In the rebirth of Kansas State basketball, starting with Bob Huggins’ tenure in 2007 through last season’s Big 12 championship season, the Wildcats have featured a go-to source.
And often you could see the next man up on the horizon.
When Michael Beasley starred in 2008, Jacob Pullen was a star-in-waiting. Then Rodney McGruder succeeded Pullen in a line of all-conference talent.
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“I’m ready to be that guy,” Shane Southwell said Tuesday during Big 12 men’s basketball media day at the Sprint Center. “I’ve worked to be that guy, I’ve trained to be that guy.”
Southwell, a 6-foot-7 senior wing, is the obvious candidate. He’s Kansas State’s top returning scorer at 8.4 points per game, but there’s much more to him.
He led the Wildcats in three-point shooting last season at 43.6 percent, which would have ranked second in the Big 12 had he made enough shots to qualify. His turnover-assist ratio was a healthy two-to-one. Oh, he was second in the team with 15 blocked shots.
“He’s our most versatile guy,” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said.
That’s always been part of what defines Southwell, dating to his Rice High School days in New York.
“Before I became a ‘quote-unquote’ shooter, I was a point forward in high school, so I’m really comfortable handling the ball and making decisions,” Southwell said.
He’ll move around the floor, maybe even get some minutes at point. The position belongs to Will Spradling, who has moved over from his more natural shooting guard spot, at least until Jevon Thomas, who must sit out the first semester, becomes eligible to play and works into the lineup.
Weber said Southwell could become the Wildcats’ next big thing, but believes there are other candidates.
“We’re going to have to play Will at the point most of the game, and I think that will take away from his scoring a little bit,” Weber said. “So that means Shane Southwell and Thomas Gipson have to be the guys who really step up.”
Gipson, a 6-7 junior frontliner, averaged 7.9 points and five rebounds, and had checked into camp some 30 pounds lighter this season, which should help his stamina.
“He could become a major factor for us if he has that motor every day,” Weber said. “He showed glimpses last year, but if you’re going to star you going to have to do it every game.”
Spradling reminded that although McGruder led the Wildcats with a 15.6-point average in an all-Big 12 season, the multitude of scoring options was a factor in the program’s 27-victory season.
“We had nine players score in double figures for us at least once last year,” Spradling said.
Actually, it was 10 that reached double figures, and besides Southwell, Gipson and Spradling, players who had some nice moments last season return: guard Omari Lawrence and forwards Nino Williams and D.J. Johnson.
Add the newcomers in Thomas and Marcus Foster, a 6-3 shooting guard who figures to make an immediate contribution with his shooting range, and Kansas State has the makings of a team that can spread the wealth.
“We have a lot of players, people come back and freshmen coming in who can score,” Spradling said. “So, maybe we don’t end up with somebody scoring 16 a game. Maybe we have a couple averaging 11 instead, and a lot of people capable of getting 20.”
But Southwell at least wants the chance to be the go-to guy.
“I’m ready for the opportunity,” he said.