October 20, 2021
Kansas City, Missouri, USA
Kansas State Wildcats
Media Day Press Conference
BRUCE WEBER: Everyone's goal was to get through the season last year. We did that. It was not easy. We struggled with young guys, without practice. But to our guys' credit, they were resilient. We were pretty good last year at the end of the year. Won some good games against good teams. Last game of the year gave Baylor a heck of a matchup here, competed with them down to the end. It led us to having a really positive spring, summer, fall with our players.
Got that core nucleus of freshmen back, along with Mike McGuirl taking advantage of his COVID year. Then to add in some guys from the portal. I kind of joke take advantage of free agency and trades. We were able to add some guys. I think we have some pretty good, nice additions to our group. We feel good going into where we are.
We got to stay healthy like everybody else, but we have a group that's together, they enjoy each other, they practice hard, they've improved, and now we got to see if we can compete in a very tough non-conference schedule, then also what I definitely believe is the best basketball league in the country.
Q. You mentioned expansion. What are your thoughts on the decision to expand and specifically want to know your thoughts on BYU. What comes to mind when you think about BYU? What do you think they will bring to the conference?
BRUCE WEBER: Unbelievable environment. It was at Southern Illinois, we were in the NIT, played a late-night game on a Monday night. Just great atmosphere.
Obviously we ended up losing that game, but they've been very, very successful. Basketball, football, top 20.
For expansion, again, I mentioned earlier, I'm happy for our league. I'm happy for K-State, all the teams that stayed together, then adding teams, we're back to 12. In my tenure here in the Big 12, every year in the spring we have meetings. We always ask Commissioner, Are we going to expand? Everybody felt we were at a pretty good place, winning, money-wise. Obviously things change. We had to figure it out.
Now we're back to 12. We had to get media markets, we had to get population base for TV for the future. I think we accomplished that.
You look at the success of BYU in football right now, Cincinnati, Houston, Central Florida. On paper it looks like it's pretty good. I don't know if we're going to be stronger, but basketball, football, I think we got great additions. I think the future is ripe for the Big 12.
Q. What are your thoughts on the transfers coming in? How are they performing, and how will they impact the team?
BRUCE WEBER: Again, I thought we did pretty well in the portal. We added some experience, shooting. That was our main goal. You have Mark Smith, a veteran guy that played in two high-level programs, had success, one of the better three-point shooters in the whole country, not just in the SEC. Somebody we knew. We recruited him both times when he went to Illinois first, then to Missouri when he transferred. We have a good relationship.
I couldn't be more pleased with all three guys, including Mark, just how they fit in I didn't know. You have older guys that have been to other programs. They love Manhattan, they love K-State, love being part of our program. They bought in, have been really positive influences. We needed leadership. We still are pretty young as a total group.
Ish is from Wake Forest, gives us a shooter, gives us some length. Again, somebody that loves basketball. He loves being in the gym. All three of those guys. Then Markquis is a dynamic little guy. It's amazing the plays he can make.
For all three of them, for them trying to learn the system is important, learning to play defense like we want to. We told Mark the other day, he's had now three different coaches with different defensive systems, and it takes awhile. Those are habits that just don't come overnight.
Right now I couldn't be more pleased with them, with our coaches helping to get those additions to add experience. Add Judy, add some leadership. Then throw in that they're great young men and they really enjoy being at K-State. So all those things are positive.
Q. You mentioned the youth of the team. Having a guy like Mike McGuirl come back, how big was that for this team?
BRUCE WEBER: It was the biggest, best recruit we had to get him to come back, no doubt. Again, experience. The funny thing is, if you know the history, freshman year he was redshirting, didn't practice until December, then Kam Stokes gets hurt. Then Dan and Mike comes to me, Coach, I want to help the team, I'll come out of redshirt.
At the time Cartier Diarra was kind of unknown. Cartier really played well for us. Mike didn't get as many minutes, but he helped us on our Elite Eight run, 17 points against Creighton, a lot of minutes in some of the other games. He had some success.
I always felt bad. I told him and his family that because he didn't get all the minutes and the practice time freshman year, now the first person I called was his dad when the NCAA announced they were going to give that year back to the basketball players, I always say, God has a plan for you. Now here is his opportunity to come back.
At first we had to talk with him a little bit, but his dad, his coach, his family, they were very supportive in him coming back. He texted me yesterday and just said, Thanks for believing in me. We're going to have a special season.
I'm really happy to have him back.
Q. You have the exhibition, then two regular-season games, then here for the Hall of Fame Classic. Since you played here so many times, does that give you a slight advantage over teams that haven't played before?
BRUCE WEBER: I hope so. You hope you have a good turnout. Obviously tough competition with Arkansas. They've had a pretty good run. I think they're going to be pretty good again. Possibly Illinois or Cincinnati matchup.
To play here is a special thing for our players. As you know, we try to come every year in some form or fashion, whether it's the Hall of Fame Classic or just a regular-season game.
I hope it gives us a little bit of an advantage. The other reason to play here is for the NCAA tournament. You want to play in these venues so if you get in the tournament, you're ready for that.
A lot of advantages playing here.
Q. Do you kind of hope you avoid Illinois or has it been long enough...
BRUCE WEBER: I hope we're playing -- if we're playing them it's in the championship. That means we beat Arkansas. So that would be a good thing (laughter).
We need challenges. Our guys feel good about themselves. I think our schedule, if you look at it, at Wichita, which is going to be a great game for K-State and Wichita fans, Marquette at home, at Nebraska, at Mississippi, along with that tournament, you got a pretty good schedule.
We'll see how good we are. This is why they come, that's why they play in the Big 12, why they come to this level, to play good competition.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports