Martin questions team leadership
By Greg Echlin
November 19, 2010
Three games into the season, Kansas State�s record--which includes a win over the ranked Virginia Tech Hokies--may be unblemished. But Wildcats coach Frank Martin knows the face of his team has a problem.
Warning: The fiery head coach is looking for a team leader.
The first thing the upper classmen need to do is look in the mirror and see who they are.
That includes senior point guard Jacob Pullen who led the 'Cats with 15 points in their closer-than-anticipated 76-67 victory over Presbyterian (S.C.) College Thursday night. A basket by 6-foot-9 Blue Hose sophomore Jake Troyli cut K-State�s margin to four, 69-65, before the Wildcats finished the game with a 7-2 run.
�He (Pullen) was great the first couple weeks, then all of a sudden lately he hasn�t done it,� said Martin.
At least Pullen stayed on the floor against the Blue Hose after playing only two minutes in the first half against Virginia Tech Tuesday because of foul trouble. What he does with his playing time is another matter.
Here�s what Martin says he expects from a leader:
�Leadership is not about telling people what to do," he said. "Leadership�s about doing your job and you do your job the right way. Every day. When you do your job the right way every day, people respect that.�
With Denis Clemente also in the back court last year, Pullen didn�t have to worry as much about running the offense. This year Pullen has talked about involving the big men up front, but he�s also not shy about firing away from the perimeter. Against the Blue Hose, Pullen was 4-for-12 from the field, 2-for-8 from three-point range.
Curtis Kelly, K-State�s only other senior, has spent the first three games on the bench for disciplinary reasons. That leaves the Wildcats with a pair of sophomores, Wally Judge and Jordan Henriquez-Roberts, and a transfer, Freddy Asprilla, to man the paint. Judge was one of five Wildcats to reach double-figure scoring with ten points. But even at 6-foot-9, he didn't record a single defensive rebound. Not to mention a single free throw, either. He went 0-for-4.
The player who provided a spark for the Wildcats in the second half was Victor Ojeleye, a 6-foot-6 forward who played a combined total of eight minutes in the first two games. Shortly after entering the game for the first time at the 9:35 mark of the second half, Ojeleye knifed his way inside for an offensive rebound and put-back. He scored four points, grabbed two rebounds and recorded a steal in eight minutes.
�I told Victor I�ve done him a disservice the last couple games because he deserves to play, and I�ve been playing the guys who look good in pictures,� said Martin.
This week Pullen is pictured on the cover of Sports Illustrated, the first time a Wildcat has graced the cover since Rolando Blackman in the 1981 NCAA tournament.
Coach Martin has stated from the outset the Wildcats lost more than just the 16 points per game Clemente averaged last year. The additional losses of Luis Colon and Chris Merriewether has almost entirely removed the soul of the Elite Eight-reaching team of last season.
After Thursday's win over the Blue Hose, Martin found himself longing for the presence of Colon, whose 2009 stats (2.9 points, 3.8 rebounds and 37 percent from the free throw line) won�t knock anyone�s socks off.
�I wish ol� Luis Colon would be in that locker room. Then we�d be okay,� said Martin.
So with Gonzaga and possibly Duke looming next week at the CBE Classic in Kansas City, this is the makeup of the team according to Martin:
�A group of young kids with upper classmen that provide absolutely no leadership.�
A team that will have to pull itself together if it plans to succeed against high caliber competition on back-to-back nights starting Monday.