This offseason, Bruce Weber collected all the good will and job security chips he’s accumulated at Kansas State, put them in a pile, and brazenly shoved them to the middle of the table.
The complete roster rebuild from the 19/20 - 20/21 team is almost unprecedented, at least in my experience following college basketball. Sure, you’ll get the occasional team loaded with seniors, but at max, that’s five players. K-State, by design it appears, jettisoned seven scholarship players after last season. The 20/21 team will have one senior (Mike McGuirl) and one junior (JuCo transfer Rudi Williams) as upperclassmen. The rest of the squad is made up of sophomores and freshmen.
First off, I’ve mentioned this before, but if you complained about Bruce’s recruiting during the Wade/Brown/Stokes era, you’ve been vindicated. Those are the recruiting classes that have essentially been flushed in this hard restart. At the same time, those of you who think Bruce isn’t willing to take a risk or acknowledge mistakes are hard up for evidence, because this is a bold move, and a mea culpa from Bruce at the same time.
Like all things 2020, Covid-19 complicates matters a good bit. But in a strange way, it could pay long term dividends (I’m speaking only in K-State basketball terms, Covid-19 is in no way beneficial to anyone). This group of freshmen will essentially get two freshmen seasons assuming there are no opt outs. This is a team that needs time to grow together, and it’s possible that the 2020 recruiting class, the key to the entire rebuild, will get five years of basketball together. That could pay huge dividends down the line.
In terms of composition, the 2020 freshman class checks every box. You’ve got a point guard, two wings, a power forward, and a center. Their skill sets look complimentary at this point, and with Nijel Pack running the show ball distribution shouldn’t be a problem.
On defense you’ve got size and energy in the paint and quickness on the perimeter. Davion Bradford and Seryee Lewis both provide rim protection and Selton Miguel is an absolute bully on the wing.
It might take a while for everything to come together, but if it does, I think this is a gamble that pays off for Bruce and K-State. If it doesn’t, well, when you go all-in and lose, you’re busted. Bruce knows the gamble he’s making, but I like the cards in his hand.
Nijel Pack - 6’0 - 180 - PG
Undersized, quick PG with great range. He excelled in one of the toughest high school basketball conferences in the nation and in one of the best AAU programs. He won’t be overwhelmed and has gone up against numerous high level players already. Writing for the Purdue SB Nation site, I’ve followed the Indianapolis natives career for a while, and he’s a straight up winner.
Luke Kasubke - 6’5 - 190 - SG/Wing
Knock down shooter from the perimeter with the height and long arms coaches covet. Don’t pigeon hole him as “just a shooter” though. He’s a solid ball handler and will pump a defender out of his shoes and finish at the rim on a sloppy close out. He’s coming back from a dreaded foot injury, but has everything you want coming in other than a bad foot.
Selton Miguel - 6’4 - 210 - SF/Wing
Athletic finisher at the rim with the potential to be a lock down defender. He’s the wild card in the class. He’s physically developed coming in, and should only get stronger with time in a college weight program. He plays with an edge and doesn’t lack confidence (to say the least). If he can harness those attributes for good, he’s a recruiting steal.
Seryee Lewis - 6’8 - 205 - Power Forward
In a world of stretch-4’s, Lewis is a throw back. He’s a hyper athletic power forward who buzzes with energy when he hits the court. He can shoot a little but is better at attacking off the dribble or posting up. Defense and rebounding is where Lewis stands out. He has the potential to be a lock down defender at the 4 after he bulks up a little. His energy is infectious and he’ll fly around the court with reckless abandon chasing loose balls and rebounds.
Davion Bradford - 7’0 - 250 - Center
Physically, Bradford is a specimen and he knows it. He has enough skill to step outside and hit a 10-footer, but is more comfortable burying the opposing center in the paint and dunking on him. Much like Lewis, when I watch his film, his energy and activity stand out. He’s not a big man that lopes up and down the floor. You can tell he plays basketball because he loves the game, not because he’s 7’0 and basketball is what you do when you’re 7’0 tall.
He’s a bit of a bull-in-a-china-shop at the moment, and I can foresee a struggle with fouls early in his career until he figures it out, but I’d rather have a center be too aggressive and learn how to play under control than a center who is too passive and has to learn to play with aggression.
While I love the freshmen in this class, Bruce brought in several other pieces to help these guys along. I’ll get to those guys a little later, because in the short term, K-State’s fortunes may hinge on a few of the older guys in the 2020 class stepping up while the freshmen get acclimated.