Key Departures: Dajuan Gordon (–>Mizzou); Antonio Gordon (–>S.E. Louisiana); Rudi Williams (–>C. Carolina)
New In Town: Mark Smith (<–Mizzou); Ismael Massoud (<–Wake Forest); Markquis Nowell (<–Little Rock) Logan Landers (#282); Maximus Edwards (NR)
State of the Program:
For Bruce Weber and Kansas State, the memory of 2019 and their co-conference championship seems very distant, as the last two seasons have been quite a fall from grace. They have amounted a 7-29 record over the last two years in the Big 12 as Weber has struggled to replace a very talented Senior class. The good news for this Wildcats program is that the young core is mostly back this season to hopefully build on the momentum gained at the end of last season. After losing 13 straight Conference games they finished the season 4-2 as they seemed to click, especially defensively. They get back leading scorers Nijel Pack (SO) and Mike McGuirl (SR), with Pack most notably having the ability to continue to elevate his game and become more of a star. They also get 2 more starters back in 7’0” C Davion Bradford (SO) and G Selton Miguel (SO), as well as key reserve Kaosi Ezeagu (JR). Weber has a nice core to continue to develop and progress with, as he’s done his entire career, and the defensive improvements seen late in the season bode well for what’s to come this season.
Leading the incoming group to help out in the backcourt is Mizzou transfer Mark Smith (SR). Smith has had an interesting career, as his best season really came as a SO, as his numbers dipped in each subsequent season. He’s out there to score, and shot 35% over his 4 seasons from 3, so he can provide K-State with some scoring help. He will have to buy into Weber’s defensive style to maximize his opportunity with the Wildcats though, which will be the biggest test. Ismael Massoud (SO) is a 6’9” wing that excels in pick and pop situations, and also can create on blow byes to the bucket. He shot 36% from deep in his time at Wake and will battle returning F Seryee Lewis (SO) for the starting 4 spot next to Bradford inside, and given his ability to stretch the D I expect him to win that battle. 5’8” G Markquis Nowell (JR) enters the program looking for backcourt minutes as well, and is coming off an All-Sun Belt selection 2 seasons ago and was on pace for another last year before getting hurt in early February. When you watch Nowell you immediately think of former Washington and Celtics star Isiah Thomas, as he’s undersized but still effective at getting his shot off, using his body to shield off defenders inside, and can blow by any defender to play make and facilitate. He should definitely get some minutes as a backup PG, and could allow the more scoring focused Pack to slide to the 2 at times. The better of the 2 Freshmen incoming is 6’10” big man Logan Landers (#282). Landers is an interesting prospect, as he has a really nice jump shot and decent handles for a kid his size, he just doesn’t have much in the athleticism department. His combination of height and jump shot give him a lot of promise though, and if he can get stronger and quicker he could really develop into a dangerous player down the road. The last newcomer is Maximus Edwards (NR), a 6’5” wing that will likely redshirt. He is a stocky wing with some athleticism, he’ll just need to develop his skillset to one day impact this program.
I may be one of the few people who actually expect this Weber led team to take a step or two forward this season. The combination of the better play down the stretch with the returning pieces that were mostly Freshmen a year ago has given me hope they play closer to .500 this season. Weber’s slow tempo, pack line defensive style gives them a chance to compete every night if they buy in, which they appeared to do late in the year last season. That should continue, and Pack should continue to expand his game as the leader of the offense. The additions of Nowell, Smith, and Massoud help offensively and can replace the pieces that did leave. I don’t expect the Wildcats to be dominate by any means, but they could actually amass as many wins this season as they combined to do over the previous two. Weber hasn’t missed 3 straight tourney’s since he made his 1st in 2002 with S. Illinois, and while that will be a tough streak to continue with this group, they could find themselves on the bubble if all goes well.