Happy New Year, y’all! It’s 2023, time to get things rolling in the new year.
And your Kansas State Wildcats have opened the new year with a bang, after kinda fizzling a bit to close out 2022.
Of course, many of us are still buzzing from the record-setting 116-103 victory by the TangCats in Austin. The Cats were on fire all night long, and coupled with defensive lapses from both teams, we were treated essentially to an NBA game on Tuesday night. K-State is still undefeated when they break the 100-point mark, though this was the first time since 2010 (back when yours truly was still in my 5th year of college...) that a K-State team broke the barrier. Hopefully there’s a few more of those performances left in this squad, because the road is never easy in the Big 12. Your 13-1 Wildcats are making noise nationally, and this time its for being so impressive in their 2-0 start to Big 12 play. Next up, the Cats stay in Texas for a Saturday early-evening game with the suddenly 10-4 Baylor Bears, who have now opened Big 12 play at 0-2 with a surprising 77-62 loss in Ames last Saturday, and a last-second 88-87 loss to TCU last night in Waco.
Back in the Little Apple last night, the MittieCats shook off their own disappointing defeat last Saturday to come back and take down a solid Oklahoma State squad (led by former K-State assistant Jacie Hoyt) 86-72 in Bramlage. In their 87-41 loss to UT on Saturday, the Cats were without the services of leading-scorer Gabby Gregory, who is nursing an ankle injury. But the super-senior played through the pain last night, tying for the team-lead in points with 25 and was on the court for 38 minutes. She was joined at the top by a career-high-shattering performance from forward Sarah Shematsi, who also grabbed 11 rebounds to take home her first career double-double. The Wildcats improved to 12-3 and 1-1 in Big 12 play with the win. They get to stay home for their next one, with a 1pm game against WVU in Bramalge this Saturday, and it’s Dollar Day in MHK, so this would be a good one to get to if you’re in town.
Welcome Coach Mansfield!
Athletics Director Gene Taylor officially introduced Jason Mansfield as the next head coach for the K-State volleyball program at a press conference yesterday afternoon. This is Mansfield’s first collegiate head coach stop, after spending the past 20+ years as an collegiate assistant at (volleyball powerhouse) Stanford, Illinois, and the past five seasons at Washington. During his run at those schools, he’s helped coached a national champion at Stanford, and repeated deep runs in the NCAA tournament at all three programs, including the 2021 Final Four at UW. He’s also spent time in the prep circuit as a club coach from 2000-2016, with his squads earning seven Junior Olympic medals during that span among other accolades.
Mansfield replaces Suzie Fritz, who guided K-State to the 2003 Big 12 championship early on in her tenure in Manhattan and 13 trips to the NCAA tournament in her 22 seasons leading the Cats. But just one of those NCAA trips came in the last 6 seasons, and it had become time to make a change. Mansfield joins the program at an exciting time, with the programs first dedicated facility, the Morgan Family Volleyball Center, set to open before the start of next season.
As we get through our feelings around Deuce Vaughn’s decision to go pro after his three very special seasons in Manhattan — and wait for an expected similar announcement from Felix Anudike-Uzomah and a couple others ** — Gene Taylor has wasted no time getting prepared to help ensure the staff that won K-State’s first Big 12 title in a decade and just locked up the program’s best recruiting class in 20 years will be back next season. Of course all of the coaches got some nice bonuses for the championship, the 10-4 season, and the Sugar Bowl appearance, but Taylor is also looking into new contract discussions with the coaches, aimed at raising their salaries to be more competitive with their peers across the Big 12. Klieman will of course likely see a big bump to his $4mil salary, but it’s guys like DC Joe Klanderman and TE coach Brian Lepak who stand to gain the most with an improved assistant pool for Klieman, who are all likely in line for $100k-$200k bumps, minimum, in base pay.
And while the product on the field has been worth the investment, the numbers may be higher than expected for many, and that’s due in large part to the new contract that Lance Leipold and his staff got at KU. Leipold just signed a $5mil contract after KU’s first winning season in 14 years, and his OC just got bumped to $1mil annually, with other boosts across the staff in Lawrence. It would be a bad look for Taylor and K-State to pay the K-State coaches less, or at least not nearly close, for a staff of a much better program.
**Addendum: Julius Brents has also officially declared for the NFL Draft, doing so yesterday afternoon. The star cornerback will definitely be missed.