October 03, 2014

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Marcus Foster thinks Kansas State can compete for the Big 12 title. So the dynamic sophomore guard isn't paying much attention to any of his October accolades.

Foster has been voted to the preseason All-Big 12 team, but he knows it won't matter once the season starts. And that's rapidly approaching. The Wildcats held their first practice on Friday, and their first exhibition game is Nov. 9 against Washburn.

''It's a great honor to have during the preseason, but most people have told me that a lot of guys that are on that list in the preseason aren't on there a lot of times at the end of the season,'' Foster said.

''It just motivates me to work hard and make sure I'm on that list at the end.''

Foster highlights a team full of expectations. He averaged a team-best 15.5 points last season, helping Kansas State win 20 games.

''A year ago he came in and we thought he was pretty good and anyone who watched him thought it too,'' coach Bruce Weber said, ''but obviously he didn't have the high exposure as far as being a top-100 kid or being recruited (heavily). Now it's a different shoe on his foot. He's a marked man and he has to be ready to deal with that.''

He'll have plenty of guys to help him out.

Three starters are back. Foster is the headliner, but Wesley Iwundu and Thomas Gipson joined him in the first five last year. Point guards Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson also played.

That should lead to plenty of competition for playing time.

''There is nothing more motivating than to sit on the bench and your minutes being cut,'' Weber said. ''I hope they all compete and play hard, but there isn't a doubt that it should be a factor to make us better.''

The Wildcats also will benefit from the addition of transfers Justin Edwards and Brandon Bolden, touted freshman Malek Harris and junior college transfer Stephen Hurt.

Bolden arrived from Georgetown and Edwards from Maine. Bolden provides some size in the paint, while the athletic Edwards provides a much-needed scoring threat to pair with Foster.

''He's proving himself every day,'' Foster said. ''At Maine, he had the ball in his hands a little bit more and it was a little bit easier, but like coach Weber says, it's different when you face real players.''

Edwards got his first taste of game action in over a year while competing with Athletes in Action in Europe this summer, averaging a team-best 17.5 points.

The combo guard played with a number of Division I players, including Bolden, Wichita State's Darius Carter, Baylor's Royce O'Neale and Kansas' Landen Lucas.

''I think I bring more depth,'' Edwards said. ''Scoring also. Sometimes we struggled to score last year and I think I can come in and help with that. Also, rebounding from a guard position. I crash the boards well and just bring energy to the floor.''

Gipson, who is one of the few remaining pieces from Frank Martin's coaching tenure in Manhattan, likes what he sees for his final campaign at Kansas State.

''I feel like the sky is the limit for this team,'' he said. ''We have great depth and I don't know who our starting five is going to be, but I know the people who will be coming off the bench can bring a lot of (energy). Everybody is going to compete in practice and push each other.''

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