MANHATTAN — Throughout his time at Kansas State, Thomas Gipson has been known more for his size than his skill.
K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber thinks it’s time for that to change.
“Overall, he might be our best player,” Weber said of Gipson on Monday.
The words flowed off his tongue. It’s hard for anyone to disagree at the moment. Though Gipson’s name has never been mentioned in such company before, it now makes sense. The junior forward lost weight during the offseason – he is down to 262 pounds from nearly 300 – boosted his stamina and is now consistently producing at a high level.
Gipson has averaged 17 points and seven rebounds in his past four games, and the Wildcats have benefited with a three-game winning streak. He looked dominant in K-State’s last game against Mississippi, calling for the ball on the baseline and muscling his way past defenders for 15 points in an important victory.
“I’m not the only guy on the court,” Gipson said following the Ole Miss victory. “There are five of us. I made some big plays down the stretch that will help us. But so did everybody else. We all just put it together.”
Still, he was at his best. So was K-State.
Perhaps even more telling: How badly K-State struggled without Gipson in the starting lineup. Gipson missed the first two games with concussion-like symptoms and saw limited action in his first two appearances. K-State lost to Northern Colorado and Charlotte during that span and is still trying to make up for those setbacks. But it is showing progress with Gipson in the post.
“It takes a while to get your game,” Weber said. “You don’t just walk into a game, especially after missing practice, and get that rhythm back. I think overall he has taken his game to another level. This is what we expected.”
Gipson will try to keep his string of quality games going at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Bramlage Coliseum when K-State takes on South Dakota.
The Coyotes don’t figure to pose much of a threat, but K-State can’t afford to take any team lightly. Gipson, who challenged teammates during early losses and is now leading them to victories, will be the first to remind them of that.
“He has worked on his game,” Weber said. “We really talked about last year when he faced big guys he couldn’t be a power player, they just stood there and walled him out. Now he has worked on that stage of his game. He has that face-up (shot), he made a nice one against Mississippi. We hope that continues.
“He has been focused. He is one of our best leaders. That is something we missed early. The guys respect him. That’s something we can use, not only his production on the court but also his leadership.”