When he agreed to return to Kansas State as a graduate assistant last month, Shane Southwell didn’t expect many fans to make a fuss about his new role on Bruce Weber’s coaching staff.
So you can imagine his reaction when his Twitter account exploded with positive messages for an entire week.
“I was very surprised,” Southwell said. “I honestly didn’t think anybody cared, especially with me only being a grad assistant. I guess that just shows the appreciation K-State fans have for what we accomplished during my four years here with the likes of Will Spradling, Martavious Irving, Rodney McGruder and Jordan Henriquez. We were able to win a lot of games and win the Big 12. That probably explains the fan fare, but I was still really surprised by it.”
Southwell, now 25, came to K-State from Harlem, New York and had a productive career as a guard with the Wildcats. He helped K-State reach four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, win 92 games and claim one shared Big 12 championship, all while averaging 5.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists. When his college career was over, he ranked 10th in program history in two different statistical categories -- games played (126) and assists (271).
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That made him a more memorable player than he expected.
After graduating from K-State, Southwell went on to play professionally in several foreign countries, including Mexico, Australia, China and Switzerland.
“I have been to every continent other than Africa and Antarctica,” Southwell said.
He was coming off his best season in Switzerland when Weber offered him a spot on his staff, averaging 15.1 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.4 assists for Winterthur of the Swiss LNA, and that made him hesitant to give up his professional career. Southwell initially turned down the opportunity. But after a week of thought, he changed his mind.
“I got a lot of decent offers to continue playing,” Southwell said. “I just thought it was time. I wanted to give back and help. I thought it was better to make that transition now, rather than later. I wanted to get going and start the process as early as possible.”
Southwell didn’t always want to be a coach, but that’s his new dream. He hopes helping K-State’s assistants this season will serve as his first step toward a long and successful coaching career. His goal, as you might expect, is to eventually become a head coach for a power-conference team.
For now, he is focused on helping the Wildcats in any way he can, whether that means offering pointers to players during practice or trying to beat them in shooting competitions after practice.
“It is sort of similar to when (assistant coach) Chester (Frazier) first got here,” Southwell said. “He was 26 and able to provide different insight from most coaches that haven’t played in 20 years. He came in fresh off a professional career and gave us great advice about how to play the game as a professional. I am trying to give these players the same deal. I want to teach them how to handle themselves as a professional even though they are still in college.”
Southwell has been with the Wildcats for all of their preseason practices and one exhibition game. He will get a second dress rehearsal for the season-opener against Fort Hays State at 2 p.m. Sunday at Bramlage Coliseum.
So far, he appears on the right track.
“He is a great coach,” K-State guard Cartier Diarra said. “Since he is younger, he is relate-able to my age group. He has played the game recently as a professional and he played well here, so he knows what he is talking about. He is just a cool guy to be around. He gives great constructive criticism, and we all learn from it.”
Southwell sees potential in this K-State roster. He likes the way Kamau Stokes, Barry Brown, Dean Wade and Xavier Sneed have matured. He thinks the team’s newcomers are ready to surprise.
In some ways, he compares this team to the group that won 27 games and a conference championship trophy in 2013.
“We have a chance to be really, really good,” Southwell said.
He thinks K-State fans will embrace this team the same way they welcomed him back to campus.
“This is a special place,” Southwell said. “You go other places in the world, and they may not care about basketball. Here, they love their basketball and they really support the players and coaching staff. They really care. I genuinely sense that we do it the right way here at K-State, and it’s just a great experience for me to come back and be here.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett