Whenever his college basketball career comes to an end, Wesley Iwundu will take several Kansas State records with him.
He has started 120 games, more than any Wildcat. He is also the only player to top 1,000 points, 500 rebounds, 300 assists and 100 steals. His do-everything talents put him in elite statistical company with former stars Steve Henson and Rolando Blackman.
Iwundu is proud of those achievements, but he isn’t ready to reflect on them. Not while he chases a bigger prize.
“I guess getting in the tournament would mean a little more to me,” said Iwundu, a senior wing.
Never miss a local story.
A return trip to the NCAA Tournament would be a fitting exclamation point. He helped the Wildcats reach the bracket as a freshman but hasn’t played in the postseason since.
The past three years have been a strange journey for Iwundu. He is the lone remaining member of his recruiting class, which once featured Marcus Foster, Jevon Thomas, Nigel Johnson and Jack Karapetyan. His teammates all chose to transfer or got kicked off the team during a disastrous 2014-15 season, leaving Iwundu to guide a rebuilding effort as an upperclassman.
He could have followed the pack and looked to move closer to his Houston home. But that’s not his style.
When asked what he hopes K-State fans remember most about him, Iwundu used the word “loyalty,” describing himself as a “guy who is always going to bleed purple.”
“I made a commitment to this school and I didn’t want to break it,” Iwundu said. “I just feel like you have to be a man of your word. I took pride in that, even with all the things going on. I had long conversations with my family. They told me just to stick through things and everything would work out for the better. It did, to be honest.”
Still, progress has been slow.
The Wildcats had their moments last season, but ultimately fell short of the NIT. They appeared destined for the NCAA Tournament after a 15-4 start this season, but a 2-8 nosedive dropped them to the bubble. They may need a victory over Baylor in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Thursday night to earn an at-large bid.
K-State players will look to Iwundu to lead them there. They have been looking to him for the past 14 games. Something began to click for Iwundu in that time, and he has been on a tear since, averaging 13.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.4 assists.
“What’s impressed me most about Wes is his leadership and his desire to win,” sophomore guard Kamau Stokes said. “We need that. We needed that the whole season. Wes always pushes us in practice. … And now he has had a long stretch of games where he is really playing well.”
Many wrote off the Wildcats when they lost by 30 at Oklahoma two weeks ago, but they bounced back with victories over TCU and Texas Tech. Iwundu had 16 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists against the Horned Frogs and 10 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists against the Red Raiders.
“He was so tired he couldn’t celebrate,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “That is how you are supposed to play.”
On Sunday, Iwundu earned third-team all-Big 12 honors from the conference’s coaches for the second straight season. But his big finish put him in the conversation for more.
So what happened? Call it a mixture of a senior realizing his time was almost up and a new, aggressive mindset.
“I should be close to a double-double every game,” Iwundu said. “If I’m not, then I don’t think I had a good game. Even with assists, I should have about four every game. Not that I am watching my stats, but that is what I need to do to help my team win.”
Now that Iwundu has figured out how to consistently produce, he doesn’t want the ride to end. His accomplishments can wait. He wants to keep the season going with a celebration on Selection Sunday.
“I will be the happiest man in the world,” Iwundu said. “As long as we are in, I think we can do some things. If I see our name in that tournament, I will be pretty excited.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett