March 24, 2008

Samuels to be part of Cats' next generation

He didn't score a single point during the season and during two NCAA Tournament games in Omaha sat near the end of the bench - not waiting, just watching for now. Such was the norm for Kansas State freshman forward Jamar Samuels, who arrived after early graduation, joined the team in December as a walk-on and saw the Wildcats and first-year coach Frank Martin build a foundation for the future.

Guess what? After sixth-ranked and third-seeded Wisconsin knocked the 11th-seeded Wildcats out of the second round game on Saturday, the 6-foot-8, 200-pounder was itching to get to work.

"(This experience) is preparing me for the future because I've been able to sit on the bench and figure out everything going on," said Samuels, who originally signed with the Wildcats in May. "It felt like two years, but it's going to go be good next year."

Although it was his first taste of K-State, it wasn't Samuels' first experience with many of its players. He played on the same DC Assault AAU team as Michael Beasley, Ron Anderson and Dominique Sutton.

Assuming Beasley foregoes his sophomore season and grabs his awaiting riches in the NBA and Bill Walker follows suit, Samuels could help form the core of the Wildcats' frontcourt along with Anderson and Sutton, who provided many reasons for optimism toward the end of their freshmen seasons.

"It was a great learning experience for us, but we've got a lot to work on," said Anderson, who averaged 3.3 points and 3.6 assists. "We grew together as a team and I think there are a lot of good to things to come in the future."

K-State finished at 21-12 under Martin and behind a freshman-laden roster. Beasley, Walker and four other freshmen and five total newcomers helped the Wildcats to end three big streaks. K-State beat Kansas at home for the first time in 24 years, reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 years and won its first tournament game in 20. The Wildcats finished the Big 12 in third place at 10-6, marking their highest league finish since 1988-89.

"We had a good season and did some things that Kansas State hasn't done in a while," said freshman point guard Jacob Pullen, who finished third in scoring (9.7 points), led the team in 3-pointers (40) and assists (3.2). "We just want to get back home and start working out again. All of the guys who are going to be back want to get back to work."

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