Bruce Weber draws inspiration from Texas Tech’s Final Four run
Kansas State men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber has spent long hours recruiting over the past 40 days, and his efforts on that front might soon pay off.
The Wildcats just finished hosting two of their top targets on official visits, Maize guard Caleb Grill and Drexel transfer Alihan Demir, and will welcome a third, junior college transfer David Sloan, this weekend.
Demir picked Minnesota, but the other two listed K-State among the final schools they are considering, which means the Wildcats could fill one (or both) of their open scholarships in the next few weeks, if not days.
The in-state target
The Wildcats have been heavily involved with Maize senior Caleb Grill since he withdrew his commitment from South Dakota State last month.
Grill, a 6-foot-3 guard, has taken an official and an unofficial visit to K-State and the Wildcats are now among his three finalists, along with Iowa State and UNLV. He hopes to choose one next week.
“It will be a tough decision,” Grill said. “All three schools have a lot to offer. I will have a lot to think about.”
K-State presents an option close to home, but it faces serious competition. Grill was in Ames earlier this week visiting Iowa State and he will be in Las Vegas this weekend, where he will be reunited with the coach who has recruited him longer than anyone else.
Grill originally chose South Dakota State over Texas Tech, Nebraska and Washington State because of his relationship with then coach T.J. Otzelberger. But Grill had a change of heart when Otzelberger took the UNLV job. He may now choose to follow him west.
All three schools are currently even in Grill’s mind, but UNLV and Otzelberger will get the last word.
“We have an unbelievable relationship,” Grill said of Otzelberger. “Me and him are a lot alike in how hard we work and how hard we compete. We see the game the same way.”
K-State put its best foot forward when Grill was on campus last week.
Weber hasn’t landed a Sunflower State recruit since Dean Wade pledged his services to the Wildcats four years ago, but he left campus as one of the best players in school history. Perhaps Grill could follow that same path? Grill said he was honored when K-State offered him a scholarship last month, and the Wildcats played up their in-state connections.
Grill certainly has the skills to help the Wildcats, as early as next season. He recently led Maize to its best season in school history. The multi-sport athlete, who also plays football, baseball and competes as a high jumper, guided the Eagles to the Class 5A semifinals while averaging 18.4 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists as a senior. He shot 48 percent from the floor and 35 percent from three-point range.
“They told me they need a shooter,” Grill said. “That’s one of my strengths, so I definitely see how I fit with them.”
Iowa State can offer the prospect of early playing time following the departures of Lindell Wigginton and Talen Horton-Tucker.
UNLV is led by the coach Grill put his trust in months ago.
What does he value most? The answer could determine where he ultimately ends up.
“Distance is not something I’m worried about,” Grill said. “I want to be in a system that fits me and helps me become the best player I can possibly be. If I have to go far away to do that, that is what I am going to do.”
The junior-college transfer
One look at the statistics David Sloan produced as a sophomore point guard at John A. Logan Community College in Carterville, Illinois, is all it takes to understand why K-State coaches want to add him to the roster.
Sloan averaged 12 points, 9.5 assists and 4.8 rebounds while shooting 38.7 percent from three-point range last season.
Those numbers earned him recruiting attention from Georgetown, Cincinnati and K-State. After visiting the first two, he plans to check out Manhattan this weekend and then choose between K-State and Cincinnati at some point over the next two weeks.
He is eager to see what the Wildcats have to offer.
“They’ve been recruiting me for a while now,” Sloan said via text message. “They have been consistent and I have built a relationship with (associate head) Coach (Chris) Lowery.”
Sloan considers himself a “true point guard” who does most of his damage with passes but isn’t afraid to create his own shot when the situation presents itself. He thinks he would fit in well with K-State’s returning starters and challenge for playing time next season alongside Cartier Diarra, Shaun-Neal Williams, Mike McGuirl and DaJuan Gordon.
The Wildcats haven’t had the best of luck with junior-college transfers lately, but their last junior-college point guard, Carlbe Ervin, turned out to be a good addition.
Sloan will have two years of eligibility remaining at his next school.
The graduate transfer
Alihan Demir decided to explore his options as a graduate transfer after averaging 14.8 points and 6.4 rebounds at Drexel last season.
The 6-foot-9, 232-pound forward seemed capable of bringing some much-needed scoring to the Wildcats’ front court next season after making 51.2 percent of his shots as a junior, including 27.4 percent from three-point range.
But Demir committed to Minnesota on Thursday.
Weber has been searching for a grad transfer to potentially replace Wade next season, and he has now struck out trying to land two of them. Lehigh big man Pat Andree ended up at North Carolina State and Demir is heading to the Big Ten.
Demir wrapped up an official visit to Manhattan earlier this week, but that wasn’t enough to convince him to transfer to K-State.
Still, the Wildcats could hear some answers from two other recruits that could soon re-shape their roster.