KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KSNT) – The K-State men’s basketball players are like new, but Jerome Tang’s Sunday dinners turned this group of strangers into a team.
“If the only time you spend time together is on the basketball court, then you’re not really a family,” Tang said. “Our guys aren’t going to just know where the bathrooms are. They’re going to know where the forks and the knives, and the cups are.”
It takes a lot of time to build a bond between new coaches, new players and only two returning players.
“Only Markquis and Ish [Massoud] are the same two that came back, so it’s like we all came in,” Keyontae Johnson, a transfer from Florida, said. “When I came on my visit, we all talked about our goals and everybody had the same amount of goals we were trying to get to.”
Tang brings key experience to a team rebuilding, such as K-State.
“He knows what he’s talking about,” guard Markquis Nowell said. “He has a national title under his belt. He’s coached pros, multiple pros. At the end of the day, you know he loves you and wants the best out of you.”
A common word the Wildcats use to describe Tang’s coaching: tough.
“I heard everyday there’s no off-days in this conference,” Johnson said. “Every game, you’ve got to give it your all. Through my recruitment process, they told me the Big 12 is the best conference. I’ve played against three: West Virginia twice and Baylor once. I know how it feels to play against teams like that.”
Now that the team is few months into practice, Tang’s plan is falling into place. He’s sticking with one of his veterans, Nowell, to handle the ball.
“Cam Carter’s going to handle the ball, and Desi [Sills]’s going to handle the ball, too,” Tang said. “Nae’Qwan is 6’10” and Keyonte is 6’5″/6’6″. They’re both excellent ball handlers, so we have guys in multiple positions who can do multiple things.”
Tang is excited for game day, to see the student section throw newspaper pieces in the air and see his players compete.