GIPSON MAKES EARLY IMPACT WITH WILDCATS

MANHATTAN, Kan. - He's called "House" by his teammates, and at 6-7 and 275 pounds, he truly is as big as a … well, small house. While K-State's play has been sporadic to start the season, no one has been more consistent, and "committed," says coach Frank Martin, than his freshman from Cedar Hill, Texas.

He's but 18 years of age, but without question in a man's body.

At 6-foot-7, 275 pounds, Thomas Gipson has been turning heads and banging bodies through his first seven games as a Kansas State Wildcat.

"He's a beast. I'm scared for the Big 12 when he becomes a senior," said K-State teammate Jamar Samuels, who goes against Gipson in practice. "He's a grown man out there, but guys that size normally don't have those moves."

Coach Frank Martin added of his wide-body, "He's not scared of throwing that big body around. He lays the wood on you and you know that you got hit. He plays with the same aggression as Luis Colon, but has an understanding of how to score a little bit like Curtis Kelly."

Through K-State's 6-1 start entering Saturday's 9 p.m. game against Alabama in Kansas City's Sprint Center, Gipson is averaging a team-high 14.0 points per game and a team-leading 8.1 rebounds. Those figures rank ninth and third respectively in the Big 12 Conference, and are No. 1 among freshmen players in the league.

Gipson, the Big 12 Freshman of the Week with double-doubles coming in KSU's last two games against West Virginia and North Florida, came to K-State from Cedar Hill, Texas, where he was ranked in the top-35 power-forwards in the nation and one of the top 150 players overall.

He helped his Longhorn team to a 33-4 record last year when he averaged 14 points and was in twin figures in 32 of those 37 games. But now he's entered the big time in college basketball.

"It's hard to expect Thomas to deliver in crunch time without making a mistake because he has never done it before," said Martin. "The game is real fast for him right now. He's trying to get it to slow down and figure out where he belongs."

But already, Gipson is drawing raves from opposing coaches with his best game of 23 points and 12 rebounds coming this past Sunday against North Florida.

After the K-State freshman scored 19 points and gathered 7 rebounds in a 74-61 victory over Loyola Chicago, Ramblers coach Porter Moser said, "He is very physical, he has that big torso and he knows how to use it. He has soft hands and a soft touch. I think he is going to be a very good player for them and he knows how to get angles."

Maryland-Eastern Shore coach Frankie Allen said of Gipson, "He really man-handled us. He has great hands and it really is difficult to keep him from scoring, or even getting the three-point play."

After seven games of playing side-by-side with Gipson, Samuels said, "He is called our ‘House.' What he does down low you do not really see a lot of freshmen doing the things he does. I am just excited that he plays for us. He takes a load off the rest of the big guys trying to get rebounds. "

Another of those big guys is KSU's 6-11, 250-pound Jordan Henriquez: "He competes every day. He makes me better, and I also challenge him. He has good size, which helps me as a defender. My size against him helps him as well, which is why we compete against each other a lot in practice.

"He came in with his confidence way up and he has continued to want to progress," said Henriquez. "He wants to get better one day at a time. He is always taking steps forward, and now that the lights are on him and he is playing in front of a lot of people, he is playing with even more confidence. As long as he continues that, we will be good."


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