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Newcomers finding their way into K-State basketball mix

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Tuesday, June 17, 2014, at 1:34 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, June 18, 2014, at 11:14 a.m.

— Consider Bruce Weber thankful that college basketball is still five months away.

After working with a new crop of players – freshmen Tre Harris and Malek Harris and junior-college transfer Stephen Hurt – during summer workouts, the Kansas State coach says practices feel like daily battles. At this moment, choosing a rotation, let alone a starting lineup, would be a challenge.

“The biggest thing when you talk about the workouts is we have a lot of competition,” Weber said Tuesday on the Big 12’s summer conference call with reporters. “Last year, we pretty much knew who was going to play. This year, I’m not sure. I think we are going to have great depth. I am going to have to do a good job and our staff is going to have to do a great job of using a lot of players.”

K-State’s new faces, plus Justin Edwards and Brandon Bolden, a pair of Division I transfers who are eligible to play next season after sitting out a year, are making practices more competitive.

Edwards, an athletic guard who led Maine in scoring as a sophomore, gives the Wildcats new options on the perimeter. Bolden, a 7-foot Georgetown transfer, provides much-needed frontcourt depth, as well as defense at the rim.

“They are not new faces, but now they are being held a little bit more accountable, because it is their turn now,” They have to step up to the plate and get something done.”

Bolden has already embraced extra responsibilities. With Thomas Gipson, D.J. Johnson and Nino Williams all recovering from injuries, Bolden was K-State’s only healthy big man during spring practices. His workload will remain heavy until Johnson and Gipson are healthy enough to return to practice in August.

So far, Weber thinks Bolden has responded well. But he encountered a new challenge when Hurt, a touted juco transfer, arrived this month.

“Brandon got all the attention in the spring,” Weber said. “Now it is him and Stephen Hurt and Nino is coming back. We have a little bit of competitiveness. ... Brandon, he gets a lot of reps and a lot of attention. He has gone a lot harder, because of the competition. He has no choice. Stephen Hurt has a big ’ol body and he is long. He gets a body on you and you are in trouble. Nino plays hard all the time. That competition pushing each other definitely helps.”

No matter who earns starting spots inside, the Wildcats will have more options next season. Instead of surrounding Gipson with four guards, the way they did last year, they will be able to use a big lineup. Gipson may even be able to play power forward instead of center.

On the perimeter, minutes will also be shared. Marcus Foster returns as the team’s leading scorer, but Edwards, Tre Harris and Malek Harris will ease his responsibilities. Weber described Tre Harris as “a nice surprise for us. He really changed his body and can really shoot the ball from long range.”

Edwards, best known as a slasher and dunker, is also showing signs that he can knock down shots.

“He can shoot the three-ball really well, which is good and probably our biggest surprise,” Weber said. “He made a few threes at Maine, but that wasn’t his game. It was more getting to the hoop and dunking on people, getting out in transition. But he has really worked on his shooting this offseason.”

Finding they perfect spot for Edwards in a rotation that already includes Jevon Thomas, Nigel Johnson, Wesley Iwundu and Foster won’t be easy. Still, Weber thinks it is a good problem to have. And a problem he doesn’t have to solve for a few more months.

“You have got to play everyday,” Weber said. “If you don’t, somebody else is going to out-compete you.”

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

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