by August 19, 2009

by Tzvi Twersky

2006: The year of Huggins

After wobbling out of Cincinnati, notoriously legendary college coach, Bob Huggins, elected to pick up and take the reins of  a floundering Kansas State program. The impact could be seen—literally, as Kansas State unveiled New Nike uniforms at Midnight Madness—and felt around the college world immediately. Always a solid recruiter at Cincy, Huggins vowed to woo top-notch talent to K-State. Located in small town Manhattan, Kansas (as Ben chronicled here), most thought that wouldn’t be easy to do. But, after the coupé Huggins pulled in landing blue chip Ohioan, Bill Walker, no one was doubting how fast and how far Huggins and K-State would go together. And though his first season there was forgettable on the court, Huggins, with the help of newly hired assistant Dalonte Hill, snared Michael Beasley—the best player ever to commit to Kansas State. Students, alumni and fans nationwide all prepared to watch Huggins lead K-State deep in the Tourney in ’07.

2007: The year after Huggins

On April 5, 2007, despite a strong show of support and love (read $) from Kansas State, Bob Huggins announced that he would be leaving State to coach at West Virginia, his alma mater. For a minute people were nervous that Beasley would skip out on Manhattan as well. Meanwhile, a transfer student from  the PR by way U of Miami, sat out the required year. With first year coach Frank Martin on the sideline, and Bill Walker and super frosh Michael Beasley leading the way on the court, K-State, an 11-seed, upset OJ Mayo’s Trojans in the Tourney.

2008: Wildcat 44

Finally allowed to play, the kid from U of M showed off dazzling skills. With hops, a wicked handle and sprinter speed, dude came out of the gates strong, dropping 19 points in 22 minutes of play in his first game. With people questioning how good K-State would be in the wake of Beasley and Walker going in the Draft, Jacob Pullen and Fred Brown—two of Huggins’ recruits—helped the team remain competitive in the Big 12. It wasn’t that fact that they were able to stay in games that caught my glasses, it was the how. The aforementioned three players ran early and often. But one of them, the transfer, showed something extra.

On January 31, 2009, the Wildcats were set to play against the Texas Longhorns (then ranked 12th in the Nation). The crowd was rowdy. The ‘Horns were looking to take home a big W against a Big 12 foe. But the kid had a different idea. With his speed on full display—and he’s a full step quicker than most guards in the Big 12—and with his range locked on unlimited, the 22-year-old wetted the net to the tune of 44 points, en route to an 85-81 win over the L-Horns.

On the season, the Wildcats finished with a 22-12 record, and he finished with averages of 15 and 3.

Now in the news for the ridiculous shot below, just realize: Denis Clemente is a lot more than a one-shot, trick-shot pony. He’s an electric scoring guard, capable of otherworldly feats on the hardwood. If you didn’t know his name before, know you do. Remember it. If you started following K-State when Huggins landed there, keep following it ’till Clemente leaves Manhattan.