Isaiah Maurice’s freshman campaign at Kansas State was nothing special — 3 points and 2 rebounds per game — but the forward’s final seven games, in which he averaged nearly 7 points per game on a shooting percentage north of 60 percent, left the Wildcats room for optimism.
His dismissal on Thursday leaves them searching for answers.
K-State coach Bruce Weber booted Maurice for an unspecified violation of team rules, but whatever the reason, the result is the same: the Wildcats are almost comically inexperienced at the post position.
K-State’s only two returning forwards are junior Dean Wade and sophomore James Love. Wade’s role will, naturally, be expanded, which was bound to happen regardless of Maurice’s dismissal. At 6-foot-10, Love — who missed the entirety of last season to injury — will also be forced into a critical role.
K-State also features newcomer Makol Mawein, a 6-foot-9 forward fresh off one season at New Mexico Junior College, and 6-foot-8 freshmen Nigel Shadd and Levi Stockard.
These are K-State’s post players for 2017-18, only one of whom will tout Division-I experience. This is the quandary facing Weber, whose team finished dead last in the Big 12 last season in rebounding.
Inexperience is not to be confused with a lack of personnel. K-State has a plethora of forwards at hand — five — so Weber will have the luxury of depth underneath. The players he turns to, however, will not have much experience to call on.
For Wade, this requires him take a step forward in assertiveness. At his best last season, the then-sophomore stepped into 3-pointers and knocked them down. His mid-range jump shot was often sharp, and when he displayed confidence, Wade hit them with regularity, spurring K-State to wins.
At his worst, though, Wade was shaky and hesitant. When he was off his game — like in K-State’s string of three losses in late January and early February, when Wade scored 2, 3 and 2 points, respectively — the Wildcats, in turn, trended south. Wade will face pressure not only to progress as he becomes an upperclassman, but he will also be tasked with leading an unseasoned forward crew.
Then there is Love, Mawein, Shadd and Stockard, all without Division-I experience. Mawein, who played a season at New Mexico Junior College, leads the way in collegiate background.
Mawein averaged 8.7 points and 5.8 rebounds per game in his one collegiate season. Weighing 240 pounds, Stockard posted 10 points, 5.8 rebounds and 1 block per game as a high school senior in Missouri. Shadd’s numbers are eye-popping — the incoming freshman averaged 11.5 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game in his high school career.
The stats are attractive, but there’s something about a three-game string against the likes of Baylor, Kansas and West Virginia that makes Big 12 play another world.
Such inexperience around the basket, where K-State languished in conference play, does not bode well for the Wildcats. The Big 12 is as physical a league as any other, featuring teams who pride themselves on rendering the paint a bloodbath when shots go up.
Such is where Wade must lead the charge next season if the Wildcats are to improve on the glass, and more importantly, in the win-loss column. Otherwise, rebounding will doom K-State.
After all, Wade can only do so much.