HONOLULU — After spending nearly two days on a tropical island, Kansas State basketball coach Frank Martin is enjoying himself so completely that he can't think of anything that would spoil his team's week-long trip to the Diamond Head Classic.
But he can think of one thing that will make it unforgettable: A tournament championship.
Since taking over the Wildcat program, that's something has eluded him. He's been close several times, with K-State reaching the championship game of the 2010 Big 12 tournament, finishing second to Duke in last year's CBE Classic and coming in third two years ago in Puerto Rico. But he's getting tired of close.
He wants a trophy.
"That would be great," Martin said. "We have been in these tournaments every year since we've been at K-State. We talk about anytime there is a championship on the line, that becomes a goal for the season. It's another opportunity for us to perform well.
"One of our objectives is to put ourselves in position to win a championship. We've been right there before, it just hasn't happened. If it happens this week, great. If it doesn't, we still play Howard on Dec. 31. It's a win-win deal."
Helping K-State's tournament championship hopes heading into today's game against Southern Illinois is the increased production it's been gettin from players off the bench. Backup forward Jordan Henriquez is coming off his best outing of the year after scoring 17 points and grabbing eight rebounds against Alabama. And backup point guard Angel Rodriguez provided a big spark to K-State in the same game with 13 points and seven rebounds.
Shane Southwell, Victor Ojeleye and Adrian Diaz have also been contributing.
"Our bench has helped us all year," Martin said. "It's been good to us the whole year. We've gotten contributions from all different guys. Shane has had great moments for us off the bench, Jordan has had great moments for us of the bench. Angel had hit a wall there for a couple weeks, but it was good to see him bounce back and play well.
"I'm happy with our bench. I think our bench continues to improve and could actually go deeper."
The Diamond Classic is a three-game tournament with a field of eight teams that takes place over four days. Productive play from reserves could help make K-State one of the tournament's most rested teams on Christmas.
For a coach like Martin, who likes to go to his bench in important situations in order to keep his team fresh and comfortable while playing aggressive defense late in the game, that would be a big bonus.
"Anytime you play in these kind of tournaments," Martin said, "whether it be the one we are in now or a conference tournament at the end of the year, if you have a short bench it makes it real hard on your team to move forward and play on deep into a tournament especially the way we play, pressure-oriented on both sides of the floor."