Isaiah Maurice thought he was making progress in the weight room, then he played his first basketball game against Big 12 competition.
Suddenly, bulking up to 225 pounds wasn’t good enough. The 6-foot-10 Kansas State forward felt undersized compared to seemingly every other big man he went up against.
“Last season I was playing at around 225, which wasn’t a good weight, especially for a big guy in the Big 12,” Maurice said. “Everyone is huge out there.”
The disparity still leaves him shaking his head.
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“I didn’t know it was going to be the way it was,” Maurice said. “Sitting down watching you don’t get the actual feel. You see a guy miss a layup and you’re like, ‘Oh, I would have made that. I would have dunked that.’ Then you get out there and everything is happening so fast. That was hard ... It was a learning experience I had to go through.”
K-State’s basketball season ended in late March, and Maurice has spent most of his time since then lifting weights. Few days have gone by without him making at least one trip into the Wildcats’ basketball weight room.
His hard work is already showing. Maurice has added 10 pounds of muscle, adding noticeable definition in his arms. Not bad for a guy who weighed 207 pounds when he enrolled two years ago.
“I am trying to get to 240 and play at that weight,” Maurice said. “I just want to increase my muscle and keep getting bigger and hopefully be one of the dominant guys in the (Big 12).”
He will soon try to put his larger frame to good use while playing a series of exhibition games against foreign competition in Poland and the Czech Republic while touring those countries with Athletes in Action, a team comprised of other college players including Wichita State’s Zach Brown and Baylor teammates Tyson Jolly and Wendell Mitchell.
The trip begins Tuesday and ends June 5. Athletes in Action will play five games before returning home.
Several K-State players have made similar trips in the past, including Jacob Pullen, Will Spradling, Jamar Samuels and Justin Edwards. It appealed to Maurice after he finished his first season on an upward swing. Though he only averaged three points and two rebounds as a redshirt freshman, he became a solid contributor during his final seven games, scoring 11 points against Oklahoma and logging 20 minutes against West Virginia.
“The game really started to slow down for me near the end of the season,” Maurice said. “I learned to play harder and that everything will come to me. It’s definitely a confidence builder. I am trying to expand my game beyond screening and rolling, just playing smarter, more physical and with confidence, because I have put in the work. I hope it carries over into next season. (Europe) is a great opportunity, something you can’t take for granted. I just want to make the most of it.”
The Wildcats could use a more seasoned player when he returns. With the departure of D.J. Johnson, K-State’s lone post presence last season, the opportunity for increased playing time exists.
Maurice figures to be among the favorites to absorb Johnson’s minutes next season, and he knows it. That’s what he uses for motivation every time he steps in the weight room.
“My goal is to start and be a key factor for the team,” Maurice said. “I feel like if I continue to just put in the work, keep working, working, working everyday and just going hard building my body, taking care of my body, I don’t see a reason why I can’t have a big role next year.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett