July 13, 2024

Jerome Tang Provides Summer Update

Image courtesy of Kansas State University Athletics

By KANSAS STATE UNIVERSITY ATHLETICS

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MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head men’s basketball coach Jerome Tang met with the media on Friday morning (June 28) to provide a summer update on the team, as the Wildcats welcome 10 new players, including eight Division I transfers, for the 2024-25 campaign.

Links to the audio and a transcript of Tang’s availability are above.

K-State finished the 2023-24 season with a 19-15 record, including a tie for ninth in the Big 12 with an 8-10 mark, and advanced to the NIT. Among the Wildcats’ 19 victories were 4 over Top 25 teams, including 3 in the Top 10. The team has won 45 games in Tang’s tenure, including consecutive postseason appearances.

The Wildcats return 3 lettermen (senior David N’Guessan and sophomores Taj Manning and Macaleab Rich) in 2024-25, along with the 10 newcomers, which includes 8 Division I transfers, a junior college All-American (Mobi Ikegwuruka) and a top-50 high school prospect (David Castillo).

The full list of newcomers includes:

  • Achor Achor (Melbourne, Australia/Greenforest McCalep Academy/Chipola College/Samford)
  • David Castillo (Bartlesville, Okla./Sunrise Christian Academy [Kan.])
  • Baye Fall (Dakar, Senegal/ Accelerated Prep [Colo.]/Arkansas)
  • Brendan Hausen (Amarillo, Texas/Amarillo/ Villanova)
  • Coleman Hawkins (Sacramento, Calif./Prolific Prep/Illinois)
  • Mobi Ikegwuruka (Galway, Ireland/Ellsworth [Iowa] Community College)
  • C.J. Jones (East St. Louis, Ill./East St. Louis/UIC)
  • Max Jones (Clearwater, Fla./Clearwater/University of Tampa/Cal State Fullerton)
  • Dug McDaniel (Washington, D.C./St. Paul VI Catholic VI/Michigan)
  • Ugonna Onyenso (Owerri, Imo State, Nigeria/NBA Africa/Putnam Science Academy/Kentucky)

The non-conference schedule is still being finalized, but the Wildcats will play a 20-game Big 12 schedule that includes 10 home games with NCAA Tournament teams Arizona, Colorado, Houston, Iowa State, Kansas and Texas Tech as well as Arizona State, Cincinnati, Oklahoma State and West Virginia.

K-State men’s basketball season tickets for the 2024-25 season are currently available, with prices starting at less than $18 per game. Fans can purchase now to see the Wildcats all year including matchups against KU, Iowa State, Houston and conference newcomer Arizona by visiting www.kstatesports.com/tickets or calling (800) 221.CATS.

HEAD COACH JEROME TANG

On assembling the recruiting class and does he feel more like a general manager…

“I really don’t know what a GM feels like. But I guess I’m learning to experience it and just managing and assembling a new roster. The good thing is I’ve got a couple of guys on our staff who worked with coaches in the past where they have had to rebuild the roster every year whether it’s because they recruited a lot of junior college kids or whatever it was, and so it really wasn’t an overwhelming challenge as far as numbers. The challenge was to make sure that we found guys that fit about who we are and would make our team better than we were last year.”

On the height with the class…

“I think what I like that stands out about the roster is that we got a number of guys who can shoot the ball and can make the three at a high clip. Whether they’re 6-foot-10 Coleman Hawkins or 5-foot-11 and three quarters, you know, I don’t want to cheat Dug (McDaniel). We got some guys that can make shots at a high clip and, and then their competitiveness, their IQ, how can we put them all on the floor at the same time. The other thing about this group is that we can play a variety of ways. We can play small, we can be a really good zone team if we choose to, knowing we’re going to be a really good man-to-man team. I feel like our roster is set up in a way that we can handle whatever problem is thrown at us by another team. We have a roster that can match any answer.”

On when you prioritized Coleman Hawkins in the recruiting process…

“Well, I mean, pretty early on, when he put his name in the draft and put his name in the portal. We had a conversation with him and felt like, you know, he had some interest in us, and we knew we had interest in him, and he was a kid that was true to his word. He told us he’s going to consider three or four schools; we’re going to be one of them and it just worked out. He brings a lot to the table as a player and as a leader in the locker room.”

On if there were any differences with the transfer portal than in years’ past…

“This is the first time we’ve had our whole roster done in June. I mean, our first year, Keyontae (Johnson) didn’t show up until August right when school started, and Desi (Sills) didn’t get her until October. And then last year, we didn’t get a couple of guys until August or September and Will (McNair Jr.) was right after school started. So, we’re gonna get to spend the whole four weeks in July of workouts with the whole group here. I believe that’s gonna make a huge difference in how we develop as a team.”

On saving scholarship spots for players going through the NBA Draft process… 

“We just tried to get the guys that are right for us; that want to be with us. It’s not like a plan. Obviously, you know, guys who are going to pull their names out of the draft and if they’ve been invited to the combine, I mean, it means that they’re really good players. And so, you know that type of talent that’s available late if they are to pull their names out. But that is also the risk if you’re waiting for that. So, we try not to wait. But we just believe that God has got somebody better for us. Fortunately for us, this is just how it’s turned out.”

On recruiting players while they are going through the NBA Draft process…

“If you wait until kids pull their names out draft, they already pretty much know where they’re going. It’s gonna be hard to get involved, so you try and get a gauge for what they’re thinking you try and respect the way they want to be recruited. You have to trust that the information we have been given is the truth whether it’s from them, their family members, their agents. Coleman (Hawkins) was great. He told us that we were one of the schools he was interested in. But his focus was on the combine, so we left him alone. When he told us when it was time to talk (with his family) they were very, very professional about it. The whole process was very enjoyable, but it was also nerve-wracking because of the other teams that were also recruiting him.”

On recruiting versatile bigs…

“The way the game is played now, the really talented bigs who want to play in the NBA have to play in the 5-out type offenses and do multiple things. They no longer just let guys stand on the block anymore. So, knowing the type of talent we wanted to attract, we had to run an offense that fits that personnel. We can help them get to where they want to get to and because we’ve done that (in the past) and it’s given us this opportunity to be able to recruit guys like Coleman, Achor (Achor) and Ugonna (Onyenso).”

On recruiting players with multiple years of eligibility…

“I’d love to tell you that we sat around and said we want to balance the roster. We just want the best players that fit who about. Dug (McDaniel) put his name in the portal. We thought he was the best point guard out there. The group fits what we wanted and what we want this program to be about. And so, it’s nice that they have multiple years, but I think like most kids, they come into this situation thinking, they’ll be one-and-done and go to the NBA, so we try not to assume that we’re going to have multiple years (with a player). You’re just gonna have the best year we can right now. Now there are a few guys who come in and understand this is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. But you just try to figure out what each guy needs to get better and see if you can help them to get there. So, the fact that we could bring back multiple these guys for a second year is a great thing, but we can’t just assume that’s going to happen because of the nature of college basketball.”

On what you are stressing with Dug McDaniel as he takes over the point guard duties…

“You know, just leadership. Dug is a very passionate player. His passion is what separates him. He has physical skills, but Dug is just a competitor. He’s got to learn how to always be thinking about the next plan. Like it doesn’t matter what just happened. What’s the next thing he has to do as a point guard and the leader of this team. And so that’s what we’re talking about with him this summer, how to get to the next play and not worrying about what just happened and whether it was something good that happened or whether it’s something bad that happened, like how do we move on to the next play? And then just the approach of being consistent. If he has a consistent work ethic in how he approaches his day, then he’s going to be consistent as a player in games. I think a word that best describes Dug as well as Coleman (Hawkins) is volatile and, by volatile, I mean that it can be here one day and the next day you’re not sure what you’re going to get. It’s going to be about this. Let’s deliver a consistent performance, whether it’s practice with how you do your academic side, how you do everything, let’s just be consistent in our work, and it’ll produce consistent play. And if those guys consistently perform at a level that they’re capable of, we adjust to be really, really good.”

On David N’Guessan being veteran presence…

“Actually, David hasn’t been around this summer. David is with the Dutch National Team. Both he and his brother made their national team, and I’m excited for that. It’s something that his mom sent me a text how it’s a dream come true, that both of her sons are playing on the national team and so we’re proud of him. So, he’s there working. And we’re in communication with him. But Taj (Manning) and Buddy (Rich), they’ve done a great job and, and a group that we brought in are really, really passionate about the game. They want to learn, and they want to, get better and so they’re really embracing everything that we do. So, it’s been a lot of fun.”

On the next steps for Taj Manning and Macaleab Rich…

“My message hasn’t changed. It was the same for the guys who left and for the ones who stayed. Our job as a staff is to go out and find guys who can start and their job as players is to make sure they don’t. I have tried to be really transparent with the team. Obviously, the results last year were not what we expected. It’s not what our fans deserve. And so that’s on us as a staff to bring in players who give us a chance to win a Big 12 Championship, get us to a Final Four and win a national championship. Every year, the players who are here have to embrace that if they want to be great, there has to be great competition. And so, they help us recruit guys here who are looking to start then they get out on the floor and compete. Taj, Buddy and David (N’Guessan) have all embrace that, so I’m very proud of those guys.”

On the Jones (C.J. Jones and Max Jones)…

“C.J. is a very versatile kid, at 6-foot-5 with a 6-7 wingspan who can play multiple positions. He played the point at UIC, but he has that competitive toughness to be able to play off the ball, so we’re excited to have him. Max can really shoot the basketball. He has a chip on his shoulder because he is a guy who started at Division II and moved his way up. Every day he’s just getting better and better. They’re both just terrific human beings, so our fans are going to enjoy getting to know them.”

