MANHATTAN — Don’t be surprised if Kamau Stokes makes another run at the NBA Draft next summer.
The Kansas State point guard predictably returned to college for his junior season after briefly declaring as an early entrant in April, but he enjoyed every moment of the evaluation process and can envision himself doing it again. Part of him regrets not doing it earlier.
“I had thought about it for a while,” Stokes said Friday while addressing media at K-State’s practice facility. “I even thought about it my freshman year, but, of course, I had a (knee) injury. It was just testing the waters, seeing what it was like and getting feedback ... I am definitely glad I did it.”
The chances of Stokes remaining in the draft and turning professional after two seasons with the Wildcats were low, and he knew it. Though Stokes made strides last year, averaging 11.7 points, 4.1 assists and 2.6 rebounds while starting all 35 games, he is not viewed as a NBA prospect.
He needs to cut down on his turnovers (2.9 per game) and ramp up his field goal percentage (35.6) before he can legitimately hope of making it in the NBA.
This time around, Stokes didn’t land as much as a workout with an NBA team.
Still, there is no harm in a young college player testing the professional waters, so long as he doesn’t hire an agent while doing so. Stokes argues the process produced several positives. For starters, he knows exactly what he needs to improve during his final two seasons at K-State.
“It was a good experience,” Stokes said. “You know, I got a chance to figure out what they wanted to see from me and I can go out there and showcase my talents on the floor, get better and improve the things they wanted to see me do better. It will help our team, as well.”
Stokes said he has never been more motivated.
“The main feedback that I heard was being a more vocal leader,” Stokes said. “They want to see me get guys better. Not just me improving, but me making everyone else better around me.”
K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber is glad to have Stokes back. He gave Stokes his blessing to chase his NBA dream in the spring and thinks he is already a better point guard because of it this summer.
Stokes has added needed muscle to his body and seems more determined to push teammates in practice than he was last season.
“He got some feedback. Some of it was maybe rejection feedback, which will be a driving,” Weber said. “If it motivates him, I think it’s a good thing.”
Weber is already looking forward to what Stokes can do next season.
“The one thing we finally will have is an upperclassman point guard,” Weber said. “We haven’t had that since Angel (Rodriguez) left. That’s a mouthful.”
Playing alongside Barry Brown in K-State’s backcourt and forward Dean Wade should also help Stokes. All three players have started games since they were freshmen. Now, all three are taking on leadership roles.
Stokes has big goals for the upcoming season, including getting his assists-to-turnover ratio up to three-to-one and becoming a better finisher near the rim.
He wants to become a better point guard. But, most of all, he wants to help K-State become a better team — just like the NBA scouts suggested.
“I am improving individually, but I want everyone else to improve, as well,” Stokes said. “That includes me being more vocal on and off the court. It is up to me, Barry and Dean. We have to hold the other guys accountable, no matter what.”