K-State’s Spradling hopes final trip to Sprint Center is memorable

Will Spradling, a Shawnee Mission South grad, has had good games and not-so-good games at Sprint Center.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Will Spradling’s final game at Bramlage Coliseum last Saturday fizzled badly as he missed all six shots he took in a 76-74 loss to Baylor on Senior Day.

And now, his college career winding down, Spradling hopes his final performance at Sprint Center is far more memorable.

Playing at Sprint Center is a bit of a homecoming for Spradling, who grew up in nearby Overland Park, Kan., and graduated from Shawnee Mission South High School.

"I’m always excited to play here," the senior guard said Wednesday after practice. "I’ve had some good games here."

As a freshman in his first Big 12 tournament, Spradling scored 14 points in a loss to Colorado. Then in a preseason game at Sprint Center last season, he scored 17 points and had five assists in a win over Florida.

But Spradling was mostly a non-factor in the conference tournament here last season, when he scored just three points in three games.

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Still, it’s an event that Spradling perhaps holds closer to his heart than any of his teammates.

"It’s something I grew up watching and something I was tuned into all the time," he said. "I was excited to be a part of it as a freshman, and I’m even more excited now."

Unfortunately, Spradling doesn’t expect his usual army of friends and family to see him play Thursday against Iowa State.

"There won’t be a lot tomorrow because it’s such an early game (11:30 a.m.)," he said. "But I know a lot of (friends and family) will be watching on TV. And then if we keep winning, there could be a lot of people coming later."

Spradling’s mission this week is twofold: He personally wants to extend his recent streak of solid play (the Baylor game aside); and he still believes the Wildcats have some work to do to improve their NCAA seeding.

After a sluggish start in conference play, Spradling seemed to turn his season around starting on Jan. 21 in a loss to Texas. He scored eight points, grabbed four rebounds and had four assists that night. And in his last 13 games he is averaging 9.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 steals.

Spradling also is shooting nearly 47 percent during the stretch.

The turnaround, he said, came after a heart-to-heart phone call from his father in Overland Park.

"I wasn’t playing well and he called me and just asked me how I wanted to go out and be remembered," Spradling said. "That really changed my perception and changed how I approached the games from then on.

"That was something personal with my dad but obviously, us seniors have shared in the thought that this is it for us. We want to finish strong."

The Wildcats (20-11 overall, 10-8 Big 12) also would like to improve their resume for the NCAA selection committee.

"It’s huge for us," Spradling said. "I wouldn’t say we’re on the bubble, but we’re kind of one of the lower seeds right now. So it’d be nice to win a couple of games. That would jump us up a lot (in the NCAA seeding)."

And there’s no better place to do that than at Sprint Center, Spradling said.

"We definitely have a home-court advantage here," he said. "Our fans come out here and support us. That really helps. It’s great."

You can follow Jeffrey Flanagan on Twitter @jflanagankc or email jeffreyflanagan6@gmail.com.