MANHATTAN — Before each home game, Martavious Irving exits the Kansas State locker room and starts dancing.
With a video feed transmitting his every shimmy and shake to the Bramlage Coliseum scoreboard, the freshman guard shows off moves that belong in a music video.
His teammates join in on the fun, too, but Irving always takes the lead.
"It has become a ritual," Irving said.
Premium content for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
To most K-State fans, that ritual is what he is best known for. It began before a game against Xavier when he felt the Wildcats weren't excited to play.
He remembers sophomore Jamar Samuels challenging his teammates to loosen up and asking them to show energy outside the locker room. For reasons he can't explain, Irving's reaction was to boogie.
"I'm not a dancer," Irving said. "I just do it for the sake of the team. Whatever gets our team excited to play basketball, I'm going to do. If I have to tell a joke or dance to make them laugh, then I'm all for it."
His teammates welcome that approach.
Before long, freshman Jordan Henriquez-Roberts was tapping a beat on the wall and laughter filled the hallway. K-State was suddenly relaxed and stomped Xavier 71-56.
Irving himself went on to have his best night of the season. The Fort Lauderdale, Fla., native played a season-high 19 minutes and scored a season-high eight points.
Irving's contributions to the team have since increased beyond his locker room antics. Irving has played in 10 straight games and averaged more than 11 minutes of action along the way.
Lately he's having more fun than ever and giving the K-State fan base another reason to recognize him: helping on a nightly basis.
"He's a guy we can depend on in almost any situation," teammate Jacob Pullen said.
Irving's scoring totals haven't been spectacular, but he has come through when K-State coach Frank Martin has gone with him in the clutch. Late in a tight game against Nebraska, Irving sank four straight free throws.
Martin knew he would succeed because Irving has a knack for always playing within himself. Still, the free throws were a bonus. The main reason Martin regularly calls on Irving — and says he will likely go to him more in the postseason — is his defense.
"That's my role right now," Irving said. "I'm all about playing defense. I try to be aggressive on offense too, playing defense is my strength. That's what I do to help my team."
Irving's defense has indeed been above average. Like top defenders Dominique Sutton and Pullen, he welcomes the chance to do nothing but guard a specific defender. At times, he has gotten his wish and been matched up against the opposing team's leading scorer.
Much like on the dance floor, he always finds a way to hold his own.
"He plays with that toughness and that motor that most freshmen don't have," Martin said. "Of all the guys off the bench, he does the best job guarding the basketball."