MANHATTAN — Kansas State basketball coach Bruce Weber will lean on a committee of big men this season to score tough points and grab rebounds in the paint.
That’s a departure from recent seasons, when the Wildcats mostly asked D.J. Johnson to patrol the paint by himself. No one knows how the experiment will ultimately turn out, but it is off to an encouraging start.
Makol Mawien, a 6-foot-9 junior-college transfer, was K-State’s top inside presence against American and finished with 12 points and 9 rebounds.
He was less successful against UMKC, as he picked up quick fouls and only played four minutes, but Mawdo Sallah was there to fill in. The 6-foot-9 graduate transfer was the best center on the floor, scoring 11 points and grabbing 9 rebounds.
“I’m happy that both of them have shown they can do some things,” K-State basketball coach Bruce Weber said. “There’s no doubt that’s an unknown. Both of those guys have not played a lot of high-major basketball, to say the least.”
Ideally, Weber would like to see Mawien and Sallah both play well in the same game, in addition to freshmen bigs Levi Stockard and Nigel Shadd. Perhaps that will happen today against UC-Irvine, the Wildcats’ toughest test of the young season.
Sallah says he will focus on rebounding and see where that takes him. He doesn’t care about starting.
“Every day it’s somebody different,” Sallah said after the UMKC game. “Every team you play plays different. Today was my day and last time it was Makol’s, so we just have to step out here and try to win a ballgame — whatever it takes to win. He got in foul trouble early and I had to step up and fill his shoes. If I play five minutes or if I play 20 minutes, I’m going to try to maximize those minutes.”
UC-Irvine has size inside that can test both Mawien and Sallah. They are not carbon copies of each other, so the Wildcats hope to use them differently based on matchups.
So far though, they have been effective in their own ways.
“Makol is wiry and long, a little more mobile,” Weber said. “Mawdo is not quite as mobile, but bigger and stronger with a little more meat to him. Mawdo is older and has been around. We kind of joke with him, is he 63 or 64 years old? I don’t know, but I call him grandpa. He’s smart, he’s intelligent, so mature and a great leader in the locker room. I loved that he focused on the rebounding.”