Kansas State coach Bruce Weber is glad Xavier Sneed has emerged as one of the Wildcats’ best three-point shooters.
So why does he want the freshman wing to focus on inside scoring?
If you watched Sneed play in high school, you wouldn’t have to ask.
“We have been talking to him since the beginning of the year that threes can’t be the only thing,” Weber said Tuesday. “His whole younger high school career was mostly all around the hoop — rebounds, dunks, slashing. And then, all of a sudden, he worked on his three and it’s like a new toy. He wants to play with that thing.
“Hey, that’s fine. You’ve got a new toy. But you’ve got some other things, too. Make sure you do those.”
By all accounts, Sneed has been a difference-maker in his first season, averaging 8.7 points and 3.1 rebounds off the bench. He has scored as many as 17 points in a game and reached double figures 10 times. He’s made 29 of 77 threes (37.7 percent), and his size (6-foot-5, 200 pounds) and quick release make it difficult for any defender to bother him on the perimeter.
Yet, he has also been held scoreless three times.
Some think he is capable of more, even as a freshman. He has made highlights with his alley-oop dunks and slashing abilities. If he did those things more often, on top of making threes, Weber thinks he would become an all-around better player. So does Sneed.
“That’s definitely something I am working on before and after practice,” Sneed said when asked if he would like to attack the basket off the dribble more. “I feel like that is a key part of my game that has to come along.”
Improving as a ballhandler is among his top priorities.
“Ball security is a big thing right now,” Sneed said. “The careless turnovers I have in games are things I can improve on right now.”
Sneed isn’t the only K-State reserve trying to up his contributions. If the last week taught the Wildcats anything, it’s that they could use more depth. Starting forwards D.J. Johnson and Dean Wade were both kept out of practice with injuries and were then limited against Iowa State and Tennessee. K-State lost both games.
Weber said Johnson (hamstring, foot) and Wade (foot) have since returned to practice and gave the Wildcats a major energy boost on Monday. Still, K-State will need all hands on deck against TCU on Wednesday at Bramlage Coliseum.
This is a game the Wildcats can ill afford to lose, especially with No. 2 Baylor, No. 3 Kansas and No. 7 West Virginia coming next.
“It’s a must-win game,” backup point guard Carlbe Ervin said. “That’s it. That’s all I can tell you.”
Sneed is willing to expand his offensive game to help.
“Every game is important for us at this time of year,” Sneed said, “but it is especially key for us to come out here and get this win and dominate TCU.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett
- When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday
- Where: Bramlage Coliseum, Manhattan
- Records: TCU 14-7, 3-5 Big 12; KSU 15-6, 4-4
- Radio: 1480-AM, 102.5-FM, 107.9-FM
- TV: ESPNEWS
TCU (14-7, 3-5): The Horned Frogs started strong under new coach Jamie Dixon, but they have faded. TCU has lost four straight, dropping all four by at least six points. Still, this team figures to be more of a challenge than previous TCU squads. Brodziansky and Williams pack a nice punch inside and Robinson and Fisher are both averaging more than four assists.
Kansas State (15-6, 4-4): The Wildcats are coming back-to-back losses in which their top inside players were limited with injuries. However, Johnson and Wade both returned to practice this week and figure to be near full strength against TCU. Weber said they had big impacts in practice on Monday. Weber said that session went down as the team’s best and most energetic since the early portions of the season. Returning home should also help K-State. The Wildcats are 10-1 at Bramlage Coliseum.
RPIs as of Tuesday: K-State 44, TCU 49.