Jerome Tang thinks Kansas State Wildcats can be a top-10 basketball team next season

Jerome Tang’s first appearance on the Catbacker Tour came at good time.

Earlier this month, the Kansas State men’s basketball team barely had enough scholarship players on its roster to field a starting lineup. But after a big few weeks of recruiting wins, Tang is now bullish on what the Wildcats can accomplish next season.

That much was evident when he grabbed a microphone and spoke to a crowd of purple-clad fans on Monday in Manhattan. He was excited to talk about the new roster he has assembled through the transfer portal. He also made it clear he has high expectations for this group when he spoke with reporters.

“We want to compete for a national championship, and I think we have a great group that starts that, just not a lot of margin for error,” Tang said. “The goal is to add to that so we can have a margin for error and be one of the 10 best teams in the country.”

For those who are just tuning in — or those who simply lost track of all the comings and goings on the K-State basketball roster — here’s a quick rundown.

The Wildcats were only able to retain three players after the 2023-24 season came to an end. Macaleab Mich, Taj Manning and David N’Guessan are all back for another year, but the rest of the roster is gone. Three players graduated, six decided to transfer and one declared for the NBA Draft.

Few saw that many departures coming, but Tang said he was unfazed by the roster turnover. When asked if he was surprised by any of the outgoing transfers he simply said “no.”

He later said K-State doesn’t have a problem when it comes to retaining players.

“Once a young person gets here they really don’t want to leave,” Tang said. “Sometimes it’s in their best interest for them to leave, which is what happened this year. But the ones we wanted to stay, stayed.”

Tang went on to say that he was thankful for the three players who decided to stay, particularly N’Guessan, but new blood was needed after the Wildcats only won 19 games last season.

“It’s hard on the fans, because they want to get to know kids and watch them grow,” Tang said. “But we have got impatient parents and impatient administration. It is what it is. Coaches are out here getting fired after two years, even when they win. That’s tough. We are all on year-to-year contracts.”

K-State has lined up eight new players for next season, and Tang is optimistic that the Wildcats can add two more impact transfers in the next few weeks.

The new additions include Michigan guard Dug McDaniel, Illinois-Chicago guard CJ Jones, Fullerton wing Max Jones, Villanova sharpshooter Brendan Hausen, Arkansas big man Baye Fall, Samford forward Achor Achor, junior-college transfer Chimobi Ikegwuruka and high school senior David Castillo.

Tang said he wanted to add competitiveness, shooting and basketball IQ to his roster. So that is what he focused on with this group. He can’t stomach another season with 500 turnovers or 32% shooting from beyond the arc.

Achor was the most recent addition of that group. He might also make the biggest impact. The 6-foot-9 big man averaged 16.1 points and 6.1 rebounds for an NCAA Tournament team last season. Tang is eager to get him in the K-State lineup, even though he’s not yet sure what position he will play.

“He can play any position,” Tang said. “He can definitely guard any position on the floor. He can dribble, he can pass, he can shoot. He has got size and athleticism. He is just very much like (Nae’Qwan Tomlin). Maybe not as good of a ball-handler, but very much like that. He can really shoot.”

Tang things Ikegwuruka and Jones will also make an impact.

“They are weapons,” Tang said. “Chimobi has athleticism very similar to Buddy Rich. He’s got pop and he can score easy buckets for you because of his athleticism and his length. He has got a 7-foot wingspan and he’s played internationally. He has played a lot of basketball, so he’s got a savviness to him.

“Max plays with a chip on his shoulder starting at Division II and moving up to Division I. Now he’s taking another step up. His dad was a big-time football player, a quarterback. He’s got a good pedigree. We are really excited about him.”

The new K-State basketball roster will come together for the first time in early June when student-athletes arrive on campus for summer school. Tang is clearly ready to start working with them.