Rodriguez' transfer means Bruce Weber has huge challenge next year
With Angel Rodriguez opting to leave Kansas State, the Wildcats will have a tough go of things next season. Will Bruce Weber even be able to keep this team in the tournament mix?
One of the more surprising and high-profile transfer decisions of this college basketball offseason sprouted up -- or: went down -- Monday night. Angel Rodriguez, a sophomore point guard who became a vital part of Kansas State's 27-8 season, will seek transfer. He'll be coveted by plenty of teams looking for a two-year solution at the 1.
Rodriguez wants out because he's looking to be closer to his family, according to the school's release of the news.
“It is important that everyone understands that this was a really difficult decision,” Rodriguez said in the press release. “I have really enjoyed my time here and this decision was based entirely on my family and has nothing do with Kansas State, basketball or the coaching staff. It’s unfortunate after the year we just had, but I just feel right now this is the best thing for me and my family. Whether it is the right choice or not, family has and always will be first with me.”
He was recruited by Frank Martin, who left KSU in 2012 to take the job at South Carolina. Will Rodriguez want to rejoin his coach? Will he look to possibly head to Miami (somewhere close to his home of Puerto Rico) and sign on with the Hurricanes?
“After multiple conversations, Angel feels an obligation to be closer to his family,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said in a statement. “His mother is raising his two younger brothers all by herself in San Juan and he just wants to be able to see them more often.”
Barring an unforeseeable waiver to allow immediate play, Rodriguez (11.4 points, 5.2 assists per game) will sit the requisite season and surface again in 2014-15. See ya then, kid. The more immediate/bigger question becomes: But what about Weber and his Wildcats? The former Illinois coach did well with Martin's guys this year. I'd say he exceeded expectations in getting KSU to play as well as it did and winning the first Big 12 title for KSU in decades -- though that upset loss to No. 13 La Salle to the in the NCAAs does stick out and sting.
In his two previous sophomore showings as head coach, Weber went 20-13 at Southern Illinois, making the NIT, and 37-2 at Illinois, going to the national title game and losing to UNC in '05. (I adored that Illini team.) He probably won't be topping those.
Now we have to expect a dip from the Wildcats, one that will mimic the downturn the Big 12 will collectively take next season. The league will have a weakened Kansas team, a weakened Iowa State team, a weakened Baylor bunch. Really, the only group that comes back with more force and inflated hopes are the Pokes, who are bolstered by -- in my opinion -- the most surprising decision of this offseason in Marcus Smart bypassing being a top-10 pick to play sophomore ball in Stillwater.
K-State loses Rodriguez and seniors Rodney McGruder (the team's best player), Jordan Henriquez and Martavious Irving. Will Spradling and Shane Southwell will become the shoulders of the group. The team has three scholarships available for next season. Can Weber fill those with players able to keep KSU as a viable NCAA tournament team? I don't think so.
Weber, who only has one season below .500 in his 15 years as a head coach, could get No. 2 below the bar next year. What Kansas State basketball now faces is being truly irrelevant for the first time in years, something that used to be commonplace in Manhattan. And if it's not, chances are Weber will have pulled off the second-greatest coaching season of his career, second only to that '05 run.
With no Rodriguez or big-time recruiting class, if Weber can coach this group to the NCAA tournament, he'll have proved K-State right for hiring him in the first place.
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