MANHATTAN — Will Spradling is talking about consistency. It seems as if he always is.
If there is one thing the junior shooting guard has been known for since coming to Kansas State it has been his sporadic play. At his best, Spradling has made contested three-pointers and led his team in scoring. At his worst, Spradling has missed open shots and become a non-factor.
Such was the case last week, when his inconsistencies were more evident than ever. During a loss at Iowa State, he came off screens to drain four three-pointers and score a team-high 15 points. Four days earlier, he missed every shot he took against Kansas.
Spradling is ready for that to stop.
As he walks off the court at Kansas State’s practice facility, he says he is close to finding the consistency he has been searching for. He has changed his practice routine, has worked with K-State coach Bruce Weber to tweak his release and has pushed himself to start contributing every single game.
“It has my shot feeling great right now,” Spradling said. “It’s back in rhythm. I’ve taken it back to the basics.”
The basics include a one-handed shooting drill in which he makes 50 three-pointers before the start of practice, an emphasis on getting his feet set and a new mental approach. From now on, he vows to stay confident whether he is making shots or not.
Will that be enough? Spradling has battled shooting slumps throughout his time at K-State, going as many as seven straight games without scoring more than eight points last season.
Spradling thinks things are different now.
“I feel like last year I was in a way worse shooting slump,” Spradling said. “There were series of games I wouldn’t shoot well. This year I will miss one game and then shoot well two games.… I have shot it well and played well. I feel like I am getting better.”
So does his father, Shannon, who coached his son’s AAU team and attends the majority of K-State’s games.
“I know he has had inconsistencies this year, but I’m hoping he is through that,” Spradling’s father said. “He put too much pressure on himself against KU, and when things didn’t go well he shut down. After the KU game it seemed like he was more in tune mentally. He knew what he needed to do, and that’s what he did against Iowa State. Hopefully he can use that as a turning point.”
The difference was obvious. He opened the game with an aggressive layup and converted a four-point play in the second half. When he plays that way, the Wildcats benefit.
Their best performance came during a victory over No. 4 Florida at the Sprint Center in which Spradling had 17 points. He was also key in a win over Oklahoma by scoring 15 points.
“When he is hot like that I literally feel like every time he is open and I give the ball to him it is going in,” sophomore guard Angel Rodriguez said. “I feel like it opens up the floor. It makes things easy.”
Imagine if that happened regularly.
“It would mean a lot,” Spradling said. “It would help the team every game.”
Weber believes the long-term solution won’t come until the season is over and Spradling can hit the weight room. Weber thinks the most important part of shooting is footwork and leg strength. When Spradling hasn’t used either correctly, the results have been obvious. He could use a stronger base.
“You have to get 10 toes on the ground. You have to get them pointed at the hoop. You have to get your legs into your shot,” Weber said. “If you don’t do that you aren’t going to be a good shooter.”
Still, Weber has confidence in Spradling now.
Following his dreadful showing against Kansas, which Spradling describes as “rock bottom,” Weber sent him a text to let him know that, with a little work, he would be back to helping the Wildcats from the perimeter.
“He’s a good player,” Weber said. “He knows how to play.”
Shannon Spradling thinks Weber’s confidence, as much as anything else, sparked his son’s strong game at Iowa State. Former coach Frank Martin preferred the tough-love approach, and Will Spradling didn’t respond to it.
“Last season when he hit that shooting slump it didn’t have to do with work ethic, it had to do with things that were being said to him,” Shannon Spradling said. “Emotionally it just wore on Will to the point where Frank destroyed his confidence. He appreciates the support he’s getting now.”
He would appreciate consistency even more.
“I’ve just got to keep shooting,” Will Spradling said. “Every shooter is going to miss some. I have to shoot through it.”