With point guard Angel Rodriguez deciding to transfer after posting averages of 11.4 points and 5.2 assists per game last season, Kansas State head coach Bruce Weber needed an answer at the point as his Wildcats look to at the very least duplicate their accomplishment of winning a share of the Big 12 regular season title. One played expected to be in the mix at the point is freshman Jevon Thomas, who joined the program back in January but did not take the floor.
And it seems as if Thomas will have to wait a little longer to make his Wildcat debut, as it was reported by Jeff Goodman of ESPN.com that the 6-foot Queens, N.Y. native will not be eligible to play in games until the Wildcats face Gonzaga on December 21. Thomas averaged 15 points and seven assists per game at St. John’s Northwest Military Academy last season, earning Most Outstanding Player honors at the National Prep School Invitational in Providence, R.I.
“He is the type of player with really good quickness and the ability to push the ball and create for others,” Weber said of Thomas when the signing was officially announced. “He also gives us some quality depth at the guard position. We believe he has the ability to become a lockdown defender as he develops as a basketball player.”
With Thomas out of the fold for the time being the expectation is that senior guard Will Spradling will assume the point guard responsibilities during the early portion of the Wildcats’ schedule. Spradling averaged 7.4 points and 2.4 assists per game last season, and he’s been a dependable option on the perimeter for both Weber and (prior to him) Frank Martin.
Not only is Wyoming senior guard Josh Adams the lone returning starter from a team that won the Mountain West tournament last season, but he’s also one of college basketball’s best dunkers. And if anyone may have forgotten about his jumping ability, Adams put it on display Saturday during the Cowboys’ win over Montana State.
After splitting two Montana State players at the top of the key Adams attacked the basket, dunking with two hands over a late-arriving help-side defender. If you’re going to rotate over, have to do it quicker than that.
Video credit: Wyoming Athletics
Even with the coaching change from Fred Hoiberg to Steve Prohm, No. 4 Iowa State remains one of the nation’s best offensive teams. Given their skills on that end of the floor many teams find it tough to go score for score with the Cyclones, and that’s what happened to Illinois in Iowa State’s 84-73 win in the Emerald Coast Classic title game.
Georges Niang scored 23 points and grabbed eight rebounds, with Monté Morris adding 20, nine rebounds and six assists and Abdel Nader 18 points as the Cyclones moved to 5-0 on the season. The three-pointers weren’t falling in the second half, as Iowa State shot 0-f0r-12, but they shot 19-for-24 inside of the arc to pull away from a team that lost big man Mike Thorne Jr. late in the first half to a left knee injury.
Illinois’ loss of size in the paint opened things up offensively for Iowa State, and the Cyclones took advantage. But where this group grabbed control of the game was on the defensive end of the floor, and that will be the key for a team with Big 12 and national title aspirations.
Nader took on the responsibility of defending Illinois’ Malcolm Hill (20 points) in the second half and did a solid job of keeping the junior wing in check, with that serving as the spark to a 12-2 run that put the game away. There’s no denying that the Cyclones can put points on the board; most of the talent from last season is back and the productivity on that end of the floor hasn’t changed as a result. Niang’s one of the nation’s best forwards, and both Morris (who now ranks among the country’s best point guards) and Nader have taken significant strides in their respective games.
Iowa State will add Deonte Burton in December, giving them another option to call upon. Front court depth is a bit of a concern, as Iowa State can ill afford to lose a Niang or Jameel McKay, but there’s enough on the roster to compensate for that and force mismatches in other areas.
But the biggest question for this group is how effective they can become at stringing together stops. Illinois certainly had its moments in both halves Saturday night, but Iowa State also showed during the game’s decisive stretch that they can step up defensively. The key now is to do so consistently, and if that occurs the Cyclones can be a threat both within the Big 12 and nationally.