The KSU basketball meltdown: What happened?

BY foxsports • February 9, 2011

By KIP REISERER
FOXSportsSouthwest.com
Feb. 9, 2011
What on earth happened to the team that was supposed to make a Final Four run this season?

The Kansas State Wildcats men's basketball team has been through one of the worst meltdowns in recent memories. It's certainly not the same team that stepped on the court in early November, both mentally and physically.

Kansas State has already had two scholarship members of the basketball team leave this season and it looks as if a third might be on his way out.

Not only have the Wildcats dropped from the national rankings and out of the Big 12 title race, but their NCAA tournament hopes are up in the air as well.

With the sky falling in Manhattan, let's take a look back and reflect on what has transpired this season.

Kansas State started off the season the third-ranked team in the nation. A showdown with Duke at a Sprint Center in Kansas City, Mo., in late November would deliver KSU its first loss of the season. At the time, it didn't seem like a big deal considering Duke was the top-ranked team in the land.

Their second loss came when nationally ranked Florida overcame a double-digit Wildcat lead to steal the win. KSU then returned home only to lose to then-ranked UNLV.

Three losses against ranked opponents. At this point, there was some reason for worry but KSU was still nationally ranked and really had no "bad" losses.

Then, off-the-court issues emerged.

Starters Jacob Pullen and Curtis Kelly both received NCAA suspensions for receiving impermissible benefits in connection with the purchase of clothing at a local department store.

Simply put, the person behind the counter at Dillard's hooked them up with between $300 and $500 of ballin' new clothes and other accessories. Pullen was suspended for three games and Kelly for six games.

A few weeks later, the real meltdown occurred as Kansas State started off to a 1-4 start in Big 12 play and completely blew its chances of beating out in-state rival Kansas for the Big 12 title.

Then Jacob Pullen publicly stated that if KSU went to the NIT tournament, he would not play. The captain and leader of the squad basically told his teammates if they didn't step up, he would abandon them.

Could it have been for motivational purposes? Possibly, but a guy like Pullen has to know that the media will take a comment like that and blow it up to grab headlines.

Adding insult to injury, the highly anticipated in-state matchup vs. Kansas resulted in a 24-point blow-out loss on national television.

To be quite honest, I don't know why Kansas State was ever ranked above Kansas in the preseason polls to begin with. Sure, Kansas lost Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich from a season ago but the Jayhawks reloaded quickly.

As for Kansas State, the 2009-2010 Elite Eight squad lost two of its most important players in Denis Clemente and Dominique Sutton. In reality, the Wildcats didn't have much experience to fill those holes.

Sure, Preseason All-American Pullen was a crucial part of last year's team but basketball is played with five players at a time, not one. If college basketball were one big game of HORSE, then I'd probably give an edge to KSU.

Give the guy some credit; he has done as much as he can to carry the weight of the Wildcats on his back averaging 18.2 points per game. But it seems as if when Pullen is off the mark, KSU has no one to help him recover. Sophomore guard Rodney McGruder has played well but it never seems to be enough.

Kansas State also returned Florida International transfer Freddy Asprilla, McDonalds All-American Wally Judge and UConn transfer Curtis Kelly.

Asprilla and Judge aren't on the roster anymore. Asprilla quit the team on Jan. 16, to pursue "professional" opportunities.

Or just to get away from Frank Martin.

Martin and the KSU Athletic Department claimed that Asprilla was going to return to Colombia to be close to his ill mother and play professional basketball in his native country.

Last week, it was reported that Asprilla has enrolled at Canisius College in Buffalo N.Y., his third NCAA Division I college.

The Monday following the loss at Kansas, it was reported that prized recruit and McDonalds All-American Wally Judge was leaving the team as well.

This time, it was obvious that Judge simply had enough of the Kansas State program and what direction is was heading in.

Plain and simple, Judge quit the team.

According to reports from The Topeka Capital-Journal, Preseason All-Big 12 forward Curtis Kelly may be on his way out as well.

The report claims that Kelly is currently under investigation for violation of a team policy. The situation is not believed to involve NCAA rules violations.

It also stated the potential violation could result in Kelly's permanent suspension from the team and loss of financial aid. As for right now, Kelly is still a Wildcat.

"Curtis is still a member of our basketball program," Kansas State associate athletic director Casey Scott said Tuesday.

In reality, it could be nothing and Kelly could be wrongly accused.

But it's exactly what Kansas State doesn't need, more national media on the off-the-court troubles of the Wildcats.

If Kelly, who averages 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds, were to get kicked off the team, KSU would only have two remaining post players on scholarship in forward Jamar Samuels and center Jordan Henriquez-Roberts.

Game plan? Attack the big men, get them in foul trouble and you beat Kansas State.

It's difficult to say if the problems in Manhattan are due to players or coaches, possibly both, but it's really all assumptions.

Personally, I think Frank Martin is a great coach. He took over when Bob Huggins dropped Kansas State like a hot potato to dash for an opening at his alma mater at West Virginia and coached KSU to the Elite Eight last season.

But you have to wonder what goes on inside the locker room for two players to quit the team and a third to possibly be on his way out.

If you've seen a K-State basketball game then you've seen the emotion that Frank Martin expresses. Arms flailing, crazy eyes and intense facial expressions hardly sum up the intensity of Martin on the sidelines.

Seriously, the guy doesn't even need to talk. Just Google Image "Frank Martin" and you'll see what I'm talking about. His stare alone does all the talking, an absolute tractor beam.

Which leads one to wonder if he is so emotional and vocal on the court in front of thousands of people, what goes on in the locker room? In reality, these are 19 and 20-year-old kids not 30-year-old men. Certain kids are tougher than others and everyone has a breaking point.

It seems as if a combination of game results and situations behind closed doors has taken this once powerful team and reduced it to drama and trouble. A seemingly breakout year for Kansas State is now one that may have to settle for an invitation to the "Not Invited Tournament." Unless somehow the Wildcats can rise up out of their slump, it seems that the season will result in one to be forgotten.

It will be interesting to see how the Kansas State Wildcats will finish the 2010-2011 season. KSU's troubles are not entirely because of their record, many teams are often overrated, but because of the off-the-court issues and loss of multiple scholarship student-athletes.

For now, a seemingly amazing season has turned out to be a nationally publicized meltdown for the ages.


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