A home game against Oklahoma State is usually the type of thing Kansas State basketball players might overlook, especially with rival Kansas looming on Monday, but that doesn’t seem to be a concern for this group.
The first-place Wildcats are motivated to beat the Cowboys for obvious reasons, but they are also looking forward to Saturday’s Big 12 game at Bramlage Coliseum because it marks the return of their throwback lavender uniforms.
K-State went 3-0 while wearing them last season, and the team wants to stay undefeated while rocking its one-of-a-kind, two-tone look.
“It’s been a long time,” junior guard Xavier Sneed said. “I wish we could wear them some more, but it is definitely going to be exciting to play in the lavenders again.”
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The Wildcats are best known for wearing purple, but their basketball success was once linked to a softer color.
The lavender uniforms made their debut in 1973 under Jack Hartman and years of victories followed. From 1973-82, they went 186-81 with Mike Evans and Chuckie Williams lighting up scoreboards. Rolando Blackman even made it onto the cover of Sports Illustrated when he gunned down Oregon State in the 1981 NCAA Tournament.
The shot he made to beat the Beavers became one of the most iconic photos in K-State basketball history ... and he was wearing lavender when it happened.
The Wildcats will return to that era on Saturday against Oklahoma State when they honor their past by wearing throwback uniforms that feature lavender jerseys, dark purple shorts, white socks and lavender shoes.
“I hope it adds a little excitement to it,” K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber said. “The throwbacks bring back great memories of special times in K-State basketball history. It was kind of theirs. No one else had them. They had something no one else in the country had and you recognized them.”
K-State brought back the uniforms last season during a home game against TCU and went on to play some of its best basketball in them. So much so, that players dubbed them “Lucky Lavenders.”
The uniforms certainly had a wow factor.
Fans liked them so much that they bombarded K-State athletic officials with questions about how to buy replica versions for themselves. They eventually went on sale to the public. Lavender jerseys and dark purple shorts are now staples in the Bramlage stands.
But the response was a little different from outsiders.
“I get a lot of crazy texts from people saying, ‘What in the hell are those things?’” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “People from away don’t understand, but the people close like it and appreciate it.”
Weber says he will get in on the act by wearing lavender socks and a throwback sports coat on the sideline.
K-State now treats its lavender uniforms the same way Notre Dame football handles green. They are only to be worn for big games or special occasions.
This is the only time the Wildcats will wear them this season. Players would like to break them out more often, but, as K-State learned last season, the NCAA has rules against two-tone uniforms. Teams need to apply for a waiver to wear them once in the regular season, and they are strictly forbidden during the postseason.
K-State players and fans will have to enjoy the lavenders as much as they can on Saturday, because they won’t be back for a while.