MANHATTAN — When you miss nine of your team's first 11 games, the prospect of playing against Arkansas-Pine Bluff might suddenly sound appealing.
That's why Luis Colon is excited to take the court tonight at Bramlage Coliseum while most of his Kansas State teammates say their motivation versus the winless Golden Lions is to simply avoid a letdown.
"I've been working very hard," said Colon, a senior forward. "I'm ready to do whatever I can to help the team win."
He's been ready for a while. But a broken hand kept him out of many preseason practices and the Wildcats' first two games. Then, just when it looked like he was going to see playing time again, he missed the next seven games for an undisclosed, off-court issue.
Colon was arrested during that stretch for failing to appear in court following an unpaid speeding ticket, but coach Frank Martin said that incident was unrelated to his time away from the court.
Colon's reaction to the ordeal?
"It's not fun for a player to be sitting on the bench, watching his team play," he said. "It was tough, but everything happens for a reason. Even though I wasn't playing I was screaming on the bench, helping the freshmen and being a good player in practice. I'm trying to do the same thing when I step onto the court."
Colon has played in each of K-State's past two games, but has seen only limited action. He has scored one point and grabbed six rebounds.
Still, junior guard Jacob Pullen said he's noticed a difference with Colon on the court.
"It's always good to have someone out there who's a wrecker," Pullen said. "He does the little things that won't show up on any stat shot or ESPN won't highlight, but he does the little things that help us win games. We appreciate him for that."
Martin, though, said Colon has looked rusty.
"Luis is just nervous right now," Martin said "It's like our other guys who just started playing this year. He's kinda stuck behind everybody."
That could change tonight against an overmatched midmajor opponent, though.
Martin will likely have the chance to experiment with different lineups and let Colon stay on the court for a number of pressure-free minutes. If that happens, Colon will cherish the moment.
With one good game, he believes he can be back to old his old self. A year ago, he averaged 4.4 points and 4.7 rebounds
"Right now, I need to get in better game shape," Colon said. "Everything else, I feel pretty comfortable with. I'm able to play and rebound. I just need to get that confidence back and play more minutes."
Martin agrees. He thinks Colon's size — 6-foot-10, 265 pounds — benefits K-State's inside game, and likes that he rarely makes mistakes.
Often times, he says those are his favorite traits in a basketball player.
For that reason, he's been pushing Colon all season and publicly said how much he missed him in the lineup. Martin looks forward to the day Colon returns to full speed. Even if it doesn't happen tonight, Martin thinks it will happen soon.
"Luis is going to come around," Martin said. "He's a senior, he's been through this. He understands."