Will Spradling has only worked out with new Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber a handful of times, but he says he can already tell he will like playing for him next season.
“He tries to keep it all positive,” said Spradling, a sophomore guard. “He will compliment you on things you are doing right, but he’s not afraid to tell you what you are doing wrong. He really tries to help you.
“I really like it. I feel like there is a big difference and I feel like it is for the better.”
Former coach Frank Martin, who left for South Carolina two weeks ago, was a demanding coach known for his abrasive approach. Weber is an optimist. He doesn’t curse. He doesn’t scream. And he participates in every part of practice, even one-on-one competitions and challenging drills, with a smile on his face.
Weber isn’t sure if he will be able to maintain such a happy-go-lucky attitude during every practice at K-State. But that’s his goal.
“If you do what you are supposed to do then you can be positive. That’s what you want,” Weber said. “If we have to yell all the time then it gets tough. Right now, our goal is to get a trust level, get a respect level and develop some kind of relationship (with the players).”
Weber is currently working toward that mission with a limited staff. Former Southern Illinois coach Chris Lowery is on campus, helping as an assistant, but Weber doesn’t expect the rest of his coaching staff to be hired until the end of the week at the earliest. Former Illinois strength and conditioning coach Jimmy Price is expected to begin working at K-State on Monday.
Weber said he has been in contact with his former Illinois assistants Jerrence Howard and Jay Price about joining him in Manhattan, but wasn’t sure if they would do so. Another possibility is North Texas assistant coach Shawn Forrest. He was in Manhattan on Wednesday observing practice, and would bring Texas recruiting ties that Weber has listed as a priority.
Weber said he expects to have one scholarship to use this offseason, and would like to bring in a “transfer or two” with a veteran team returning. He will focus more on high school prospects in upcoming recruiting classes.
But that can wait. Weber is happy to be coaching K-State players, even on a limited basis during the offseason, in whatever capacity he can.
“The best thing has been the kids,” Weber said. “They are very perceptive, they want to do well. I think they have a culture of playing hard We are trying to take their games to another level, that’s the big thing.”
His main teaching point at the moment: The motion offense he plans to run.
“We’ve got to make some shots,” Weber said. “I’m not sure that is a surprise.”
Players say Weber has taken them out of their comfort zones in recent practices. He has asked his forwards and centers to stop going for layups after rebounds and try to finish strong with dunks. He is working with guards to get them used to shooting off screens and scoring in multiple ways. Everyone is trying to develop as ball-handlers.
If any K-State players were skeptical about the coaching change, they don’t seem to be anymore.
“I truly do believe that everyone is going to stick around. I think everyone is happy,” said junior forward Jordan Henriquez. “Everyone is on the same page.”
Four players missed Wednesday’s workout with Weber. Rodney McGruder is walking on crutches while he recovers from surgery on his foot. Angel Rodriguez and Nino Williams are recovering from minor medical procedures related to tendinitis and ligament damage, respectively. And Thomas Gipson was on his way to Texas to attend a funeral and be with his family.