MANHATTAN — Before he was asked to share his emotions about a disappointing loss to UNLV and the news that his top two basketball players had been suspended for receiving impermissible benefits Tuesday night, Kansas State coach Frank Martin made it clear he was angry.
His screams rattled through the walls of the Wildcats' locker room at the Sprint Center and could be heard from more than 10 feet away in an adjacent hallway. Then he addressed the media, and spouted off a handful of rants enticing enough to be shown on SportsCenter most of the day Wednesday.
By now, that rage has likely subsided, and the shock factor of playing without seniors Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly is nearly gone. But his message remains unchanged heading into tonight's game against UMKC at Bramlage Colisuem.
"We're not about losing, man," Martin said Tuesday night. "We're not about playing hard and coming up with moral victories. That's not what we built our program about. We lost, so it wasn't good enough."
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That means K-State's standards will remain high today. Regardless of who is available to play, the Wildcats will expect to win.
Their preparation will be helped today knowing well in advance that both Pullen, a preseason All-American and Big 12 Player of the Year selection, and Kelly, a preseason All-Big 12 pick, won't be in uniform.
That wasn't the case against the Rebels, when K-State officials announced one hour before tipoff that the Wildcats' two seniors had been declared ineligible by the school for receiving impermissible benefits on the purchase of clothing at the Dillards department store in Manhattan, which is a secondary violation of NCAA rules.
Pullen will miss the next two games as a result of a ruling by the NCAA Student-Athlete Reinstatement staff. The compliance staff is continuing to work with the NCAA regarding Kelly's status.
Two sources said that a sales clerk who knew Pullen and Kelly allowed them to take more clothing from the store than they paid for. When the store manager discovered the transaction, K-State officials were contacted.
Because the clothing Pullen and Kelly took from the store exceeded the value of the merchandise paid for, the difference in value is the impermissible benefit.
When reached by phone Wednesday, Riley County Police sergeant Tim Schuck said he had yet to receive a criminal complaint in the matter.
K-State officials have refused to comment further on the suspensions, and said they have no timetable for when more information will be made public.
In the meantime, the Wildcats' eligible players are focusing on improving.
"We can't go backward," junior forward Jamar Samuels said.
"We've still got to play basketball," Irving added. "We've still got to go out onto that court and play."
On Tuesday, K-State led UNLV at halftime. But it committed 23 turnovers, dished out just six assists and couldn't make a game-changing play without Pullen and Kelly there to help.
Before they return, Martin hopes the Wildcats find an identity.
"Until we find some character and leadership," Martin said, "we're going to continue to flounder around."
Samuels said he will try his best provide for his teammates in those areas. In order for K-State to move on without Pullen and Kelly, they will need to do the same in return.
"I feel as though everybody on the team can be a leader in different types of areas," Samuels said. "It's a team effort, but we'll try with that leadership thingy Frank is talking about."