder, a Big 12 Player of the Year candidate coming into the season, has had early on this year, but he’s not alone. The Wildcats had some ugly offensive sets against the Blue Hens, shooting 30.3% from the floor in the first half and 38.5% for the game, which was inflated when Jamelle Hagins, UD’s shot-blocking presence in the paint, went down with cramps with 15 minutes left in the game.
But that’s by design.
“We told our guys, we can win early if we defend, play hard and rebound,” Weber said. “Offensively, [we’re] trying to figure it out. I think if we get through Friday night, we only have two games in a three-week period. Now we’ll get back to practice and hopefullyget a little more fluid offensively.”
That makes sense. The foundation of any team is on the defensive end of the floor. You start by figuring out how to keep people from scoring and survive on the basics and raw talent of the players on your roster before implementing a more complicated offensive system.
What’s concerning, however, is that Kansas State has had time to practice. They took a trip to Brazil in August and had ten practices preparing for that trip in addition to the preseason workouts coaches were allowed during the summer.
Weber’s reworking the wiring of his team, and while this game against Delaware was, in actuality, just a single game, it’s still concerning that the Wildcats aren’t further along offensively.
The talent and the defensive ability is there for this team to make some noise in the Big 12 and a run in the NCAA tournament. The question is whether it will all come together.
I guess we’ll find out in the next three weeks.