MANHATTAN, KS. (KSNT)- Nate Awbrey’s journey to joining the Kansas State basketball team is a wild one, but it wasn’t a lengthy journal, literally speaking.
Awbrey is a Manhattan, Kansas native. He graduated from Manhattan High School and played a key role in the Indians 2017 state tournament run.
Awbrey didn’t come to K-State after high school. He attended Manhattan Christian College for four years. Playing in the Division II National Christian College Athletic Association, Awbrey became the 26th player in school history to score over 1,000 points for the Thunder.
When Jerome Tang was hired at Kansas State, the MHS grad sent an Instagram message many would think he’d get no response to.
“I told him my background,” Awbrey said. “I told him my background in basketball, my background in ministry. I didn’t know how walk-on situations worked but just reached out to him.”
Little did Awbrey know, Coach Tang had been praying for someone just like him to come along.
“I literally prayed for Nate,” Tang said. “I literally prayed for Nate. I didn’t know his name but I prayed for an older guy that had some accomplishments in basketball that wanted to be in ministry and understood the sacrifice that it takes to be a servant leader.”
Tang responded, and asked Awbrey to meet him in his office a week later. From there, the 6-foot-3 guard joined the Wildcats in open gyms and shootarounds with the team over the summer.
At the end of the summer, Tang delivered the good news to Awbrey.
“They told me they were going to move forward with me as a part of the roster,” Awbrey said. “It truly is a dream come true.”
He says he was unsure if he’d end up on the squad or not. He worked hard all summer knowing there was a chance that would be the entirety of his time with K-State basketball.
“When I got that phone call… I was like ‘Woah, this is actually happening,'” Awbrey said. “Once I hung up the phone I started calling the friends and the family. They were all super excited.”
Awbrey’s impact to Kansas State basketball is large. Any coach or player on K-State’s team would agree with that. However, he makes that impact off the floor. In K-State’s 29 games, he’s played a combined ten minutes. He hasn’t made a shot from the field. Though his role with the Wildcats is not one of points, rebounds or assists, it’s a crucial role nonetheless.
“First of all he competes every day at practice so he earns the guys respect as a competitor,” Tang said. “And then he speaks truth in the locker room. Sometimes it’s hard to tell people the truth of things they don’t want to hear and have them still keep the relationship.”
Awbrey’s vertical leap or 40-yard dash might not be the highest or fastest on the team but Tang calls him talented.
“Nate has the ability to tell people tough things with a smile on his face,” Tang said. “That’s a talent. The relationship stays, they receive it from him, they respect him as a man, they respect him as a player.”
Coach says it’s tough to put into words the influence and importance of Nate Awbrey for K-State basketball.
“He just has helped our locker room so much, he’s helped our staff so much,” Tang said. “He’s just a blessing. I can’t quantify [his impact.]”
Coach’s kind words mean a lot to the fifth-year transfer.
“It just meant even more to me [after hearing him say those things] that I was here in this situation,” Awbrey said. “Because [then] I knew it wasn’t just something I wanted to do or just some fluke that I was here. It truly was God bringing me here to this spot.”
Faith is a huge part of Awbrey’s mission.
“That’s definitely, I think, the reason God put it on my heart to be here in the first place,” Awbrey said. “I just felt God tugging on my heart telling me ‘Maybe I’m not done with basketball yet. Maybe he has more to do with it.”
As for what Awbrey hopes his legacy will be at K-State?
“When I leave here, when I’m done here I just want guys to know that I truly cared about them beyond the game of basketball,” Awbrey said. “I do everything I can in my power to help us win and succeed, but ultimately I just want to build relationships with the guys that go way beyond the game of basketball.”
Here’s the part of the story that might be the most shocking: In Manhattan, Kansas… Nate Awbrey grew up a Jayhawk fan.
“Both my parents were KU grads” Awbrey said with a laugh. “Growing up I cheered for KU but once I got the opportunity to kind of start playing with the team and then really when I got the spot on the team I was like ‘I’m throwing all that aside.’ I’m a K-State guy for life.”
Needless to say, Nate is glad he sent that Instagram message, and Coach Tang is glad he responded.