COLUMN: Lack of leadership dragging KSU down

Josh Rouse

When the going gets tough, the tough aren’t going to the NIT.

That was Jacob Pullen’s train of thought last week when he announced to the world that if the No. 24 Kansas State Wildcats don’t get a ticket to the Big Dance in March, he refuses to play in the NIT. Interesting remarks about a team that began the season ranked No. 3 in the nation, above a long-time rival and perennial powerhouse in the University of Kansas, and was picked by none other than Dick Vitale to win the entire conference.

The Wildcats, now 13-6 with a 1-3 record in the Big 12 after a 75-59 loss Monday night to No. 14 Missouri, may be lucky to even make the NIT. Similar to the University of Kansas’ fall from football prominence in 2009, the KSU men’s basketball program was looking to grow on the success of last year, with the Wildcats coming off one of their best seasons to date with an Elite Eight finish.

However, the supposed dream season for K-State was marred by the suspensions of Pullen and senior forward Curtis Kelly after they accepted impermissible benefits from a department store. Kelly also sat out K-State’s first three games for disciplinary issues, and sophomore forward Wally Judge missed a game for personal reasons.

What makes things so ridiculous in Pullen’s situation is that he is more than willing to put the blame on anybody other than himself to the media, even though the problems they’ve had this year have by-and-large been a result of his actions. Following Monday’s loss, he was even quoted in the Kansas City Star as saying “at some point, this team has to take responsibility.” Couldn’t agree more.

Junior center Freddy Asprilla just out-and-out quit, departing prior to K-State’s Jan. 15 win against Texas Tech to explore professional basketball opportunities in his home country of Colombia. Although Asprilla’s former AAU coach said the move was to raise money to help his ill mother, Kelly was quoted in the Wichita Eagle with a much different explanation.

“He’s a great guy and he was a great player for us, but sometimes guys can’t handle Frank,” said Kelly. “Guys can’t handle the way he demands. He wants the best out of you, 100 percent every time. Even though you may not be able to give it to him every time he still wants you to try. Freddy failed at that unfortunately.”

Personally, I don’t think Kelly has any room to call someone else a failure.

Kansas State still has a tough road ahead, facing Texas A&M and Baylor before heading to Allen Fieldhouse for a matchup against No. 2 Kansas. The Wildcats will then have to play Nebraska and Iowa State, which were both impressive against the Jayhawks, before getting a chance to avenge losses to Colorado and Missouri. They will also face KU once more, as well as Oklahoma and Texas.

While the rest of the season remains uncertain for the Wildcats, who will most likely be unranked when next week’s polls are out, one thing is still certain in Manhattan.

Pullen’s collegiate career is about to mimic Pervis Pasco in the 2003 Big 12 Tournament if the Wildcats don’t get out of their slump soon. Delusions of grandeur stifled because he stopped playing basketball a moment too soon.

If you don’t get the reference, YouTube it. Even if you do, YouTube it.