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November 2, 2006
Huggins-mania hits Kansas State
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Rivals.com selected the top 25 storylines for the upcoming 2006-07 college basketball season and will be releasing articles daily, counting down from No. 25 to No. 1. The No. 6 storyline explores Bob Huggins' arrival at Kansas State and his impact on the program so far.
No program has undergone a bigger transformation this past offseason than Kansas State, which is squarely in the national spotlight after drifting off the college basketball map in recent years.
Consider these changes:
The increased attention can be traced back to the hiring of Bob Huggins in March.
K-State couldn't have found a bigger – or perhaps more controversial - name. Huggins racked up more than 500 wins and took Cincinnati to 14 consecutive NCAA Tournaments. However, his players rarely graduated and several were involved in off-the-court incidents. Huggins was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol, which ultimately cost him his job in August 2005.
Still, Huggins' allure and his long list of connections seem to be at an all-time high.
Just 11 days after he took the job, Bennett committed to the Wildcats. Huggins had recruited the imposing center while he was unemployed, and it appeared Bennett was just waiting to follow Huggins to his next destination. Bennett made only one other official visit (to Auburn) despite a string of scholarship offers from major programs.
Soon after, Huggins hired assistant Dalonte Hill away from Charlotte, perhaps the most influential move of his young tenure in Manhattan, Kan.
Hill, a former AAU coach from the Washington, D.C. area, had already snagged a commitment from Beasley, one of his former players. By late June, Beasley switched his pledge to the Wildcats.
Huggins' Cincinnati ties have helped with Walker, who had already exhausted his high school eligibility. Point guard O.J. Mayo, the No. 5 prospect in the class of 2007, is also considering the Wildcats. Mayo played with Walker at North College Hill High in Cincinnati the last three seasons.
But the scary part for the rest of the Big 12 is that they may have not seen the height of Huggins' impact just yet.
K-State returns four starters, including one of the Big 12's top players in forward Cartier Martin, from a team that went 15-13 last season. The Wildcats had wins over Kansas and Texas A&M in 2005-06, and those teams are picked first and second in the league this season. K-State also had nine losses by five or fewer points a year ago.
With the addition of the school's best recruiting class in years and one of the game's best coaches running the show, the Wildcats looks poised to contend for their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 1996.
And for the first time in a long time, the Wildcats will be getting tremendous exposure along the way.
If some of the Big 12 coaches are already in awe of Huggins' impact at K-State, they won't want to see what he can do after earning an NCAA Tournament bid - especially with the next wave of recruits watching the Wildcats pull off the remarkable feat.