Justin Edwards had ample time to envision what playing in the Big 12 Conference might be like. After transferring to Kansas State from Maine, Edwards sat out the 2013-14 season, per NCAA rules. He says he spent the year visualizing his impact in the league, which he thought would come naturally.
Expected to deliver a top perimeter scoring threat to the Kansas State offense, Edwards instead averaged 6.3 points per game and shot only 38.9 percent from the floor.
“I would say I’m disappointed in last season,” Edwards said at Big 12 Conference media day Tuesday at the Sprint Center. “I don’t think I lived up to the potential that I have, what people saw in me or what I saw in myself.
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“I think this is the year to have that breakthrough year that I expected to have.”
Only a few minutes after Edwards spoke on Tuesday morning, the man sitting to his left, senior forward Stephen Hurt, echoed the sentiment.
Their stories are quite similar. Hurt, too, transferred to Kansas State and fell beneath the preseason calculations. He averaged 4.2 points and 2.8 rebounds per game as a junior.
“The hardest thing was just the speed of the game,” Hurt said. “Coming here, there are a lot of athletes. You have to be ready every night, or you’re going to get beat.”
The offseason adjustment, at least for Hurt, came in the form of conditioning. He said he spent his summer working to get in better shape to match the aforementioned speed of the game. He lost weight. He built muscle.
The final product, Kansas State coach Bruce Weber hopes, is a 6-foot-11 player who can pose matchup problems.
“I think Steven, his best attributes on the offensive end are definitely his shooting — facing up, shooting the 15-, 17-footer, even out to three,” Weber said. “We’ve got to find ways to get him baskets (and) get him open so he can shoot the ball.
“At the same time, we’ve been on him. He has to be a presence on the defensive end inside. He is our big body. He’s going to have to deal with the contact and clog the lane up. He’s going to have to rebound.”
There have been signs Hurt is capable of providing those attributes, Weber said, before pointing toward a preseason scrimmage in which Hurt was the leading rebounder on the floor.
For Edwards, the evidence came in spurts last season — most notably a 16-point effort against Iowa State late in the season. But the consistency was lacking.
“Every player is good in the Big 12, so you can’t take plays off at all. You have to be ready to go all the time,” Edwards said. “My expectations are way higher. I feel like I’m ready now. I’ve been working out a lot extra, getting in the gym a lot extra. My expectations are really high.”