Isaiah Maurice wasn’t surprised when he was ruled academically ineligible last year, but that didn’t make it any easier for the Kansas State forward to watch games from the bench for an entire season.
That much is obvious when he talks about finally playing in a K-State uniform.
“Very, very eager,” Maurice said. “I fall asleep thinking about it.”
Maurice, a redshirt freshman from Durham, N.C., appears ready to show off his talents at the college level.
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At 6-foot-8, he brings a versatile offensive presence the Wildcats lacked a year ago. His size should also make him a factor on defense. Though many wrote off Maurice’s absence as insignificant last year, he has the ability to impact games in many different ways.
Maurice considers himself a stretch four, the type of big man capable of scoring inside as well as on the perimeter. He has made three-pointers at open scrimmages and likes to shoot mid-range jumpers many players pass up. But he is also capable of playing center.
“We expect some things out of him,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “We need him to go give us depth at the four and the five. We were doing some spot three-pointers the other day and he went 18 for 25. He can shoot it, but we have told him he still needs to give us some physicality. He has the length and athleticism to rebound. Right now he is further along up the court than he is inside, but we are hoping he can give us both.”
Maurice will play any role. What else would you expect from a player that likes to sum up his playing style with a single word?
“Versatile,” Maurice said. “I can space the floor, pass, shoot, rebound, and help my team in a variety of ways, not just one.”
Weber could have used those skills last season. It didn’t happen when academic issues surrounding his work in prep school arose, but Weber did get a close look at them during practices, where Maurice regularly mimicked the Big 12’s most versatile forwards, including Georges Niang and Perry Ellis, for K-State’s scout team.
Like them, Maurice can create mismatches against smaller defenders. Weber says he has a nice hook shot and can score near the rim with both hands.
The hope is he can become a valuable bench player behind Dean Wade and D.J. Johnson.
His redshirt year could aid him along the way.
“Coaches told me just to keep my mind clear,” Maurice said. “That was the main thing. My focus was on school and getting good grades. That’s the main thing I put my work in. I learned college isn’t easy, but also the in and outs of what college basketball is all about. I learned Coach Weber’s system. That year was a good learning experience for me.”
Because of that experience, teammates no longer consider him a freshman.
“Sitting out last year, he got a chance to learn the offense and run around a little bit,” Johnson said of Maurice. “That really helped him out. He knows what to expect and his game has definitely improved. We are looking forward to seeing it in games.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett