Wesley Iwundu wants every Kansas State fan with a ticket to Saturday’s men’s basketball game against Kansas to know something.
If the Wildcats beat the Jayhawks at Bramlage Coliseum, he expects you to run onto the court and celebrate.
“We are definitely looking forward to that,” Iwundu, a junior wing, said Thursday. “Why not have fun with it? We want to have fun. The fans want to have fun. This is college basketball and that is part of college basketball. We want to see the court-storm happen.”
Iwundu wants to get that out of the way now, because no one knew how to react when K-State defeated then-No. 1 Oklahoma two weeks ago.
K-State students bunched near the front row when victory became apparent, and K-State players urged them to storm the court with hand gestures throughout the game’s final moments. But arena security kept fans off the floor by forming a human wall between the student section and the court. K-State also made a public announcement that any fan caught running onto the court would be prosecuted for trespassing.
Talk about mixed signals.
The Wildcats seemed confused when they were left to celebrate by themselves, and eventually made their way into the student section for a reverse court-storm. K-State coach Bruce Weber asked his team to practice court-storming protocol beforehand, and admitted he was disappointed fans remained in the stands. Afterward, he suggested they may get another chance in a few weeks, pointing to the Kansas game.
“I do encourage it,” said K-State senior Justin Edwards. “I think it is a fun experience. I don’t think we really need to, so I don’t know if they need to do it again, but I would like it if they did.”
Court-storming has become a touchy subject at K-State and across the Big 12 in the last year. K-State athletic officials apologized to Kansas for a court-storming gone wrong following a victory at Bramlage Coliseum last season. Players ran to the scorer’s table instead of midcourt to celebrate, which brought fans too close to the postgame handshake line, pinning KU coach Bill Self and players. A K-State fan also appeared to deliberately bump KU forward Jamari Traylor as he exited the floor.
Self complained about the incident and the Big 12 reprimanded K-State for its postgame protocol.
Last summer, the league approved measures allowing Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby to levy fines and other penalties to schools that fail to safely manage court-stormings.
But that hasn’t kept fans off the court. Texas Tech students flooded the floor as recently as Wednesday, following an upset of Oklahoma. Iowa State, Oklahoma State and West Virginia fans have also participated in court-stormings this season. The Big 12 issued no penalties, though a reporter did suffer a broken leg while observing fans rush the floor at Iowa State.
K-State athletic director John Currie has made his thoughts on the issue clear.
“I am 100 percent against court-storming,” he told The Star last February. “I am against field-storming. That takes a little fun out of it, right? But I am risk management, and I think it is not safe and it is not a good idea. We should do everything we can to prevent it.”
Currie has also taken steps to prevent obscene chants directed toward the Jayhawks by removing popular songs from the gameday atmosphere, including “Sandstorm.” K-State has also asked students to sign a sportsmanship pledge before picking up tickets at the start of the school year. K-State reminded students of the pledge this week.
K-State also posted a video on its YouTube channel this week promoting good sportsmanship.
Brian Rohleder, a senior guard, says he had a blast celebrating K-State’s home victories against Kansas the past two seasons, but he won’t be disappointed if fans are more subdued on Saturday.
“I want the students to have a good time,” Rohleder said, “but I think it should get to a point where we are getting used to it. We are here to stay against KU, and they are not always going to be the team we rush the court against. It is always nice to beat them, but hopefully it gets to a point where it is not that big of a deal.”
All Weber wants is a good crowd. If K-State beats Kansas, he isn’t worried about what happens afterward.
“Our security is beefed up. If it happens, we will be much better prepared and we won’t have any problems with it,” Weber said. “I just hope they come and cheer and have fun and we can play at a high level and they are a factor in the game.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett