Preseason basketball celebrations are hard to pull off at Kansas State.
The Wildcats haven’t held a Midnight Madness type event since 2014, and that impromptu evening of scrimmages and dunk contests was far from memorable. Basketball, it seemed, was a tough sell during football season.
But K-State will give it another try at 8 p.m. Friday when Madness in Manhattan begins at Bramlage Coliseum.
Coming off a 25-win season that included a trip to the Elite Eight, K-State coach Bruce Weber decided there was too much basketball excitement on campus to wait until November for this team’s public debut.
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“There is a little more hype than usual right now,” Weber said. “You go to football games and people are usually saying exciting things about basketball this and basketball that. Now you are getting more average talk around town. People are coming up to me at the grocery store telling me how good they think we are going to be. It will be good to let those fans in and give them a little sneak preview. It’s perfect timing with homecoming weekend and a football game on Saturday.”
Madness in Manhattan will feature skill competitions and scrimmages for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The most anticipated event of the evening figures to be a dunk contest between Dean Wade, Cartier Diarra, Austin Trice and Shaun Neal-Williams. Doors open at 7 p.m. Admission is free.
Weber isn’t sure who to pick as the dunk favorite. He says Trice is the best dunker of that group, but he is prone to miss off the back rim when he tries to pull off NBA Jam-style slams. He thinks Diarra makes his dunks look effortless, but he’s much shorter than the forwards in the competition. Perhaps Wade is the sensible pick.
The hope is for all the events, and the atmosphere surrounding them, to impress the young recruits who will be in attendance on unofficial visits.
For now, though, Weber is more worried about practice.
He says the Wildcats have had their ups and downs this month. He thinks Kamau Stokes and Dean Wade are “getting the rust off” after previously dealing with injuries. But K-State’s other veterans hit the ground running.
Three unheralded players have also caught his eye.
“Mike McGuirl has played really well,” Weber said. “James Love, this has been the first time he has been healthy for an extended period of time. We are excited about him. Levi Stockard has also done some nice things.”
K-State players will get the opportunity to show off their progress in front of fans on Friday.
If all goes well, and preseason basketball celebrations start to feel a bit easier to pull off, Madness in Manhattan could become an annual event.
“I’m fine with that,” Weber said. “It’s more up to our promotions and fan-development people. If they feel it is a good thing to do and works out timing wise it’s something we can do. We always want to get publicity for our players. They like it. Playing at Bramlage in front of people is always a good thing. I just hope our guys use the time to get a little better.”