Wildcats to lean on Southwell, Spradling

ADAM SUDERMAN (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -- Shane Southwell and Will Spradling have always been complementary players at Kansas State. They were the guys who could chip in from time to time while others carried the load.

That won't be the case this season.

After losing top scorer Rodney McGruder, floor leader Angel Rodriguez and post presence Jordan Henriquez to transfers and graduation, Southwell and Spradling will be counted upon heavily if the Wildcats have any aspirations of capturing another share of the Big 12 title.

''Shane and I are the four-year players here and we have to be the leaders,'' Spradling said Wednesday during Kansas State's media day. ''We have to be vocal, and that's something we've really had to work on because that's not really our personalities.

''We're more quiet guys,'' Spradling said, ''that like to lead by how we play.''

That doesn't mean they don't have the ability. Spradling has been a key contributor since his freshman season, and Southwell had several breakout performances late last season.

Southwell was third on the team in scoring last season at 8.4 points per game, while Spradling was fifth in scoring at 7.4.

''I'm comfortable being with that (lead scoring) role,'' Southwell said. ''I tried hard this year and last year to work on my game and work on being that person.''

Southwell, who is versatile enough to cover smaller post players but can also run the point, said his primary focus this offseason was on his shooting. He was among the best 3-pointer shooters in the Big 12 last season, but his mid-range game was less dependable.

''I've just got to keep getting better every day,'' Southwell said. ''I want to be a very good shooter. I don't want to just be good. I want to be very good.''

Bruce Weber, who inherited both players when he arrived last season, believes Southwell can carry the load in much the same fashion that McGruder did last season.

''Shane has an ability to score in a lot of different ways,'' Weber said. ''We're going to need him to do it. But he also has to do some of the other stuff and guard people.''

As for helping out in a variety of spots on the floor, well, Southwell is ready for that, too.

''I feel comfortable with all positions, honestly,'' he said. ''I have a decent basketball IQ and I've worked hard at trying to make myself comfortable at every spot on the court.''

The biggest question surrounding the Wildcats is who will run the point after Rodriguez transferred to Miami. Spradling will get some of the duty, but newcomers Nigel Johnson and Marcus Foster have shown promise, and even touted forward Wesley Iwundu has taken reps at the position.

''There's no way Will can play 40 minutes,'' Weber said. ''We've got a pretty tough schedule the first half of the year, so it's going to be important that we find somebody else.''

While it's not his natural role - Spradling is a better spot-up shooter - Weber said his experience at point guard makes him invaluable. The only problem is that Spradling isn't someone who can create his own shot easily, and that means his scoring might take a dive.

''The biggest problem when he plays point, he does not get a lot of looks because once you get into the system - he had to take so much effort to get into stuff,'' Weber said. ''Now it is tough getting him back involved.''

Spradling believes his role will change on a game-by-game basis.

''I just do whatever it takes to win,'' he said. ''It doesn't mean that I have to go out and score every game. That might mean that one game I'll be more of a passer or if somebody gets hot I'm going to feed them the ball.''

The Wildcats have been practicing for a couple of weeks already after the NCAA changed the rules governing workouts. They play their lone exhibition game Nov. 1 against Pittsburg State, and their first regular-season game is a week later against Northern Colorado.

''It is going to be our experienced guys that have to set the tone,'' Weber said. ''They have to give us leadership, have to be consistent if we are going to be a successful team that competes for the upper part of the Big 12 this year.''

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