K-State’s tourney hopes could depend on ascending star Marcus Foster

At 15.4 points per game, Marcus Foster was the Big 12's No. 2 scorer among freshmen.

Jim Cowsert/Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — After Kansas State freshman Marcus Foster scorched Baylor for 29 points last Saturday, Baylor coach Scott Drew was asked what the future might hold for Foster.

"He’s (going to be) a pro," Drew said without hesitation. "He’s that good."

Of course, that won’t happen this year. But certainly Foster’s ceiling could be that high.

While most of the attention regarding Big 12 freshmen was rightfully focused on Andrew Wiggins and Joel Embiid this season, Foster was equally as vital to Kansas State’s success as Wiggins and Embiid were to Kansas’.

"He made second team all-conference, so somebody voted for him and must think he’s pretty good," Wildcats coach Bruce Weber said with a wry smile. "… But he can get better. There’s a lot of room for improvement, and he knows that. But right now we need him to score.

"When he does that, we’re a much better team."

Lookin’ good! CLICK HERE to check out our gallery of cheerleaders from around the Big 12.

Foster indeed can be one of the league’s most dynamic scorers at times. He was 11th in the Big 12 in scoring at 15.4 points per game. Wiggins was the only freshman who averaged more (16.8).

"There are a lot of ways Marcus can beat you," Weber said. "For a freshman he has a really good feel for coming off the wing. And if you crowd him, he’s got that explosiveness to the basket."

Foster was deadly this season from 3-point range, shooting at a 39 percent clip. Only five Big 12 players shot better from long range.

"He’s our biggest asset, our biggest threat," teammate Will Spradling said. "And the thing is, he’s grown so much since his first game. The first couple of games he was just trying to score. Now he’s a lockdown (defensive) player and he’s getting assists and rebounds."

And as Foster has become a better all-around player, he has joined the ranks of the top Big 12 guards.

"He’s right up there," Weber said. "This league has so many good guards, but I’d say as a scorer, he’s right there now."

Foster isn’t shy about claiming his status among the league’s elite, either.

"I think I compare very nicely," Foster said. "We’re all kind of the same type. We all can defend and we all can shoot and we all can make big plays.

"I still got a lot to learn because they’re so far ahead of me (in experience)."

And as Foster and the Wildcats prepare for their Big 12 tourney opener Thursday against Iowa State, he admits that physical conditioning for the long college season will have to be his top priority this offseason.

"I’m pretty tired," Foster said. "I was just talking to one of my old high school teammates and, you know, their high school season has been over for weeks. Right now I’d be home watching TV and chillin’.

"But I’m a strong guy and I’ll get through it. But it’s definitely something I have to work on. I’ve watched what the other guys do like Shane (Southwell) and Will and I see how much you have to work on your conditioning. Definitely something I’ll work on for next year."

For now, however, Foster’s focus is on leading his Wildcats to some much-needed wins in the conference tourney at Sprint Center. K-State (20-11 overall, 10-8 Big 12) likely already has clinched an NCAA invite, but the Wildcats would like to remove all doubt with a strong performance this week.

"We really haven’t established what our seeding is," Foster said. "That’s our motivation. We’ve been through so much this season. But now I think we’re at a point where we’ll all come together."

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