Kansas State University

Martin keeps K-State's focus on constantly improving

MANHATTAN — Kansas State has played two basketball games at Bramlage Coliseum, and Frank Martin has focused on improvements after each.

So what if his team beat Loyola-Chicago and Western Illinois by more than 30 points? Early in the season, especially against outmanned mid-major opponents, the Wildcat coach is more concerned with the process than the result.

So he called his guards selfish, his post players soft and his newcomers lost.

The Wildcats earned compliments from their coach by defeating Boston University and Dayton and finishing third in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off, but were right back where they started following a 70-57 victory over IUPUI on Saturday at Kansas City's Sprint Center.

"The new guys," Martin said, "they want to do what they think they have to do and not what they're being asked to do."

Even junior big man Curtis Kelly, who scored 11 points and snared 11 rebounds in 33 minutes against IUPUI, was up for criticism.

"His numbers are individual talent numbers," Martin said. "They're not numbers that are conducive to what we're trying to do as a team. We as coaches need to make him come to us, which right now he's not doing."

Martin said both he and his coaching staff face that challenge with the majority of K-State's roster — especially the freshmen — entering tonight's game against Division II Fort Hays State.

In order to hold off IUPUI, the Wildcats played Sutton, Kelly, Pullen and Clemente — all upperclassmen starters — more than 33 minutes. Reserve senior Chris Merriewether came off the bench and played a season-high 18 minutes.

By comparison, freshman center Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, who took the fifth starting spot, saw six minutes and Wally Judge led all freshmen Wildcats with 15 minutes.

"All our young guys approached this week like they'd lost their puppy dogs," Martin said. "It was painful to run practice the last three days."

Martin said some of the blame for that less than enthusiastic approach fell on him, and vowed to do a better job motivating and coaching them this week.

But he also hopes they learn from the example set by Pullen, Clemente and Sutton. He has consistently praised Pullen and Clemente, but was down on Sutton during those first two games at Bramlage Coliseum. Against Western Illinois, Sutton played seven minutes.

Against IUPUI, though, Martin at one point reached his hand onto the court to give Sutton five for making a tough layup on his way to 14 points.

Martin said he doesn't normally show that kind of enthusiasm toward his players, but "I do when they make plays and I do when they don't mope around and whine. When guys go out and compete, that's what I'm about."

Sounds like a blueprint into Martin's good graces.

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