On the recruitment of Mobi Ikegwuruka…

“Yeah, we actually knew about Mobi when he was in high school. We watched some film of him and really liked him, but just didn’t think that’s what we needed coming out of high school. So then when he went to junior college, we paid attention to him. And his athleticism, his competitiveness. And he’s just a special person when you talk to somebody who speaks five languages. He has a bunch of different interests that are not normal for your typical basketball player. He reminds me of (former Baylor player) Jeremy Sochan in that respect. He’s into fashion, different types of music. He’s just a guy you can have a conversation with and not ever have to talk about basketball. He loves the game and wants to get better. He has great length and athleticism. He can get you easy buckets. He has things that you can’t coach. So, we’re excited to have him.”

On the last two scholarships helping to create a margin of error that you didn’t have last season…

“The last two guys we signed (Ugonna Onyenso and Coleman Hawkins) have really set us up to have a chance to be really good. And you know at the time I thought man we had the right guys we have a little margin for error. And then now that they’re here the coaching kicks in and I say ‘Man, we still don’t have any margin for error.’ We have to keep getting better. We got to keep grinding. The staff has done an unbelievable job putting this this roster together. And I don’t know that it could have gone any better than it’s had. I’ve been so pleased with what we have and what we have to work with and looking forward to watch and how we put all the pieces together.”

On year three being one where you take a big step…

“I haven’t really thought about that. I think in the past, you know there was a time that you would bring guys in then the next year you would bring in more of your guys and by the third you would know your roster pretty much was yours. Well, you know that in year one we had to bring in 11 guys to go along with Markquis (Nowell) and Ish (Massoud), so they were our guys. And then last year, they were all our guys so I think now it’s just a little bit different because you can rebuild your roster every year with all the movement that takes place. I know that we feel really good as a staff like the continuity of our staff. We’ve been getting everybody together. You know just more on the same page. We speak in the same language. You know, just everybody settled, you know, as far as their homes, you know that all those things that make the job easier, you know, a little bit more in place so I can feel that. There’s a different focus about what we want to accomplish.”

On what you have learned as a head coach heading into year three…

“It’s just for me prioritizing what’s important because being pulled in so many directions, and the people who are pulling you in those directions, that whatever they need you to do is very important to them. I have had to figure out what’s the most important thing for the program. So, what do I do next? Put it in order of priority. It’s hard to say yes to everybody and try to do everything, but I have learned enough to not chase rabbits.”

On David Castillo…

“David’s maturity and approach is different. You would not know that he’s a freshman. I don’t want to put any more pressure on a young fella, but I just walk out of the gym all the time and try to think of ways I’m not going to start him. What he’s done very quickly is he’s gained our trust as a staff. Down 1 with 30 seconds to go and the crowd’s going crazy on the road and he’s gonna be okay out on the floor. I can trust him out on the floor. He can make the right decision. I’m so impressed with him.”

On building chemistry with so many new players…

“It has to happen organically, but we have to create opportunities for it to happen. They all live in the same apartment complex. And it’s 30 seconds from the gym and we spend a lot of time in the gym. We have family dinners. So, we’re always together in each other’s homes. We create opportunities for organic chemistry, just for guys to be able to interact with each other in different situations. It’s our job to connect with our players’ hearts. And once you connect with their hearts, you can get them to understand or at least you’ll understand where they’re coming from to help them get to where they want to get to. Like we haven’t been able to do this the last two years because we spent the whole summer still recruiting a team. And so, you couldn’t fully focus on what kind of team you can be, meshing and doing team building things because you’re waiting for the guys to get there. Well, by July 7, we’re gonna have every guy on campus, Lord willing, and we’re gonna be able to do team building, just get a chance to see them all interact with each other. They’re all going to be there, and we’ll get to see it. And I think that’s going to help bolster that chemistry that we want. And then us to be able to identify, things that we need to work on it or need to have to be able to build the type of chemistry.”

On emphasizing better 3-point shooters in building this roster…

“It was very intentional. You know, when you break down the numbers of the shot quality stats that people keep. They divided it up between bad shots and tough shots. It was tough shots or bad shots and good shot makers then there were good shots and good shot makers and then there were good shots and bad shot makers. Our shot quality was right there with all the top 10 offenses in the country. Like the shots we get. We just didn’t make those shots. I still felt like we had good shooters that for some reason we did not make those shots. We also didn’t have the depth, where you can look to the bench when guys on the floor weren’t making those shots. Now we have the opportunity to have more guys who can make shots and if somebody on the floor not making shots we can now look to the bench and put somebody in that can deliver.”