ST. LOUIS – Shane Southwell was back, and news of his resurgence was first found on Twitter.
The night the Kansas State senior forward scored 13 points in a win against Iowa State on March 1 – his highest total in more than a month – Southwell posted, “A major comeback from my minor setback.” It offered more insight into Southwell’s psyche in the midst of a slump than his tweets on, say, rap music or 1990s television.
Before that post, Southwell, at least publicly, talked a lot about making personal sacrifices in favor of the team.
The response to his strong game against Texas suggested he may have taken his February decline, which included two games missed because of a foot injury, more to heart than previously indicated.
He may have gotten the motivation to break out from the very tool he used to let off some steam.
“I heard a lot of things about me, especially (on) Twitter,” said Southwell, a 6-foot-7 wing. “I still hear a lot of bad things about me on Twitter. I just wanted to go back out there and play hard and get back into a flow. I knew I was playing bad pre-injury and post-injury.
“I just wanted to go out there and prove people wrong.”
Southwell has battled the same inconsistency over the last three weeks that has plagued his season and somewhat dampened his career accomplishments, which include playing on four NCAA Tournament teams.
Following those 13 points against Iowa State were a four-point effort in a blowout loss to Oklahoma State, then five in a close loss at Baylor. Southwell scored 19 against Iowa State in the opening round of the Big 12 Tournament but damaged the Wildcats’ chances with a late turnover after trying to attack multiple defenders.
The NCAA Tournament, however, offers Southwell a safe haven of sorts. It’s where one of his first breakouts came, as he delivered his first double-digit scoring game with 10 points as a freshman against Utah State in 2011.
Last year, Southwell scored 17 points on 7-of-10 shooting but the Wildcats failed to advance beyond their opening game against LaSalle.
“I feel, when I look back on my career, I’ve played pretty well in arenas,” Southwell said. “I don’t know if it’s the (better view of) the rim or the space – a lot of space. I would like to be cocky and say that I like to shine in the bright lights, but I don’t know. I just make shots and play well.”
One of his biggest basketball fears is unreliability, and he was slipping into it last month by proving slow to build upon perhaps the best stretch of his career.
Southwell followed four games in which he averaged nearly 16 points with four in which he totaled 16. Then his injury forced him to miss two games, followed by four points at Oklahoma and none against Texas Tech on Feb. 5.
The minutes, though, stayed fairly consistent and shot up when Southwell proved productive – he played 30 and 29 in the last two Iowa State games, his best recent efforts.
He still had the backing of coach Bruce Weber.
“Obviously, one of the last plays of the (Big 12 Tournament) game, he didn’t make, probably, the right decision,” Weber said. “We need him to make shots. He’s a very intelligent young man – he’s going to coach someday, there’s no doubt. He knows things that we don’t even see.”
Another fear Southwell briefly experienced was playing with doubt.
“Even when I went through a slump early this year, I kind of lacked confidence,” Southwell said. “But then I got back at it when I made some shots. You have to go in the gym and get up a lot shots to maintain that confidence. Confidence is key, especially in terms of my game, being a shooter and slashing to the basket.”
Sometimes, Southwell’s confidence – and the maturity with which he leads – is exhibited not by what he posts on Twitter, but by what he doesn’t. He has discovered a better way to respond and the only confrontation he welcomes is the one against his own shortcomings.
“Sometimes you wish you could not represent a whole university and just say what you feel, but it’s OK,” Southwell said. “I (erase) a lot. I do it probably once a day. I write about seven words and then be like, ‘No, you can’t say that, Shane.’ ”