K-State's Will Spradling on point in his return to the old position
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
MANHATTAN — It wasn't so much dÃ©jÃ vu as rediscovering a pair of old, comfortable sneakers.
Will Spradling may have thought his days playing point guard for Kansas State were behind him but he never forgot how.
"I feel comfortable in that position," said Spradling, who starting his senior season now finds himself back at the point after starter Angel Rodriguez transferred and recruit Jevon Thomas' debut was pushed back to second semester. "I know what it takes to run it and I ran it my whole freshman and half of my sophomore year, so I know what it's like to run it in the Big 12."
Good thing, too, second-year K-State coach Bruce Weber said Wednesday during the Wildcats' media day. Like everyone, he was caught off guard by Rodriguez's decision in late April to transfer after a breakout sophomore season.
Then Thomas, the most likely successor at the point, was declared a partial qualifier by the NCAA and forced to sit out the first semester.
"We're just fortunate to have him there with the circumstances that we had with Angel leaving so late," Weber said. "If you don't have Will, you're really in trouble.
"Will's played point - he started at point before I got here. Last year when Tay (Martavious Irving) and Angel were out a couple of games, Will had to play point."
Knowing he was moving back to the point, even if it's temporary, Spradling spent the offseason brushing up.
"The biggest thing for me was getting back to the point guard position, and since last year I didn't play it much I really focused on trying to control the game and then also working on ball screens," he said. "Angel, at the end of the shot clock, he had the ball in his hands and was making a play at the end of about every shot clock. That's something they'll look for me to do this year."
Spradling said he's better prepared physically this year as well after bulking up 15 pounds.
"You're not going to see me get pushed around as much," Spradling said. "That was the biggest thing with coach Weber, that sometimes I would get bumped going into my shot and it would throw me off balance."
If Weber has a concern about Spradling, it's how it might affect his offensive production. He averaged 7.4 points — fifth on the team — and 2.4 assists a game last year, primarily as a shooting guard.
"The biggest problem if he plays point, if you go back to that UMKC and that South Dakota game last year where he played 40 minutes of point in each game, he doesn't get a lot of looks," Weber said. "It takes so much effort to get us into stuff and now it's tough to get him back involved.
"We're trying to get a couple of different looks to where we ease the pressure on him and keep him involved in the offense."
Fellow senior Shane Southwell, who came in with Spradling three years ago, said having Spradling at the point definitely eases the pressure with Thomas unavailable to even practice and with incoming freshman Nigel Johnson still learning the ropes. Johnson's development also has been slowed by injury and illness.
"I think it's big the fact that we have a guy like Will who can just slide to the point," said Southwell, the top returning scorer from a year ago. "It would have been difficult if we would have had a new guy coming in that position, but Will is really handling the transition well and he's doing great."
Spradling got to test his point guard skills in August, when he traveled to Europe with a Global Sports Academy team of college players for a series of games in Belgium and the Netherlands. It proved to be an eye-opener, in a good way.
"The whole Angel thing was a shock and nobody expected that," Spradling said. "It made me change a lot, because even when he transferred, I felt like they were still going to put me at the shooting guard position and bring in another point guard.
"But it didn't work out that way and they threw me back to point guard, which I know like a lot because going overseas this summer and seeing all the players over there, that's a position I could really play overseas."
Weber is just glad to have Spradling in Manhattan for one more season.
"I think people don't appreciate what he gives us," Weber said. "From leading us in taking charges to just being in the right spot in the help position, he has a great feel of the game.
"I don't think the fans appreciate him enough, what he's given and the consistency."