Kansas State University

K-State Q&A: Chris Klieman, football recruiting and Nijel Pack’s haunting stare

It’s time for another K-State Q&A.

I don’t have anything to rant about before tackling your questions this week, so let’s get right to them. Thanks, as always, for your participation.

Not yet.

I’m honestly too scared to interview K-State’s newest basketball pledge after the haunting look Nijel Pack showed the world in his third commitment photo earlier this week.

Seriously, look at the one on the bottom right ... If you dare.

Talk about scary. That stare will haunt me all weekend. I saw someone on Twitter use that picture to describe him as the most committed basketball recruit of all time. That was pretty funny.

There are other “enthusiastic” reasons to joke about the photo, and many of you already have in my Twitter mentions, but I don’t want to get into that on here.

It’s such a serious look that I couldn’t even bring myself to use it with the story I wrote on him becoming the first member of K-State’s 2020 recruiting class. I couldn’t handle that glare and decided to go with the one on the left where he’s wearing a Big 12 championship hat.

I will say this, though: It will be fun to watch him mean mug Big 12 opponents in a few years.

If he goes on to do anything of consequence in a K-State uniform, that photo will become a meme. No doubt about it.

On paper: probably not.

On the court: maybe.

From what I’ve seen from Pack so far, he reminds me a bit of Kamau Stokes. He can handle the ball well and he can shoot it from the outside. He’s a three-star recruit and he committed the Wildcats early. He’s not in the top 150 of any recruiting databases, but some think his recruitment could take off this summer when more schools get a good look at him.

He’s from Indianapolis, and now that he’s committed to K-State that could entice nearby schools like Purdue or Indiana to extend an offer. If that happens, does he remain loyal to the Wildcats? Or does he think a little more about his options?

I suppose that’s always a question mark when a player commits this early.

For now, let’s say he’s purple to the core. He could end up being like DaJuan Gordon or Montavious Murphy, the type of recruit who gets some exposure and works his way into the top 150 as time goes by. So he could end up being the Wildcats’ highest-profile recruit of 2020.

But K-State might have two more scholarships to use during that cycle, and the Wildcats are currently chasing some prospects who currently look better on paper. Here’s guessing Weber and company land a higher profile recruit down the line.

Depends on how many other teams get involved with his recruitment over the summer.

K-State appears to be in good position for Luke Kasubke, a three-star shooting guard from St. Louis. Bruce Weber and Chris Lowery have had success recruiting that town lately.

But he also recently jumped into the Rivals top 150. Missouri, Creighton and Xavier have offered scholarships. Illinois, Wisconsin and others are lurking.

There will be a recruiting battle for him.

What you are seeing from Chris Klieman and his coaching staff right now on the recruiting trail is probably what you are going to keep seeing down the road.

Klieman doesn’t pay attention to the recruiting services. He makes his own evaluations and offers the players he likes, regardless of how many stars appear next to their names online.

If K-State recruiting stays hot and the Wildcats look good on the gridiron next year, higher-rated players will naturally show up on Klieman’s radar. But it will happen organically.

Van Malone is scorching hot right now.

The Wildcats have secured commitments from five Texas-based recruits for the 2020 cycle and he is one of the main reasons why. Klieman wanted assistants on his staff with recruiting ties to the Lone Star State, and Malone is providing them.

He seems to have a good relationship with the rest of K-State’s coaches. He spent a season coaching at North Dakota State many years ago and has been all over the Big 12. He seems happy.

Malone has been a bit of a job-hopper over the years, so you never know how long he will stay in Manhattan. Maybe he wants to be a coordinator again? Maybe not?

All I can say is things are going well for him at the moment.

They are both more than capable of having good “rookie” seasons this year, but my money is on Byron Pringle.

The former K-State receiver is older than Shelley and he has some genuine NFL experience under his belt. Yes, he missed all of last season with an injury. But he went through most of the preseason and learned what it was like to be a professional and how to play in Andy Reid’s system while he recovered and watched from the sidelines.

It’s almost Pringle time at Arrowhead Stadium.

The Chiefs could really use him at receiver next season, especially with all the unknowns surrounding Tyreek Hill. Here’s guessing Patrick Mahomes finds Pringle for some big gains. At the least, he should be able to contribute on special teams.

Shelley could do good things for the Bears on defense, but Pringle seems to have the higher ceiling.

Getting big men has never been a problem for Bruce Weber.

