Lots of basketball stuff today.
Just when it appeared Bruce Weber’s already-stellar recruiting class was going to add another quality piece, the world turned upside-down and the Wildcats were jilted at the altar. Coveted shooting guard Donovan Williams had been a K-State target for months, with Coach Weber making several trips to Omaha to watch him play, and current team members DaJuan Gordon, Antonio Gordon and Montavious Murphy cultivating relationships with him. It reportedly paid off, as numerous outlets predicted Williams would come to Manhattan, and rumors circulated that he had even called Coach Weber late last week to inform him that he would join the Wildcats.
Then, Oklahoma State—another suitor for Williams’s services—lost out on JT Thor, a four-star power forward who chose Auburn over the Cowboys, and Mike Boynton applied the full-court press and wrenched Williams away from K-State. What does Oklahoma State have to sell that K-State doesn’t? Mainly, it has the No. 1 overall recruit, Cade Cunningham, coming to town next season. Turns out, the opportunity to play with this year’s Kevin Durant/Micheal Beasley/Trae Young was too good to pass up.
Williams says it was hard to call Coach Weber and reverse his decision because “I’m a guy who doesn’t like to go back on his word.” He also said the following:
I don’t like it when people do that to me. But, at the same time, it’s a business. They are going to be OK. These guys are millionaires. Losing me won’t be that big of a deal.
Not to pick on an 18-year-old, but the logic there runs at counter-purposes. If losing him won’t be that big of a deal, would getting him also have been inconsequential? We don’t think so. We’d have loved to have him in uniform for the Cats.
Look, if Oklahoma State is where he wanted to be (and it appears that it was, all along), then this may all be for the best, in the end. The last thing Bruce needs is anyone who might become a malcontent. We’ve seen the unhappy ending of that script, before.
With age and seasoning, Williams will likely learn that there is no point trying to justify all of his actions. He wanted to go to Oklahoma State; it appeared the Cowboys would not have an opening; an opening materialized when their first choice, Thor, picked Auburn. In all likelihood, Williams delayed his public announcement to account for just this possible eventuality. K-State was his fallback, and he did not mind being Oklahoma State’s fallback.
We’re happy he is where he wants to be, and we wish him well on all but two dates on the calendar. As we said earlier, one way or another, we’ll see Donovan Williams in Bramlage. Turns out, he’ll just be wearing Halloween colors when he plays there, rather than royal purple.
Meanwhile, the recruits that Weber and his staff did land all completed successful seasons before COVID-19 stepped in and wrecked everything. The athletic department gave a rundown of incoming freshmen Davion Bradford, Luke Kasubke, Selton Miguel and Nijel Pack, complete with stats and quotes to get you excited about the future of the program.
The AP’s Dave Skretta penned an article about the college basketball transfer portal “causing headaches” for coaches. He’s not wrong, but he’s also looking at only part of the story. While the piece focuses particularly on Gregg Marshall, whose Wichita State Shockers have seen seven players from last year’s roster jump ship, and notes with alarm that 500 players across the college basketball community have entered the portal in the month since basketball season ended, it largely ignores the fact that a number of those players were cast into the transfer abyss by those very coaches who supposedly view the transfer game as a headache. The piece paints coaches as victims, which is rich.
For his part, Marshall says: “It’s created a system in which, when problems arise, (players) are not going to fight through the problems and adversity. You’re going to make a move. It’s going to be easy to do. That’s the problem I see with it.” Could it be that, with some coaches, the daily adversity is just too much to bear? Recruiting does not end when a player signs. Coaches have a responsibility to make the experience worthwhile for student-athletes every day. If a coach can’t make that daily commitment to players, then they should not grouse about players seeking someone else who will.
Speaking of the transfer portal, Coach Klieman and his staff stuck their heads into the mystical whirling vortex and emerged with a defensive backfield player who has starting experience in the Big 10. Former Minnesota cornerback Kiondre Thomas will join the Wildcats as a graduate transfer, and will be eligible to play immediately. Thomas played in all 13 games for the Golden Gophers last season, starting four of them.
Ryan Black caught up with K-State quarterback Skylar Thompson to see how he is working to stay in shape and mentally ready for football during the isolation caused by the pandemic. Thompson says he is lifting weights on a program provided by the training staff and that he has put on 17 pounds in the off-season, which would put him in Collin Klein territory at nearly 230. Gaining weight is apparently a theme across the K-State roster. Let’s just hope its not the kind of telecommuting weight that the rest of us are adding.
In a predictable, responsible yet also disappointing move, K-State announced that remote learning will be extended through the summer. Here’s hoping the additional caution through the summer months will clear the way for a fall semester that approaches “normal” operations.
Some good news to finish off: K-State and Wichita State are partnering to offer a bachelor’s degree in nursing at Kansas State in Manhattan. This fills a hole in K-State degree programs, and does so at a time when the need for qualified medical professionals has never been more acutely on display.
Wednesday evening at 7:00 CDT, we will gather to watch Wes Iwundu, DJ Johnson and their teammates take down Buddy Hield and the then-No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners in 2016. Game thread with a link to watch together will appear at 6:00.