Wizards

Depth big reason for No. 18 K-State's success

Depth big reason for No. 18 K-State's success

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Bruce Weber is willing to admit that he's not exactly pleased with the way Kansas State's Big 12 schedule worked out.

The double round-robin format means each team will play 18 games from the first week of January through the first week of March. To fit it all in, teams will only get one week during that stretch when they play just once - the closest thing to a bye that they'll get.

The 18th-ranked Wildcats had theirs after their very first game.

But if any team is built to deal with the rigors of conference life, it just may be Weber's bunch of veterans. Not only have most of them been through the grind a couple times, there are a lot of them: An astonishing 11 players average at least 11 minutes per game.

``That's a huge factor,'' said senior Rodney McGruder, who scored all but two of his 28 points in the second half of the Wildcats' win over then-No. 22 Oklahoma State on Saturday.

McGruder said one of the reasons for his late-game success was that the Cowboys had been worn down. Most of their starters had played at least 18 minutes in the first half - guard Markel Brown played 39 for the game - and foul trouble only served to compound their problem.

``Brown looked a little worn down at the end of the game, and we were subbing a little more,'' McGruder said. ``Guys were fresher. Depth is key. It's key to any successful team.''

Depth is one thing.

Quality depth is quite another.

The Wildcats (12-2, 1-0 Big 12) have six players averaging at least six points a game, and three more chip in at least four a game. They've had five different players lead them in scoring though 14 games, making them one of the most balanced teams in the Big 12, if not the country.

In their upset last month of then-No. 8 Florida, the Wildcats got 17 points in 39 minutes from Will Spradling. But they also had eight players get into the game for at least 17 minutes, and constant substituting helped fend off every move the Gators made down the stretch.

Kansas State followed the win with a brief winter break, and when the team reconvened after the holidays, guards Angel Rodriguez and Martavious Irving had come down with injuries.

The Wildcats were able to withstand losing two of their best ball-handlers and distributors because they could rely on others. Nino Williams and Omari Lawrence had break-out games in wins over UMKC and South Dakota.

``You don't beat Florida and not be very good,'' Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford. ``They're very well-coached, they have some veteran players. Everybody is back from last year except one player. They're very good. They're supposed to be very good.''

He saw that firsthand last Saturday night.

``You got to have some other guys,'' said Ford, who had been looking for some depth of his own early in the season. ``McGruder's not going to be able to win it every night by himself. You have to have other guys step up, and you have to give Kansas State credit for that.''

While the depth is a luxury, Weber said it also creates some problems.

For one thing, it's hard to find enough minutes to go around.

Post players Adrian Diaz and D.J. Johnson have had trouble getting onto the court, simply because of the big guys playing in front of them. Same goes for Johnson's fellow freshman, Michael Orris, who's only played 36 minutes all season because of the log-jam in front of him.

``Adrian and A.J. we need to get in the mix,'' Weber said. ``One of those guys should have redshirted, but they were playing so well early. It was tough to do. We need to get one of those guys involved, because you never know what could happen. We've had injuries already and it could happen again.''

Especially with the schedule the Wildcats face the next couple months.

It starts back up again on Saturday, when they visit Big 12 newcomer West Virginia. Then another game on the road against TCU before returning home to face Oklahoma.

All in the span of a week.

Good thing for the Wildcats that they're built for the grind.

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Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

Bradley Beal thoroughly impressed by LeBron James after being his teammate at All-Star Game

As a member of the Washington Wizards, Bradley Beal has had many battles with LeBron James over the years, first with the Miami Heat and now with the Cleveland Cavaliers. Over the weekend, Beal got to experience having James as a teammate for the first time at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

It was an eye-opening endeavor. Beal got to see up close and personal James' abilities and his routine to maximize them. In a group of the best players on the planet, James stood out.

"It was surreal at first, just being around all the guys," Beal said. "Even just being on his team for two days, that was an unbelievable experience."

PODCAST: BIGGEST STORYLINES COMING OUT OF ALL-STAR BREAK

Beal, 24, is six seasons in to his NBA career and from experience has learned how to train for the rigors of an 82-game regular season. What James does at 33 years old to stay in peak form, however, is next level.

"To see his preparation, his focus and his mentality and what he does to take care of his body before and after games," Beal said. "That's the true testament to a Hall of Famer and one of the best to ever play the game."

James actually assisted Beal's first points in the All-Star Game, a two-handed dunk in the first quarter. James attacked the rim on a fastbreak to draw attention, then found Beal with a dump-off pass for an easy bucket.

RELATED: WIZARDS HAVE BIG QUESTIONS TO ANSWER IN SECOND HALF

It was an example of James' tricks of the trade. He is not just the most athletic player on the court, he is also the smartest when it comes to the game of basketball.

"His approach and his leadership and everything, it's top notch. It's crazy because you always play against him and to play with him, you get experience the other side of it," Beal said.

Beal, however, did note that much of what he gleaned from James was by watching him. At the end of the day, they are competitors and James isn't going to give away all of his secrets.

"He's not disclosing that information," Beal joked.

The Wizards happen to play James and the Cavs in their first game back from the All-Star break on Thursday night. Once again, Beal will be on the other side. 

RELATED: 2018 NBA MOCK DRAFT HAS LOADED CLASS

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Wizards Tipoff podcast: Walt Williams talks Wizards, his NBA career and life after basketball

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NBC Sports Washington

Wizards Tipoff podcast: Walt Williams talks Wizards, his NBA career and life after basketball

On the latest episode of the Wizards Tipoff podcast presented by Greenberg and Bederman, Chase Hughes was joined by former NBA player Walt Williams for a wide-ranging discussion. Williams talked about the Wizards, his show on NBC Sports Washington and his playing career.

Williams also projected the NBA prospects of Maryland Terrapins stars Bruno Fernando and Kevin Huerter.

You can listen to the episode right here:

You can download the podcast on Apple Podcasts right here and on Google Play. If you like the show please tell your friends!