Trippin': Bruce Weber takes new team to Brazil

By Jeff Goodman | College Basketball Insider
Kansas State's players and coaches pose in front of the world-famous Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio. (K-State Athletics)

In our Trippin' series, we're talking to teams as they return from preseason trips to foreign locales. Check here for all Trippin' related stories.

Bruce Weber took over Frank Martin's program. The two coaches are so different, but Weber -- especially after a four-game trip to Brazil as the new coach at Kansas State -- understands that this team can compete against just about anyone if he can find a way to mesh the best of both worlds, both styles.

"We want to keep the toughness," Weber said. "They've had a defensive mentality and rebounding has been a strength," Weber said. "We just want to add a little more skill."

Weber's new group wound up splitting four games over in Brazil. He gave us his thoughts on the trip:

What Weber learned: "For us, the number one thing was getting to know the kids and them getting to know us -- especially in a different setting than the office or on the campus. We learned about them in tense situations, in game-like situations. How they react to things, that was important. We saw it up close and now we don't have to wait until November to learn about them."

Who stood out: Early in the trip, it was Angel (Rodriguez). He made the right reads, ran the team and showed toughness. Adrian Diaz had a couple of really good games. He was very active and really battled against older, physical big guys. Rodney (McGruder) and (Will) Spradling made shots at the end, but struggled early. I'm not sure if it was the ball we were using -- or the 3-point line. But it took them time to adjust."

Biggest concern: "Taking care of the ball. Overall, I think that was our biggest downfall -- part of it was the 24-second clock. Also, we tried to play a little too fast."

Notes:

- Weber went with a smaller lineup that he could well utilize during the season with 6-foot-4 1/2 Nino Williams at the four spot. "We played small ball and it worked well, especially against international teams with the spacing. He was really effective and extremely active. He led us in three categories -- including rebounding and field goal percentage. … I don't know the league well enough, but Michigan won the league with a 6-foot-4 power forward."

- Weber said that Jordan Henriquez and Thomas Gipson, who still needs to get into better shape, struggled with the speed of the game -- and also having to defend an excess of ball screens. "It was difficult for them because the opposing big men could shoot it."

- Rodriguez, who led the team in scoring (10.3 ppg) and also in assists (4.8), played the bulk of the minutes at the point. Spradling spent the majority of the time at the wing and also slid over to the point when Rodriguez wasn't in the game. "From the two-guard spot, Will can make point guard plays. He can see and feed the post and also do ball-screen stuff. It makes us more versatile."

- McGruder struggled on the trip until the end, but Weber put much of the blame that he wasn't able to get into a rhythm due to the fact that he rotated five guys every four minutes for most of the trip. "I wanted everyone to play and get a chance to see everyone. I wasn't nearly as concerned about winning."

- The fifth game of the trip was canceled as the Brazilian team had apparently double-booked and already had a league game scheduled.

- Weber raved about Rio de Janeiro, the site of the 2016 Olympics, but said he was concerned about the congestion. "It'll be interesting with so many people and so much traffic. I don't know how they're going to get people from place to place." Weber said that they were already beginning to renovate stadiums -- especially with the World Cup only two years away.

- Weber's team got home on Friday and had classes this week, so they didn't get much of a break. The best sight was to see McGruder in the gym at 6 a.m. on Monday, then Spradling and four other guys in the gym working out early Tuesday morning. "These guys work hard," he said. "You've got to give Frank Martin and these kids credit."

- Weber didn't participate, but was intrigued with the sport of foot volley, which he said was similar to volleyball -- except that you can only use your feet, body and head.

 
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