K-State prepares for life after Michael Beasley Print
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Thursday, 06 November 2008 23:01
NCAAB Headline News


 MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -Kansas State coach Frank Martin answered each question with his usual straightforward approach, addressing his team's conditioning, Jacob Pullen's improvement and transfer Denis Clemente's willingness to play defense.
He discussed Dominique Sutton's ability to shut down the opponent's top scorer, his six newcomers and whether he would be patient with a team still young at its core.
Finally, after about 15 minutes of give and take, Martin couldn't resist.
``No Michael Beasley questions? My God,'' he said. ``You guys must be bored today.''
The question may not have been asked, but it's certainly on everyone's minds: Can Kansas State win without Beasley?
The initial answer is - at least outside the program - probably not.
Beasley was Kansas State's leading scorer and rebounder, an All-American who brought much-needed prominence to the program and led the Wildcats to the NCAA tournament for the first time in 12 years.
verall pick in this year's NBA draft after one phenomenal season of college ball.
In case that wasn't enough, Kansas State also lost second-leading scorer Bill Walker, another early entry into the NBA - now with the Boston Celtics - along with guards Clent Stewart and Blake Young.
That leaves Kansas State with one returning starter, six players who played bit roles a year ago and a host of newcomers.
No doubt, it's a monumental hole to fill, one that led the Big 12's coaches to pick the Wildcats to finish eighth in the conference.
That's just fine with the Wildcats, who are used to being called underdogs and relish the chance to prove everyone wrong.
``It does get under my skin at times, but it's motivation for us,'' Sutton said. ``We want people to say 'Wow, we didn't know they were as good as they are.' We have a lot of returning players and we are all going to step up our game this year.``'
They're going to have to.
Beasley and Walker averaged more than 42 points per game between them, representing 53 percent of Kansas State's scoring last season. Throw in Stewart's 6.7 average and Young's 5.8 per game, and the Wildcats have to replace four of their top five scorers.
The upside is that Kansas State could become more diverse this season. Instead of standing around watching Beasley do his thing, or feeding Walker when he got hot, the Wildcats should have more balance.
They figure Mike and Bill was our whole offense last year, and in some cases they were, but I feel like last year didn't give everybody a chance to show how good they could be,'' Pullen said. ``Playing with Mike and Bill wasn't such a bad thing, but they had their turn and now it's our turn.''
Where losing Beasley hurts most is on the defensive glass.
The 6-foot-10 forward became just the third freshman in NCAA history to lead the nation in rebounding at 12.4 per game
``Everyone thought we were so dependent on Mike scoring the basketball, but the one aspect of the game where we were fully dependent on No. 30 was rebounding the basketball,'' Martin said. ``He dug us out of a lot of tough defensive situations by going out and getting a rebound. That's the place we are going to most miss him and we collectively have to find ways to replace him.''
What about the Wildcats' strengths?
Pullen is explosive and a good perimeter shooter who can score points in bunches. He bulked up in the offseason, transforming himself from a pudgy freshman to a sturdy 6-foot, 200-pounder who'll be much harder to knock off the ball.
Joining him in the backcourt is Denis Clemente, a former starter at Miami who sat out last season after transferring to Manhattan. He's one of college basketball's fastest players with the ball, a good scorer and superb passer.
e one of the Big 12's most explosive backcourts.
``Me and him play great together,'' Pullen said. ``In practice when we're on the same team, other teams don't get the ball. We do halfcourt things where the offense keeps it if they score and we'll have a possession for 20, 30 minutes in practice because I feel like it's impossible for teams to stop us.''
Kansas State also has depth on its side.
Darren Kent, Fred Brown, Ron Anderson, Chris Merriewether and Luis Colon all played at least 25 games last season. Sutton missed the first 11 games while completing his academic requirements, then became a regular in the rotation, starting both NCAA tournament games.
Now that Beasley and Walker are gone, they all get a chance to show what they can do.
``We know that all the roles have changed and we know that it's going to have to be a team effort this year,'' Kent said. ``Everyone's bought into that scheme and that game plan and it's been working out so far.''
 

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