SEK Catbackers hear K-State, Big 12 are solid



June 16, 2010 - 12:00 AM

If the more than 200 people gathered at tables listened to all three featured speakers at Tuesday’s 2010 SEK Catbackers dinner, they heard how difficulties, hard times and disappointments make people and teams stronger.
And conferences stronger.
Kansas State men’s basketball head coach Frank Martin, sophomore Wally Judge of the men’s basketball team and senior Shalin Spani of the women’s basketball team spoke to the crowd about themselves and K-State. All three pointed to adversities they overcame or as for Martin, the Wildcat team overcame.
Their experiences were pointed at the chaos surrounding the Big 12 Conference the past several weeks.  Earlier on Tuesday, the University of Texas announced it was committed to the Big 12 with 10 schools remaining.
“This is a long-term and unequivocal commitment,” Texas president William Powers Jr., said Tuesday. “We’ve decided the Big 12 provides the best long-term opportunity for our university.”
Big 12 Commissioner Don Beebe insisted the Big 12’s decision to stick together was about more than money.
“A strong, strong consideration … by the institutions to remain is the association of these schools, the fact that college athletics is very much a regional, regionally supported endeavor, and that it would be a great travesty for this part of this country if its major institutions located with conferences that aren’t in this region,” Beebe said.
And Martin said how pleased and excited he and the other Kansas State coaches were that the Big 12 is staying together.
“I’m happy it’s behind us and tremendous faith in our leadership. John Currie (K-State athletic director) asked me to let you know he apologizes he’s not here today. He’s been in Dallas trying to finalize this whole ordeal that we unfortunately had to deal with.
“It was much needed to bring our conference closer together.  Everything you go through and the only chance you have to succeed is when you go through a difficult time.
“You go through some tough times to challenge your mettle. This conference has gone through a little something here that challenged its mettle. What happened it is through the adversity we just went through as a league. as a whole, the unity became stronger.”
Martin said he talks to his Wildcat basketball players about the challenges of being a student-athlete. The thing that makes coaching fun is when “get around guys who embrace coaching, embrace leadership and are willing to learn.”
He said the young men on his team come in looking for the questions and asking you as a coach to help them find the answers.
“You listened to Wally Judge, who was a McDonald’s All-American and could have gone anywhere in the nation. He chose to come to here. He trusted in the people. He chose to come somewhere that people were going to make him work and they are going to care for him,” Martin said.
Martin said Judge didn’t whine about not having the playing time he thought he should at the start of the season. He said Judge stepped up and worked harder.
“It was no different with Nick Russell, Martavious Irving and Rodney McGruder (all freshman last year with Judge). These freshmen helped each other and more important were willing to listen to the upperclassmen,” Martin said.
Judge and Spani talked about working with K-State’s strength and conditioning coach Scott Greenawalt. Both said Greenawalt makes athletes work hard every day.
“I love this whole coaching staff. They are like fathers and mentors to all of us,” Judge said. “They push us to be better in everything we do. They don’t just stress basketball. They stress academics and being a better person.”
Judge said everybody has their own road and he wasn’t on par early in the season with other McDonald’s All-Americans like John Wall. He said what Coach Martin showed him is that “you have to follow your own road. He kept me on my road and believed in me. Come tournament time he put me on the floor.”
Spani, the daughter of K-State Hall of Fame linebacker Gary Spani, had a different road to K-State. She was homes-chooled but told the crowd how she missed her entire senior year of high school basketball because of a knee injury.
“I will have my sixth knee surgery in September. It’s been rough for me because I had to catch up then suffered setbacks with two more injuries to the knee,” Spani said.
“But I love K-State. I love playing for Coach (Deb) Patterson.”
Spani said she was red-shirting this season. She said plans to be there to help lead the Wildcat women on the court and be a leader.
“It’s a heart thing. I told Coach P I was going to keep trying. This experience is making me stronger and a better person.”
Wyatt Thompson, the voice of the Wildcats as the radio play-by-play man, asked Judge about his summer and what he was working on.
“Everything. You’re never a complete player unless you work. Every summer is where you get better,” Judge said.
The Catbacker clubs across the state raise money for the K-State’s Mike Ahearn Fund for athletic scholarships and capital improvements.

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