At the 2022 Big 12 men’s basketball tipoff, Kansas State Wildcats coach Jerome Tang was the newest face in the building among the conference’s coaches. While he wasn’t new to the Big 12 in general after spending two decades on Baylor Bears coach Scott Drew’s staff, everything that comes with being a head coach in the best conference in America was foreign to him.
And, by his own admission, he never watched any media day events while he was at Baylor.
Year 2 with the Wildcats, however, brings a new level of comfort and familiarity for Tang, and it’s an opportunity for K-State to build on its Elite Eight run from a season ago.
“Excited, happy with the roster that we’ve assembled, and excited about the opportunity to start playing games,” Tang said.
That roster is one of the key storylines for the Wildcats entering this season, with seven new scholarship additions this year between high school signees and transfer portal commitments.
K-State’s transfer class, in particular, heads into the 2023-24 with plenty of fanfare. It includes two top-60 transfers in the country per 247Sports, Arthur Kaluma from Creighton and Tylor Perry from North Texas. Kaluma was one of the top 20 players in the portal according to those rankings, while Tang raved about Perry on Wednesday morning.
“He may be the best shooter in America,” Tang said. “So that is the basketball side of things. But just the personality and how he brings people together is really special.”
Perry showed off that shooting touch during K-State’s international trip this summer, when he hit 18-of-33 attempts from three-point range.
Even with many of last season’s contributors moving on, including Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson, Kansas State has been able to take its Elite Eight run and parlay that into more momentum heading into this season. That includes a different tone in conversations the Wildcats have had on the recruiting trail.
“Last year, we recruited 75 guys. We did 75 Zooms with video and everything to sign 11. So 61 guys told us no,” Tang said. “During the NCAA tournament I got a lot of text messages from 61 guys saying, ‘Coach, I messed up,’ or congratulations. My message to the new guys is you can either sent me a congratulatory text or you can enjoy it with me. So thankful for the ones who have chosen to enjoy it with us.”
Basketball itself was the focal point for every program that spoke Wednesday, understandably so with the first Monday of the regular season just 19 days away. But for Kansas State, which became an overnight sensation last year on its run through the NCAA tournament, brand building and what it’s done to elevate its profile was also a hot topic.
The Wildcats’ social media presence has been a hit with their online fan base. Tang took a trip recently to Boulder, Colorado to chat with Deion Sanders about building a roster and building a brand. But at its most basic level, Tang knows that the Wildcats’ success in that department is similar to what’s led them to success on the court: “dudes.”
“Nobody can duplicate what they do because they don’t have our personalities, nor our love, nor our care, nor our passion,” Tang said. “I think our recruits out there are seeing that, and they want to be a part of it.”