MANHATTAN — Approximately 2,000 people showed up at Bramlage Coliseum on Saturday to catch their first glimpses of Kansas State basketball under new coach Bruce Weber.
They left having seen a little bit of everything.
K-State treated them to a 20-minute scrimmage, which was broken up into four periods with players switching sides in between.
There were highlights, such as clutch three-pointers from Rodney McGruder and Omari Lawrence that won five-minute segments for their respective teams. There were surprises, such as sophomore forward Adrian Diaz and Lawrence leading all scorers with 15 points apiece. And there was D.J. Johnson, playing the part of flashy newcomer, coming off the bench to score 12 points inside.
There was even a 24-second shot clock and an international basketball, which the Wildcats used to prepare for their upcoming trip to Brazil, where they will play five exhibition games against professional teams starting Friday.
“We have given them more freedom, especially with the 24-second clock,” Weber said. “You’ve got to just play. I can’t sit and call plays all the time … Some of the guys, it has not been easy. They stand and watch and wait for us to tell them what to do. We always tell them we are teaching them how to play, not teach them plays.”
In that setting, the afternoon belonged to players K-State fans haven’t seen much of.
Diaz and Lawrence rarely played last season, but they made big impacts Saturday.
“I was just trying to have fun out there,” said Lawrence, a junior guard who made three three-pointers. “I just want to get better, get some minutes and progress for the season. I feel real comfortable. I feel like I can help the team out. I feel that guys trust me so I can knock down open shots, get to the basket and create for my teammates.”
Johnson had never played against college competition with a crowd looking on; he scored eight straight points for his team in the second period.
“That was something new for me,” Johnson said, “but it was a real good feeling.”
Added Weber: “That was about as good as he has played. The one thing he does all the time is he played hard. He has a great motor, he will go every time. He didn’t get as many minutes, but when he was in there he played. He ran the court and got a lot of layups … All our bigs are pretty competitive and D.J. adds to that mix.”
When Weber realized how well that trio was playing, he assigned them to the same team for the final five-minute segment. They responded by leading their squad to a 21-7 blowout over an opposing lineup that featured seniors Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez.
It’s hard to say how much of that will carry over into the Brazil trip. K-State players practiced Friday night and Saturday morning, and were fatigued by the time the scrimmage began. But Weber is hoping to play his entire roster while the Wildcats are away.
Notes — Ryan Schultz, a former Maize forward and Hutchinson transfer, has officially joined K-State as a walk-on. Schultz has practiced with the Wildcats all summer. Weber said he played well enough during that time to earn a spot on the team.… K-State will likely wait and use its last remaining open scholarship next season. When Jeremy Jones decided to transfer, Weber said K-State looked at a few recruits and invited one to campus for a visit. But when he opted to play elsewhere, Weber decided to hold on to the scholarship. He said there is a “90 percent chance” he will save it.… Assistant coach Alvin Brooks III got married on Saturday and was not in attendance. Weber said Brooks and his new wife will use the trip to Brazil as a honeymoon.