MANHATTAN — Practice was over, but it wasn't yet time for Jamar Samuels to go home.
After sitting out both of Kansas State's exhibition games with a minor eye injury, the junior forward thought his mid-range game needed some work. So he stayed late at Bramlage Coliseum this week, and put shots up until he was too tired to continue.
The extra effort showed. Samuels was worn out and covered in sweat. It was the best he'd felt in weeks.
"I'm ready to get this going," Samuels said. "Man, am I ready."
It's hard to imagine anyone on the Wildcats' roster being more excited for the start of the season, which tips off at 8 p.m. tonight at Bramlage Coliseum against James Madison. The last time he was on the court with K-State was during its loss to Butler in the Elite Eight, a game in which he scored zero points.
It was a sub-par effort that came at the end of a disappointing string of play in the NCAA Tournament. In four postseason games, he scored a total of 17 points. He wants to move on from that memory and build off a sophomore season that saw him win Big 12 Sixth Man of the Year honors while averaging 11 points and 4.9 rebounds per game.
Both he and K-State coach Frank Martin say consistency is the key. Samuels was unstoppable at times last year — he scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a win over Oklahoma State — but disappeared at others. This season, he wants to take a step forward and become an everyday contributor.
"That's what it's all about," Samuels said. "Not just in practice, but overall, person-wise, it's all about being consistent. I want to be the same Jamar every day; the Jamar that wakes up in the morning and goes to class and comes to practice ready to work hard."
Martin welcomes the approach.
"I don't want to see that guy that is great every fifth game," Martin said. "We need him to be more consistent with what he does day in, day out. That's his challenge. He's a very talented young man. I know he wants to do well, and I know he approaches it the right way as a player."
But it hasn't been easy lately.
Martin says Samuels hasn't practiced well since injuring his eye. While he is pleased with Samuels' work ethic, Martin says he plays paranoid and is afraid of further harming himself.
So Samuels has watched two exhibition games in street clothes. The experience has been tough on him. He says fans have criticized him during his absence.
"Everybody thinks I don't like this school or whatever," Samuels said. "That's the rumor going around Manhattan right now. But I'm safe here. I love Manhattan. I'm not going anywhere."
There is hope that Samuels will get to show off his game in front of the home fans tonight. Martin plans to let Samuels dress, but whether he sees action is still undecided.
"Hopefully I get to play," Samuels said. "It's not in my hands, though. It's coach's decision."
Should he stay on the bench, Samuels says he will cheer on his teammates like he has throughout the preseason.
That's one way to stay consistent.
But he'd rather prove himself on the court.
"That would make me extremely happy," Samuels said. "I want to put the ball in the basket just like everybody else on the team. I want to defend, block shots and help this team remain in the top five."