Kansas State practiced, and practiced, and practiced … then went in for film study … and then came out and practiced some more. Yes, Wednesday's court session was a three-plus hour marathon with fourth-year coach Frank Martin leaving the floor saying, "We're not very good right now."
He pointed to the youth of the team – 10 freshmen and sophomores – and said the season would be " … full of unique challenges. We'll see what face shows up Friday night. Will it be the face with leadership in it and guys who are prepared to do their jobs, or the other one of inexperience and lack of leadership."
"Those were four grown men, and we're trying to replace four grown men with sophomores and freshmen," said Martin.
"They are players who have never been asked to lead before. Jacob (Pullen) is trying, but he hasn't been great the last five or six days because he's tired of trying to do it by himself."
Joining Pullen as the only other senior is Curtis Kelly, who averaged 11.5 points and 6.2 rebounds per game.
Has he been one who has been inconsistent, coach?
"Yes," came the answer.
How's he been practicing?
"Like Curtis," Martin said.
Another returnee in junior Jamar Samuels, who was the Big 12's "Sixth Man Award" winner last year, has yet to play due to a scratched eye, but also suspect practice habits.
"He'll dress (for Friday's game), but he better practice better than he has been," said Martin of Samuels, who has been in street clothes for both exhibition games.
Asked if he feels like the lone team leader, Pullen said, "Sometimes it feels like that. Some are a little lackadaisical and don't focus as they should. I expect more from them because they've been through it. I expect them to have a better grasp of things, but sometimes they shy away. We need them to step up and be more vocal. You can't have only one leader."
But Pullen, a preseason first-team All-American, added, "Guys like Wally (Judge), Martavious (Irving) and Nick (Russell) aren't new to this. They know what Frank expects, so I hope I won't have to lead by myself too long."
Martin added that it was the "least of his concerns" to replace the speed or the 19 points per game scored by Clemente last year. But he did say, "My concern has been how to replace his character and his leadership. That's the part that's difficult."
The publication selects Pullen as the best shooter in the conference and the best leader, plus goes with sophomore Wally Judge as one of three players "… who will shape the conference race."
Pullen was joined on the all-Big 12 team by LaceDarius Dunn of Baylor, Alec Burks of Colorado, Marcus Morris of Kansas and Perry Jones of Baylor. Morris was named as the preseason Player of the Year and Texas' Rick Barnes as the Coach of the Year.
JAMES MADISON THE FIRST FOE
A member of the Colonial Athletic Conference, James Madison posted a 13-20 record a year ago, but returns 6-10, senior Denzel Bowles, a 21-point, 9-rebound per game standout, plus twin figure scorers in 6-5 Julius Wells (16.3) and 6-4 Devon Moore (10.7).
‘CATS TO PLAY IN CANCUN IN 2011
Kansas State will be participating in an in-season tournament outside of the U.S. for the first time in the program's history in 2011, as the school was selected to participate in the second annual Cancun Governor's Cup to be held in late December 2011 at Poliforum Benito Juarez in Cancun, Mexico on Wednesday.
The eight-team field will include K-State, College of Charleston, Massachusetts, Rice, Southern Illinois and Utah, along with two additional teams to be announced at a later date. Four of the six teams won at least 14 games in 2009-10, including 20-game winners K-State and College of Charleston.
STARTING FOR THE 'CATS (stats from 2009-2010)
G – Jacob Pullen, 6-1, Sr, 19.3, 2.6
G – Martavious Irving, 6-1, Soph, 1.8, 0.9
G – Rodney McGruder, 6-5, Soph, 2.8, 0.5
F – Wally Judge, 6-9, Soph, 3.3, 3.0
C – Freddy Asprilla, 6-10, Jr, DNP