Kansas State University

Pair of guards can run offense for K-State

Kansas State's Nigel Johnson (23) shoots under pressure from Washburn's Chris Deanes during the first half of an NCAA college exhibition basketball game Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Kansas State's Nigel Johnson (23) shoots under pressure from Washburn's Chris Deanes during the first half of an NCAA college exhibition basketball game Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, in Manhattan, Kan. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) AP

Jevon Thomas or Nigel Johnson?

The question of who will play point guard for Kansas State may already have an answer. How about both?

"It’s a nice two-headed monster," K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber said.

One game into the season, the Wildcats have good reason to be excited about their top two ballhandlers. Johnson, a sophomore with shooting touch, opened the year with a career-high 18 points and five assists against Southern Utah. Thomas, a pass-first sophomore, had eight points and five assists.

Thomas was the starter. Johnson came off the bench. They played well the entire way, losing one turnover between them and leading K-State to 98 points, the most it has scored under their third-year coach.

The approach was simple: Thomas played until exhaustion and Johnson made shots while he was on the floor. Things went so well that at some point during the season opener, Johnson turned to Weber and said, "We are just going to wear people down."

"I am just trying to play and let things come to me," Johnson said. "I know my role is going to be different than last year, when I didn’t have to score that much. But I can shoot the ball well, and I can score well. So I am just going to focus on that."

A year ago, both players were used sparingly. Thomas was only eligible for the second half of the season, and he struggled to learn Weber’s motion offense while he tried to catch up. Johnson played in 30 games, averaging 4.1 points, but he didn’t distribute the ball as much as he could have.

Entering the season, many wondered which one of them would handle primary point guard duties. With shooting guard Marcus Foster promising to play some at the point, himself, the position seemed wide open.

Now that Johnson and Thomas are a year older, and former point guard Will Spradling has graduated, they appear ready to take on bigger roles.

Together, they plan to help each other run K-State’s offense.

"Two different guys," Weber said. "They are quick, but Jevon is a little bit quicker to the basket. Nigel, he has been deadly with his shooting … It is going to be tough to deal with."

Reach Kellis Robinett at krobinett@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @kellisrobinett.

UMKC at Kansas State

When: 7 p.m. Monday

Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan

Records: UMKC 1-0, KSU 1-0

Radio: KQAM, 1480-AM; KWLS, 107.9 FM

TV: FSKC

Monday’s lineups

P

UMKC

Ht

Yr

Pts

Reb

F

Reese Holliday

6-4

Sr.

0.0

1.0

F

Shayok Shayok

6-8

Jr.

10.0

7.0

F

Thaddeus Smith

6-9

Jr.

5.0

5.0

G

Martez Harrison

5-11

So.

26.0

4.0

G

Frank Williams Jr.

6-6

Sr.

7.0

7.0

Kansas St.

F

Thomas Gipson

6-7

Sr.

17.0

6.0

F

Stephen Hurt

6-11

Jr.

11.0

3.0

G

Justin Edwards

6-4

Jr.

11.0

2.0

G

Marcus Foster

6-2

So.

13.0

2.0

G

Jevon Thomas

6-0

So.

8.0

2.0

UMKC: The Kangaroos opened the season with a 69-61 victory at Missouri on Friday in one of the most memorable recent wins for the program. Harrison Martez led UMKC in scoring with 26 points. A win over K-State would send UMKC into the next stretch of its schedule, against mostly mid-major opponents, with loads of confidence.

Kansas State: The Wildcats crushed Southern Utah 98-68 in their first game, getting double-digit scoring from six different players. They should be healthier against UMKC, as Bruce Weber said Wesley Iwundu and Malek Harris are both approaching game shape. K-State is hoping to win its first two home games before hitting the road for a game against Long Beach State and then a trip to the Maui Invitational.

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