Archive for Sunday, October 14, 2007

Walker a crowd-pleaser at K-State

October 14, 2007

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— There was no dunk contest, but that didn't keep Bill Walker from putting on a show during Kansas State's "Madness in Manhattan" event Friday night and early Saturday in Bramlage Coliseum.

Coach Frank Martin canceled the dunk contest because of some nagging injuries to several players, but he allowed the healthy players to participate in a 20-minute scrimmage.

It was the first chance for Kansas State fans to see Walker in action since he went down with a ruptured ACL in his sixth game of the 2006-07 season. And Walker, who was recently named an honorable mention Preseason All-Big 12 selection, didn't disappoint.

The heavily recruited red-shirt freshman scored on an array of dunks and alley-oops, finishing with 20 points. Granted, there wasn't much defense being played, but fans got what they came to see - a healthy Bill Walker.

"Let me ask you guys a question," Martin said in his address to the crowd following the festivities. "Do you think Bill's knee is OK? So I don't want to ever hear that mentioned again."

Some fans waited about 12 hours outside the Coliseum, waiting eagerly to get their first peak at the new team and Martin, who took over in April after Bob Huggins left for West Virginia despite spending just one year in Manhattan.

"I think this is more exciting (than last year) because we're a better team this year. We're expected to go a lot farther this year," said Jeff Prior, a Kansas State sophomore who arrived at Bramlage at 8:30 a.m. just so he could get front-row seats for the free event.

Prior said he was most excited to see another player that has given him so much reason for optimism - Michael Beasley.

Beasley was the top-ranked recruit in the nation, according to Rivals.com, and he was recently voted the Preseason Big 12 Rookie of the Year. He is the most highly regarded recruit in school history, and Friday night marked his first public appearance in a Wildcat uniform.

If Friday is any indication, Beasley and Walker should provide the Wildcats a formidable 1-2 punch.

"We're going to use our athletic ability more this year," Walker said. "Run the ball up the court so guys will have the opportunity to make plays, instead of just walking it up the court and letting the defense set up on us."

Dominique Sutton, another member of Kansas State's recruiting class, did not appear on the roster. Martin said he has yet to qualify academically.

"Dominique Sutton is still trying to meet qualifying standards and is not part of the basketball team at this moment," Martin said in a prepared statement. "I cannot comment any further due to NCAA regulations regarding prospective student athletes."

Last year, Kansas State had its most wins since the 1987-88 season, finishing 23-12 and fourth in the Big 12, but was held out of the NCAA Tournament. Kansas State qualified for postseason play for the first time since 1999, but fell in the second round of the NIT to DePaul. The Wildcats haven't qualified for the NCAA Tournament since 1996.

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