K-State Coach Played Role in Gator Recruiting

Kansas State coach Frank Martin used to send his players to Gainesville to compete under Billy Donovan. The former Miami High coach will now be on the sidelines as the Gators take on the Wildcats in the Orange Bowl Classic in Sunrise, Fla. Without the players he sent to Gainesville, the Gators might have one less Final Four appearance.

Martin gave Florida two starters, Udonis Haslem and Brent Wright, on its 2000 team.

"If it wasn't for Frank, we wouldn't have played in the 2000 national championship game," Donovan said. "Frank did a great job coaching them. While he was coaching them, those guys won state championships, so you have an idea of what it's like to win. I'll always be thankful for the fact that those two came and played. They were two incredible warriors who were well coached and all about winning."

Donovan said he remains "very close" with Martin since he moved to the college ranks. Martin moved to college as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Northeastern University. He served under season under Bob Huggins at Cincinnati and followed him to Kansas State in 2006.

When Huggins left to take the job at his West Virginia, his alma mater, Martin was named the head coach at Kansas State.

Martin's work ethic makes it no surprise to Donovan that he rose quickly through the coaching ranks.

"The one thing I've admired about Frank is he's a hard-nosed, tough guy who gets his team to work and gets them to play hard," Donovan said. "He's got great passion for the game."

The athleticism of Martin's No. 6 Kansas State team will give the Gators all they can handle when Saturday's game tips off at 3:30 p.m. The Wildcats' only loss this season came in an 82-68 loss to No. 1 Duke. Six of their nine victories this year have come by double digits.

"This is an opportunity for our team to play one of the best teams in the country," Donovan said. "The biggest thing for us is to realize that when you play this kind of team and a tough schedule, our issues as a team are going to be out in the open. Your guys have to understand that nobody is perfect. They've got to be mature enough to see that it's an issue we have to improve in."

Donovan expects to see two teams that play different defenses with the same goal.

"They're a great defensive team and a little bit different," Donovan said. "It's really a game with two teams that try to go about it to take you out of a flow. We try to do it with pressing and changing defenses, but they do it with all out denial all over the court. They don't want you to make one pass. They want you to go backdoor. You can't fight over plays."

Preseason All-American guard Jacob Pullen leads the Wildcats. He is averaging 16.3 points per game. Forward Curtis Kelly is averaging 11.6 points per game and 4.4 rebounds per game.

"They're a physical team," Donovan said. "They're got really good personnel. Pullen is as good as any guard in the country. He's had a really good junior year. Curtis Kelly has come into his own on the frontcourt."

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