MANHATTAN, Kan. — For much of this season, Kansas State’s Will Spradling has mostly been a decoy in the Wildcats’ offense.
And not a very good one at that.
For the first 18 games, Spradling, a 6-foot-2 senior, was supposed to be the stationary kick-out threat, the guy who gets the open trey on the wing when the players inside get double-teamed.
But for whatever reason, Spradling, known as an effective long-distance weapon throughout his career, was clanking one shot after another all season. There were 2-of-11 games and 1-of-6 games and 0-for-3 games.
Too many of them for the Wildcats to gain any consistency offensively.
Then something clicked six games ago against Texas, and even Spradling isn’t sure what it was. He started to find his shooting touch, and suddenly his whole game transformed.
Or maybe it was the other way around. Focusing on the rest of his game — feeding his teammates, coming up with steals, helping out on the boards — might have gotten him involved enough in the offense to regain confidence in his shooting touch.
In the last six games, Spradling, an Overland Park, Kan., native, is averaging 11.7 points per game. He is shooting a blistering 61 percent (23 of 38) from the floor. And he’s shooting an unheard-of 60 percent (15 of 25) from 3-point range.
And that doesn’t even tell the whole story. In the rousing upset of Kansas on Monday, Spradling led the team in rebounds (six), assists (five) and steals (three) to go along with 15 points. He has 20 assists over the last six games and 10 steals over the last four.
In short, he has been everywhere on the court.
"Will kind of struggled early in the season, but he has come around," Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said. "And he is on a good run now. Hopefully, he has a good finish to his career. He does so many little things that people do not notice or appreciate."
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Indeed, good things seem to happen when Spradling is on the court now.
"The other day Marcus (Foster) had 34 points," Weber said. "But in the plus-minus chart, Will was plus-30 and Marcus was only plus-19.
"So that kind of just shows you the player he is."
Spradling thinks he turned a corner before the Iowa State game on Jan. 25, when he hit 4 of 6 3-pointers and scored 12 points.
"My dad called me before that game and asked me how do I want to go out and how do I want to be remembered at Kansas State," Spradling said.
"Since then, I have been playing with a lot more confidence and more aggressiveness," he said.
Monday’s huge win over Kansas, just the Wildcats’ fourth win in 52 tries against KU, was a good example. Spradling was all over the court, and he was determined not to let this one slip away.
"I have made a lot of those in my day, so I was not really worried about it," he said. "I was confident shooting and taking it."
The Wildcats improved to 17-7 overall and 7-4 in the Big 12, and are at least within the same area code as the league-leading Jayhawks, who are 9-2.
"It was a great win for us and just another step," Spradling said. "We are in the Big 12 race. There is still a chance and we are only two games back. It was really a big game for us, and now we have to come out this Saturday and be prepared."
You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter at @jflanagankc or email email@example.com.