Today's exhibition game against Fort Hays State should hold special meaning to several Kansas State basketball players.
For the team's six newcomers, it will mark their first time playing in front of thousands of Wildcats fans. And while it won't feel like a debut for returning players, it might feel like a new beginning for Nino Williams and Martavious Irving.
Both guards have shown promise, but are coming off seasons they would like to forget. Williams, a redshirt freshman and former four-star recruit, missed most of his first year on campus after suffering two concussions in practice. Irving, a junior who threatened to join the starting lineup early last season, never found his offensive groove and played sparingly all year.
"There's a sense of urgency for me," Irving said. "It's my junior year. I want to help this team and be an asset. Not a liability."
Most expect sophomore guard Will Spradling to start the season at one of the two guard spots, and freshman Angel Rodriguez looked good in the Wildcats' public scrimmage last week. But with a wide-open competition at both guard spots, Williams and Irving will get a chance to earn playing time like everyone else.
"I am going to put the five best guys on the floor that I can put out there," K-State coach Frank Martin said. "Those are the guys that are going to play and then we are going to play combinations of who can play with who. I am not into making those decisions yet, I am still trying to evaluate our team."
He has been making those evaluations throughout preseason practices, but extra weight will be placed on what happens today against outside competition.
Irving, who averaged four points a year ago, is hoping to improve as a scoring threat and provide defense in the backcourt.
Williams will try to prove he has caught up with his teammates.
"It is hard for him to get the full impact of a hundred practices like everyone else does," Martin said. "He is competitive, but he does things in practice that make you realize that he is a freshman, but then he also plays with a certain effort and aggression that makes you appreciate who he is."
That's what happens when you miss most of a season. For Williams and Irving, a new one starts today.
"It's going to be a very big year for us," Irving said. "We hope to be very successful."