Kansas State basketball players impressed with new coach Jerome Tang
MANHATTAN — Less than two weeks have passed since Kansas State’s basketball season ended with a first-round Big 12 tournament loss and already Markquis Nowell is planning the fall.
In a short meeting with the Wildcats, Jerome Tang clearly got them excited about the future.
“His confidence and passion carries over to my teammates and myself. I’m ready to start right away,” Nowell said of Tang, who was hired as K-State’s new head coach on Monday and met the team in person for the first time on Wednesday. “His passion and will to win, I can tell, is through the roof.
“And he’s someone you want to play for and go to war with, and Coach Tang is a really good coach. He’s a great scout. It’s going to be a really great year.”
After a 14-17 season that ended in six straight losses, the Wildcats expected a positive message from their new coach, and they got it.
“My first impression is excellent,” striker Ismael Massoud said. “I really appreciate the things he values, like hard work and work ethic and being thankful and thankful.
“All the values that are really dear to him, I hold dear. Also how he wants to win straight away and he plans to play around this time next year and that’s what I appreciate too.”
“We are going to achieve great things together,” Tang told the crowd gathered for his introductory press conference on Thursday. “And it won’t take long. I didn’t come to rebuild. I came to uplift.”
This was also his message to the team. Even Nijel Pack, who entered his name in the NBA Draft earlier this week, was in on the action.
“We have a lot of talent around us,” said Pack, who under NCAA rules would still be eligible to return if he wanted to. “We are all getting older and gaining more experience.
“I believe we are definitely an NCAA Tournament team. We should definitely be playing this time next year.”
Tang agreed, especially after watching guards Nowell and Pack, that he considered the Wildcats an NCAA tournament-caliber team last year.
“They were one of the top three backcourts in the Big 12, in my opinion,” he said. “When I watched these guys play, there were times when I looked at their team and said, ‘Man, this is an NCAA Tournament team. And then there were times when I looked and said, ‘Man, what happened?’
“I’m just saying as a coach watching them they made me nervous. And when I got the job I was excited because I know how the other team felt.”
Nowell, who averaged 12.4 points and 5.0 assists per game last year, said he expects nothing less than an NCAA Tournament berth next season.
“We’re going to take it one step at a time though,” he said. “We are going to grind this summer off season. We are going to improve every day and at the start of the season we should be more than prepared.”
As for Pack, a first-team All-Big 12 selection this year as a sophomore, he said his immediate goal is to do his best in hopes of starting his pro career. But he hasn’t ruled out a return to the Wildcats.
“I’m going to leave all options open,” said Pack, who led the Wildcats in scoring with 17.4 points per game. “Going to the draft is a key thing, a childhood dream. You just have to go out there and work as hard as you can to improve.
“Coach Tang said he was ready to help me in this process to improve. I’m just happy that he is here to help me and the team to improve as well.”
So far, it looks like Tang has pushed all the right buttons with the team.
“He told us that one of the first things was that he was planning to play around this time next year,” Massoud said. “It’s something we all wanted to hear.”