MANHATTAN — The K-State basketball team will kick off its 2017-18 season Friday night with a home matchup against American. It will mark the first official test for the Wildcats following three exhibition victories over Missouri State (78-62), Fort Hays State (79-56), and Emporia State (77-44). K-State head coach Bruce Weber gave some of his expectations for his team heading into the regular season opener.
“I feel good about our guys. We have a good group. They busted their butts from the spring until now. They’re coachable. They want to do well and they get along together. We’re not perfect. I think they’re sick of practicing. I feel like we have a chance to be pretty good. We’ve got to stay away from injuries and keep making progress. Some keys this season, besides (improved) rebounding, are development of our big guys and development of our bench. That comes with experience,” Weber said.
One of the things that K-State will try to eliminate in this first matchup is turnovers, particularly from its junior guards Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes. Through three exhibition games, Brown turned the ball over 10 times, while Stokes turned the ball over five times through two exhibition games.
“Their thing was probably trying to force it a little bit. (Brown), in the game without (Stokes, against Fort Hays State), had the ball in his hands a lot. He was maybe trying to make too many big plays (in that game). They just need to make the simple plays. (Against Emporia State), we had 20 assists and 14 turnovers. That was much better. We need to keep making improvements. 20 assists a game would be a nice number to get. We need to make shots to get assists,” Weber said.
Weber talked about some of the things that American, who went 8-22 last season, can do to catch K-State off guard.
“You’re always fearful when you play a team that runs a Princeton (offensive) system. You don’t practice against that. We’ve been doing drills (in practice). We’ve gone a little more extensive with it (the past couple of days) and we’ve used the scout squad. We want to be aggressive and push them, but if we get too aggressive and they get you on a bunch of back doors, that makes it tough on our defense. We’ll start out aggressive and play it as we go,” Weber said.
Brown evaluated his team’s performance through the three exhibition games.
“(I feel) solid. We’ve got some things we have to work on, as far as defensive principles. We have a lot of new guys. We’ve shown some flashes, but ultimately I know we have a long way to go,” Brown said.
Brown talked about the progress that he and his team have made to fix some turnover problems.
“(We’ve progressed) a little bit. I feel like we turn the ball over a little too much, especially myself. Being a junior now, I feel like I have to take care of the ball. That’ll help show the guys what they need to be doing in certain situations,” Brown said.
K-State signed Shaun Williams, a 2018 recruit out of St. Louis, Wednesday on the first day of the Fall National Signing Period. Weber talked about Williams.
“On paper, we don’t have an (available) scholarship. (Williams) was just too good to pass up. Obviously with (sophomore guard) Xavier (Sneed, who went to high school with Williams) and his relationship with him, it was great to get him. I’ve watched him since eighth grade coming up. He took a big step after (Sneed) left. He was the guy who had to be a playmaker. This summer, I thought the Bradley Beal Elite (which Williams was a part of) was one of the best teams in the country. I think (Williams) was a big key defensively (on that team). He gets after it and he has a good toughness. We’re excited about him,” Weber said.
Sneed talked about Williams.
“He’s a great point guard. He’s very poised and he’s very tough. He’ll be a great addition next year. I played with him for two years and I knew him growing up. He’s a great guy and I’m glad he’s coming here,” Sneed said.
K-State and American will tip off at 8 p.m. Friday at Bramlage Coliseum in Manhattan.