Just look at the current roster. The Wildcats have got Antonio Gordon, James Love, Makol Mawien, Montavious Murphy, Nigel Shadd and Levi Stockard. All bigs!

Getting quality big men has been a challenge for K-State, but Weber has always found a way to get tall players on campus.

You’re right, other Big 12 teams like Baylor, Texas and Kansas traditionally recruit better front-court players than K-State.

But the Wildcats did just have Dean Wade on campus, and he twice made the all-Big 12 first team. He was pretty good.

I like the look of Gordon and Murphy. Together, they could own the four spot next season. Mawien has been solid, if not spectacular. Stockard could take a step forward this year.

Love and Shadd haven’t brought much to the table. Austin Trice was a bust. But K-State big men have performed well otherwise. Maybe not as well as KU and Texas, but few coaches recruit big men better than Bill Self and Shaka Smart.

The Longhorns have had a revolving door of NBA draft picks down low. The Jayhawks use four-star bigs in garbage time.

Why? There aren’t a ton of great bigs out there, at least compared to other positions, and the best teams tend to gobble them up. It’s hard for most basketball teams to match front courts with KU and Texas.

But the game is shifting away from dominant big men. It’s worth pointing out the Wildcats were better than Baylor, Kansas and Texas last season.

I have sadly never thought about this before.

The game would probably be fairly even.

Bill Self was the much better basketball player in his prime, as he was good enough to start 53 games at Oklahoma State while Bruce Weber went to Wisconsin-Milwaukee and began working on his coaching career.

But Weber appears to be in better physical shape than Self at the moment.

So maybe that evens things out.

I say they take the court an hour or so before the Sunflower Showdown next season at Bramlage Coliseum and settle the debate.

No, boneless wings are not truly chicken wings. They are chicken nuggets drenched in sauce. They can be tasty, but that doesn’t make them wings.

I could take or leave Buffalo Wild Wings, so that place gets my vote for overrated wing restaurant.

Pizza Hut/Wing Street gets my underrated vote. Those wings are legitimately good.

This is an important question. So much so, that I have decided to max out my company credit card and spend the next few months on the road researching some possible answers.

I think my editors are cool with that.

Many years ago, I played Las Vegas National Golf Course at my own bachelor party. It wasn’t the greatest course in town, but no one complained. We even combined groups over the last few holes and formed a twelve-some. That was memorable.

But golf was not our top priority, because we were in Sin City.

That will be important to remember as you plan your trip. If you go to a place like Vegas or Miami, just about any course will do. But if you go to Hutchinson, you better play Prairie Dunes instead of the local muni, because that’s going to be the highlight of your weekend.

Some possibilites:

Torrey Pines in San Diego ... Pebble Beach in the Bay area ... Bethpage Black in New York ... Horseshoe Bay or Barton Creek in Austin ... Colbert Hills in Manhattan ... Anywhere in Phoenix, Nashville or Vegas.

1. I’m getting tired of the Wildcat hand signal.

2. K-State’s “big-game gray” basketball uniforms need to find the dumpster.

Unlike last week’s question about Team Snyder vs. Team Everyone Else, I at least have to think about this one.

Still, I’m guessing Team 1.0 would be favored to beat Team 2.0.

The Wildcats had six different 11-win seasons during Snyder’s first stint as coach. They won nine or 10 games in four other seasons. And his first stint lasted longer than his second stint, so there is a bigger pool of players to choose from.

Snyder had two, maybe even three, excellent teams during the 2.0 days. The Wildcats nearly played for a national championship in 2012 and started 7-0 the year before that.

The best players on those teams would make for tough competition.

Let’s break it down.

Team 1.0 would have studs like ... Michael Bishop, Darren Sproles, Kevin Lockett, Andre Coleman, Mark Simoneau, Terence Newman, Martin Gramatica, Percell Gaskins, Chris Canty, Jon McGraw, Ben Leber, Josh Scobey, Terry Pierce and (for all-name purposes) Taco Wallace.

Team 2.0 would counter with the likes of ... Collin Klein, Arthur Brown, Bryce Brown (he counts, right?), Chris Harper, Tyler Lockett, Dalton Risner, Elijah Lee, Jordan Willis, Ty Zimmerman, Cody Whitehair, D.J. Reed, Byron Pringle, Daniel Thomas and (again for name purposes) Cornelius Ruff IV.

There’s plenty of high-end talent on both squads, but depth gives Team 1.0 the advantage. Recruiting and roster-wide talent was simply stronger during Snyder’s first stint as coach.

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