Frank Martin’s on-court demeanor is demanding, loud and rarely includes smiling.
This season though, you might catch a few grins. It happens when your guys start 10-1, slip into the coaches’ rankings and win a tournament in impressive fashion. Not bad for a team that lost its two best players from last year’s team.
“I’m having the time of my life coaching these kids,” Martin told the Kansas City Star.
The tough defense provides most of that enjoyment. Per usual, the Wildcats don’t allow any easy looks and do their fair share of swatting shots. They still foul a lot, but that goes with the territory. At least they’ve started to cut down on it somewhat.
But defense doesn’t explain it all. The offense is actually starting to click too. That’s the key behind recent impressive wins against Alabama and Long Beach State. The ‘Cats hit their 2s (49.7 percent), crash the offensive glass (they grab 42 percent of their misses and are killing teams at the free-throw line. They’re not a highly efficient team (Rodney McGruber, Jamar Samuels and Thomas Gipson are score less than a point per possession) but that changed during the Diamond Head tournament.
For once, there was crisp passing and movement without the ball. Samuels says that’s typical in practice. At some point, it’ll have to be the same in games.
“Sometimes we move the ball so fast in practice that the coaches get excited and they all get amped up and it shows what kind of team we have.”
For much of the early season, people doubted their ability to score. But that no longer seems to be an issue.
“We’re proving doubters wrong,” Samuels said. “They say we’re not an offensive team. Well, we were playing a very good defensive team tonight, and we put on a clinic.”
We’ll see how long the smiles last, though. K-State has one more warm-up (Howard) before it plays at Kansas then hosts Missouri and Baylor in the span of a week.
The ‘Cats get through that run with two wins, that smile might never leave Martin’s face. And that would be something to see.
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