Fear the Beard? More like fear the stable of talented big men
This is an article from the Nov. 22, 2010 issue
JACOB PULLEN'S facial hair took Manhattan by storm last spring, but the Beard wasn't his idea alone. After spotting an especially hirsute face on TV, power forward Curtis Kelly urged Pullen to grow out his whiskers. "I helped his marketing scheme," Kelly says with a laugh. "Fans owe that whole Fear the Beard logo to me."
This season the resurgent Wildcats figure to enter into an even more significant debt to the big man. Last year K-State rode one of the best backcourts in the country—Pullen and point guard Denis Clemente—to the Elite Eight. But the graduation of Clemente shifts the focus to a cast of large characters, led by Kelly, that coach Frank Martin has assembled down low. "I think we have the best frontcourt in the country," says Pullen. "We have a lot of depth. We really want to look to get the ball inside."
Especially to the Bronx-bred Kelly, a transfer from UConn who emerged as K-State's third-leading scorer and leading rebounder last year. A former five-star recruit known for his aggressive defense and a clever hook shot around the basket, Kelly believes he's vastly different from his younger self. "I wasn't hungry at UConn," Kelly admits. "But now I am." Joining him in the frenzy in the paint is 6'7" Jamar Samuels, the reigning Big 12 sixth man of the year, and a maturing crew of perhaps unparalleled size: 6'9" Wally Judge, 6'10" Freddy Asprilla and 7-foot Jordan Henriquez-Roberts. "We didn't have all that last year," Kelly says. "Now we can score from different angles, and we all have different skills."
As for the bearded one, Pullen will slide into Clemente's spot, where he has some experience. (As a freshman, Pullen led an upset of Kansas from the point.) But alongside his new backcourtmate, likely sophomore Rodney McGruder, he'll be leading a new-look attack. "This year our front line is the one with experience," Martin says. "They'll have to lead our team as our guards find their way."
PROJECTED STARTING FIVE
Coach Frank Martin (4th season)
2009--10 record 29--8
Big 12 11--5 (2nd)
NCAA tournament Elite Eight
|PG||Jacob Pullen||6'0"||Sr.||19.3 ppg||3.4 apg|
|SG||Rodney McGruder||6'4"||Soph.||3.9 ppg||0.5 apg|
|F||Jamar Samuels||6'7"||Soph.||11.0 ppg||4.9 rpg|
|F||Curtis Kelly||6'8"||Sr.||11.5 ppg||6.2 rpg|
|F||Wally Judge||6'9"||Soph.||3.3 ppg||3.0 rpg|
|C||Freddy Asprilla*||6'10"||Jr.||13.7 ppg||9.2 rpg|
*2008--09 stats at Florida International
Nov. 12 James Madison
Nov. 16 Virginia Tech
Nov. 18 Presbyterian
Nov. 22 Gonzaga*
Nov. 23 Duke or Marquette*
Nov. 26 Texas Southern
Nov. 29 Emporia State
Dec. 3 at Washington State
Dec. 6 Alcorn State
Dec. 11 at Loyola
Dec. 18 Florida
Dec. 21 UNLV
Dec. 23 UMKC
Dec. 31 North Florida
Jan. 3 Savannah State
Jan. 8 at Oklahoma State
Jan. 12 Colorado
Jan. 17 at Missouri
Jan. 22 at Texas A&M
Jan. 24 Baylor
Jan. 29 at Kansas
Feb. 2 Nebraska
Feb. 5 at Iowa State
Feb. 12 at Colorado
Feb. 14 Kansas
Feb. 19 Oklahoma
Feb. 23 at Nebraska
Feb. 26 Missouri
Feb. 28 at Texas
March 5 Iowa State
*O'Reilly Auto Parts CBE Classic in Durham, N.C.
The momentum is turning in this intrastate rivalry, but to coach Frank Martin, Kansas State is still Kansas's little brother. "We're not quite there yet," Martin says. "We're working to elevate our program to their status." Their first duel of the year, in which the Wildcats will be favored, will show how much work remains.
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