Great freshman class, new coach offer intriguing year for Kansas State Print
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Tuesday, 06 November 2007 11:38
NCAAB Headline News

 MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -Calling Michael Beasley this season's Kevin Durant is terribly unfair and oh, so tempting.
Before this season is all played out, it may also be close to true because the 6-foot-10 power forward is the best recruit Kansas State ever signed, a player considered by many the No. 1 prospect in the country. He is also the centerpiece of the greatest freshman class in Kansas State history.
What's more, he more than lived up to the hype in the Wildcats' first game. In just 28 minutes, he had 35 points, 15 rebounds, six steals four assists and four blocks in a 95-59 blowout of Division II Ft. Hays State.
All that alone is enough to make this the most highly anticipated season in the ``Little Apple.''
But also in the mix is a colorful rookie head coach with a chip on his shoulder and a fierce determination to succeed and a staid president and a nervous athletic director whose reputations are on the line.
It all began last April when always-controversial Bob Huggins jilted Kansas State after just one year and left president Jon Wefald and athletic director Tim Weiser with embarrassed. In Huggins' one season, he and assistants Frank Martin and 27-year-old Dalonte Hill had given the Wildcats their most wins in almost two decades, their best finish in the Big 12 and their first postseason appearance in almost 10 years.
Most importantly, they had collected the greatest class Kansas State ever produced. Beasley, the MVP of the McDonald's All-American game, averaged 28 points and 16 rebounds at Notre Dame Prep in Massachusetts and led the U.S. under-19 squad to a silver medal in the FIBA World Championships last summer.
He is the most highly decorated recruit to join the Big 12 next to Durant, who went right into the NBA after averaging 25.8 points and 11.1 rebounds in one brilliant All-American season at Texas.
Bill Walker, a 6-6 swingman, was almost as highly regarded as Beasley and saw action in six games as a true freshman last year before a season-ending ACL injury. Now Walker's back as a freshman, joining Beasley, point guard Jacob Pullen and four others in a class that is the envy of every other school in the conference.
With that talent waiting in the wings, Huggins' walkout last April put Wefald and Weiser in a tough spot.
Should they conduct a thorough, nationwide search for a head coach and take a chance on losing Beasley, Walker and the others? Or should they move quickly to keep the great class intact and hand the program to the unproven Martin and No. 2 assistant Hill, 28?
After only a couple of days, Weiser admitted he didn't even make routine background checks before giving the job to Martin, who's had no experience running a program beyond the high school level.
Hill was made his No. 1 assistant, and Kansas State fans took a deep breath when the recruits all elected to stay. Now, starting Friday night with a home game against Sacramento State, the Wildcats will launch their most interesting season in school history.
Will Beasley, Walker and their teammates prove as great as hoped? Will they, like Durant, be one-and-done and off to the NBA or stick around and build a lasting foundation?
Will Martin, the fiery son of Cuban immigrants, be able to coach them? Or will the program sink right back into mediocrity and force an embarrassed administration to make another, more careful, coaching search?
Before hooking up with Huggins at Cincinnati, Martin coached for 16 years in Miami high schools. He moonlighted as a bartender/bouncer, once getting shot at by people he'd kicked out of the place and once getting fired in a recruiting scandal he says he had nothing to do with.
``If you look at any team that I've ever been associated with, and you ask anybody that was a part of that, they'll tell you that I have incredible passion for succeeding,'' he said.
 

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