MANHATTAN — An already disappointing basketball season got worse for Kansas State on Monday.
Wally Judge, a sophomore forward and former McDonald's All-American, quit the program. The second player departure in 2 1/2 weeks leaves the Wildcats without their most highly-touted big man who opened the season in the starting lineup.
"He's not happy," K-State coach Frank Martin said in a regularly scheduled news conference. "I kinda saw it coming because of some of his emotional situations. He just has not been enjoying it. He told me today that he thinks it is time for a change."
Judge, who averaged 5.5 points and 3.8 rebounds, can transfer to another school but must sit out a season.
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He played in 17 of K-State's 22 games, starting 11. He missed three games earlier in the season for what Martin described as a personal issue then missed two more, recently, for reasons Martin would not elaborate on although Judge did suit up for both games.
Those numbers, and his departure, will be viewed as a disappointment by a fan base that was already searching for answers. K-State (14-8, 2-5 Big 12) was No. 3 in the preseason rankings and Judge, from Washington, D.C., was a big reason why.
As a freshman, he contributed little (3.3 points, 3 rebounds). But he played well in three games against Kansas and provided a spark in the NCAA Tournament. Following neck surgery in the offseason, expectations were for a breakthrough season.
But it never happened. He opened the year in the starting lineup next to Freddy Asprilla, who also left the program two weeks ago. Now the Wildcats are unranked and appear in need of a late charge to keep any NCAA Tournament hopes alive.
Martin said he wishes Judge "nothing but the best," and would be open to him returning to the team should he change his mind. Attempts to reach Judge were unsuccessful, but a return seems unlikely.
"He's not happy," Martin said. "Why do something if you're not enjoying it? It is what it is. He's been here for a little over a year and a half. If he's not enjoying the moment and it's been a struggle all year.... He obviously hasn't been happy and he made a decision."
News of Judge's departure caught some players off guard.
"I was surprised," senior forward Curtis Kelly said. "It's a tough loss. We've just got to stay committed. It's been tough lately. A lot of things that have been going on have been real tough. But the guys that are still in our locker room are tough enough to gut it out."
Judge's departure leaves K-State with two open scholarships, Martin said he would consider elevating walk-on Victor Ojeleye to scholarship status for the rest of the season.