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Everyone's a Coach

And that includes me.  That's part of my "job" as a blogger, to discuss issues that relate to K-State sports.  It's the job of any sports journalist, to discuss, rehash, and give general (or specific) thoughts on what went on last night, last year, or last decade.

None of that has changed through the early part of K-State's basketball season.  We had one columnist who wanted our coach to watch his language (while surreptitiously ignoring a certain other football coach's indiscretions).  The ignominious end to the K-State football season had more than a few people offering their views on what went wrong.

Yesterday, KC Star columnist Joe Posnanski offered his thoughts on what ails the K-State basketball team.  It's a good read, and I recommend clicking over and checking it out.

That said, I respectfully disagree with some of Posnanski's analysis.  The short story of the column is: Michael Beasley needs to be more aggressive (i.e., shoot more).  Specifically...

But, as Beasley said this week, they’re very different players. Durant was a creator, a dominating personality all over the floor and probably the most polished freshman scorer in NCAA history. The strategy with Durant was easy — run the offense through him every single time down the floor. Good things happened.

No doubt that Beasley and Durant are different players.  But they're not that different.  They're both big guys, with small-guy skills, meaning they can dribble, shoot and pass.  Watch the following YouTube video.  About 30 seconds in, there are a couple clips of Beasley doing a little creating for himself.

I'm not claiming that is dispositive proof of, well, anything.  And I realize he's playing streetball in the video, not going up against Big 12 defenders.  But the point is, he can create his shot if he wants to.

My point is that Beasley, and more importantly, Frank Martin, may have a method behind not stressing Beasley too much early.  We know Beasley is a twice-a-generation talent (twice because we had Durant last year).  We know he can produce when called upon.

But we also have a team full of freshmen and various other unproven players who we don't know with certainty will produce when called upon.  Jacob Pullen looks like a showstopper at point guard, but he's a true freshman and has a tendency to throw passes to the hot dog vendor in the fifth row.  Ron Anderson has great hands for a post player, but he doesn't always show the requisite aggression to be a force down low.  Andre Gilbert, Fred Brown and Darren Kent look to have various valuable talents, but we just don't really know what they bring to the table.

That's what these early season games are for.  We play the FAMU's, Wagner's and Winston-Salem's of the world to give the other players a chance to show what they can do before Big 12 conference play, when we have to know what to expect out of each player.  We can get by Florida A&M even while experimenting, but we won't have that luxury against Texas A&M.

What it comes down to is, we know Beasley can produce when asked to, and it's a foregone conclusion that he will produce when the chips are down in the big conference games.  The idea right now is to find out who else we can trust to make the big pass, take the big shot and get a defensive stop starting 45 days from now.  Sure, we could probably throw the ball to Beasley every time down, let him get hammered down low or let him try to drive and shoot or jack up a three-pointer, but that will be counterproductive in the end.

If we do that, we are only teaching our other players to stand around and wait for Beasley to bail them out.  The good folks over at Burnt Orange Nation mentioned that in last night's game against Oral Roberts, UT's players had a tendency to stand around and let D.J. Augustin do his thing.  We saw that happen last year in the NCAA tournament when UT was eliminated by USC.  Most of Texas' players just stood around and expected Durant would take care of things, and at the worst possible time, Durant shot less than 50 percent from the floor, and his 30 points weren't nearly enough to keep up with USC's balanced attack (all five Trojan starters scored in double figures).

Notice I am absolutely not saying that we would have won our games against Notre Dame, Oregon and George Mason if we would have let (forced?) Beasley to jack up 25+ shots each game.  Given the youth and/or inexperience of most of our players, not to mention the skill level of the opposition, we likely would have lost each of those games no matter what we did.

My hope is that, because we let Pullen make his mistakes now, he won't make them in January-March.  And, because we let Pullen, Gilbert, Brown, Anderson, Kent, Blake Young and Clent Stewart take shots now, they won't be afraid to step up in January-March.

I always went to the state high school basketball tournament when I was younger, and it was always fun to watch the team that had a player who was headed to some Division I school to play basketball.  But I soon realized that those teams with the one great individual almost always lost to the teams with four or five good players who knew their roles.

K-State basketball will succeed this year if it's about four, five, six, seven or eight players.  It will fail miserably if it's about one player.