Bruce Weber’s main focus is on Kansas State’s basketball game against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Tournament on Wednesday, but he admits his mind wandered a bit when he examined the conference’s all-league selections.
Three K-State players – Wesley Iwundu, Barry Brown and Dean Wade – were honored in voting by the coaches (none received votes in the Associated Press voting). All three are expected back next season.
“We have a good nucleus,” Weber said, “ a good young group.”
The Wildcats started three freshmen and regularly played two seniors this year, making them the Big 12’s youngest team. They flashed moments of brilliance this season by winning 11 nonconference games and beating then-No. 1 Oklahoma, but consistency issues led to a 16-15 record with a 5-13 mark in conference games.
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Next year, with experience on their side, Weber thinks things could be different.
He seems most excited about Iwundu’s future. The junior wing received the highest honors of any K-State player on Sunday when the Big 12 coaches voted him to the all-conference third team and the all-defensive team. He averaged 11.9 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists while often defending the opposing team’s best player, and his peers noticed.
“Wes made huge strides from a year ago,” Weber said. “We talked about it all along, his all-around game. He has made big strides. I appreciate him getting honored for his defensive effort. He has had to guard point guards, best scorers, forwards. We had to put him on a lot of different people. It was good he got recognition for that.”
Brown and Wade both made the league’s all-newcomer team as freshmen. Brown, a guard, led K-State in three-pointers while averaging 9.0 points, 2.7 rebounds and 1.5 assists. Wade, a forward from St. John, averaged 9.8 points and 5.1 rebounds, while leading the team in three-point accuracy by making 43.3 percent of his shots beyond the arc.
Both end the season as regular starters for K-State, and their production is on par with any other freshman in the conference.
“Dean and Barry have played well and in a tough conference, where there aren’t a lot of young guys playing ,” Weber said. “They have held their own on more than one occasion and played very well against those good, top kids, some of the best players in the country. It is a good positive for the future.”
Weber is also proud of freshman guard Kamau Stokes. Though he was left off the all-newcomer team, Weber thinks he would made the squad if not for a knee injury that ended his season in late January. He averaged 9.4 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 21 games.
“His numbers are better than pretty much everybody that made that all-newcomer team,” Weber said.
No K-State players received votes in the media’s all-Big 12 team, released Monday, but those honors are limited to two teams and a choice for newcomer of the year. Perhaps that could be different next season, too.
Weber is eager to find out what happens next season, just not until the Wildcats win a few more games this season.
“We have a good nucleus to build with, but now we have to focus on the Big 12 Tournament,” Weber said, “and have a good finish.”
Ervin, Hurt bounce back – Junior guard Carlbe Ervin and senior forward Stephen Hurt both missed portions of K-State’s loss to Texas Tech on Saturday with minor injuries, but Weber said both should return for Wednesday’s play-in game.
Ervin dealt with muscle spasms against Texas Tech, but Weber said he is back to full speed. Hurt sprained his ankle in the same game, and was limited in practice Monday. But Weber expects him to be ready for Wednesday.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
Big 12 Tournament
Wednesday’s first round
At Kansas City, Mo.
No. 9 Oklahoma St. vs. No. 8 Kansas St., 6 p.m. (ESPNU)
No. 10 TCU vs. No. 7 Texas Tech, 8 (ESPNU)
No. 5 Baylor vs. No. 4 Texas, 11:30 a.m. (ESPN2)
OSU-KSU winner vs. No. 1 Kansas 1:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
TCU-Tech winner vs. No. 2 West Virginia, 6 (ESPNU)
No. 6 Iowa St. vs. No. 3 Oklahoma, 8 (ESPNU)
First two quarterfinal winners, 6 p.m. (ESPN2)
Second two quarterfinals winners, 8:30 (ESPN2)
Semifinal winners, 5 p.m. (ESPN)