Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: What K-State’s players say is more telling than how they play

Now that the season is over for Kansas State’s basketball team, I’m not going to miss the games as much as I’m going to read what the players and coach Bruce Weber say after the games.

The Wildcats, of course, finished a disappointing 15-17 season Wednesday night with a loss to TCU in the Big 12 tournament at Kansas City’s Sprint Center. The game went like K-State’s season, in fits and starts. It was an inconsistent, maddening season all the way around for the Cats, who began the season with high aspirations, got off to a fast start in the Big 12 race and settled into mediocrity and attempts to explain the unexplainable.

Kansas State should have been better than this. Right?

It’s hard to know now, given what has transpired. When the coach and the team’s best player – in this case Marcus Foster – don’t see eye to eye, is it really that surprising that K-State went wrong?

Foster was so promising as a freshman last season, when he averaged 15.5 points per game and shot almost 43 percent from the field.

But this season, Foster got sideways with Weber in December and the relationship never seemed to improve. And the sophomore guard’s numbers fell to 12.5 ppg and 38.8 percent shooting.

After the TCU loss, everybody had something to say. And it was all captivating.

Seniors Thomas Gipson and Nino Williams directed their comments at unnamed teammates.

“Some people didn’t buy in,” Gipson told The Eagle’s Kellis Robinett. “Some people did. When you have a majority of people not buying in this is the season that you have — 15-17. It sucks. This is the first losing season I have had since middle school.”

Williams, one of the Big 12’s best and toughest players, was even more harsh.

“Me and (Gipson) got stuck with a bunch of guys who didn’t understand how hard it is to win in the Big 12,” he said. “I hate it when people say Bruce didn’t do a good enough job. A lot of guys didn’t buy in. You can’t have two or three guys playing hard and the other people not. He takes too much weight on him. People don’t understand (what) he has to deal with.”

No, we certainly don’t.

And how about this from Maine transfer Justin Edwards, a junior guard who never got on track?

“The team was never as mentally tough as we should have been,” Edwards said. “We didn’t take every game as seriously as we should have. We played down to competition and didn’t play at a high level every single game. I think some guys didn’t take this game serious.”

Dysfunction, anyone?

Kansas State would need a fleet of buses to take care of everyone thrown under one after Wednesday night’s loss.

Weber, meanwhile, finishes his third season with Kansas State’s first 17-loss team since Jim Wooldridge’s 2002-03 team went 13-17. How much is Weber to blame for this disappointment? How much of the responsibility is with the players?

It’s always difficult to gauge these things. There’s no question, though, that the distraction created by the strained relationship between Weber and Foster had an adverse effect on the Wildcats. Foster, from Wichita Falls, Texas, is a Weber recruit and looked to be part of a foundation for bigger and better things. Instead, he was handed a three-game suspension this season and spent more time on the bench than anyone could have imagined.

There’s nothing that creates more stress inside a basketball program – on coaches, players, administrators and fans – that a standout player who strays off the page.

Foster’s remarks after the TCU loss were the most fascinating of all, especially since it appeared the slings from K-State’s veterans were directed at him.

“I just didn’t go hard every day like I should have,” Foster said. “I tried to go hard late in the season, but it was too late. I definitely want to go hard from the beginning. Somebody I am going to use as motivation is Rodney McGruder. He went hard every game and made his teammates better. That’s what I want to do.”

Maybe Foster has had a revelation. Or maybe he’s just saying the right thing.

The obvious question is: Why didn’t he go hard every day from the outset? What was holding him back? And, most importantly: Will he return?

A strange and lackluster season ended with some fascinating analysis from the participants. It sounds like these guys need to get into a room somewhere and talk things out.

Or just wait until next season. This one is down the drain.