MANHATTAN — It’s safe to say basketball is back at Kansas State.

Fresh off a surprise run to the Elite Eight and with a team loaded with returning talent and promising newcomers, K-State men’s basketball fans have plenty of reasons to be excited for the upcoming season, and it showed at Friday night’s Madness in Manhattan at Bramlage Coliseum.

Featuring the return of former guard Jacob Pullen, a scrimmage, dunk contest, 3-point contest and a variety of splashy introductions, the free event helped showcase the upcoming season in grand form not seen in recent years.

This wasn’t the first time K-State has chosen to show off its basketball teams in a Friday-night format, but the event took a three-year break.

“It provides a little energy coming into the basketball season, and for our seniors, they like it,” coach Bruce Weber said. “Barry (Brown) went and got a haircut today. They were all ready to go.”

Dean Wade won the dunk contest, though his score was bolstered by a trio of perfect 10s in the first round after missing each of his dunk attempts but knocking down a 3-pointer at the buzzer. Finishing as runner-up was newcomer Austin Trice, who had the most outlandish dunks of the night, including a first-round one-handed slam while jumping over 6-foot-11 teammate James Love III.

Xavier Sneed and Sarah Bates were the winners in the team 3-point challenge, finishing with a combined score of 37 to outpace runners-up Kamau Stokes and Christianna Carr.

Players and coaches were introduced to the crowd individually, with each choosing a walk-in song to serve as their entrance theme. Wade had perhaps the most memorable introduction, entering to “Circle of Life” from "The Lion King" holding up a stuffed Wildcat doll, as is done in the film. Wade even stopped near midcourt to dance with teammates, much to his teammates’ and the crowd’s delight.

“I was originally going to do Sandstorm, but they didn’t like that one, so I picked ‘Circle of Life,’ ” Wade said to laughs from reporters. “'The Lion King' had a huge influence on me growing up, so I had to bring 'The Lion King' into the mix a little bit.”

The men’s team opens its season Nov. 2 with an exhibition against Pittsburg State, while the women begin the night before against Fort Hays. Both games are at home.

 

Pullen returns to campus

Pullen, the all-time scoring leader at K-State and two-time All-American, made his way back to the Little Apple to join in Friday’s festivities. He was introduced with a highlight video and served as one of three guest judges for the dunk contest.

During Weber’s brief remarks preceding the men’s scrimmage, he thanked Pullen for attending and promised fans that Pullen’s jersey would one day hang in the rafters among other K-State legends.

“I promise you Jacob Pullen’s jersey will be up there sooner rather than later,” Weber said.

Pullen said he was excited to watch last year’s Elite Eight run and is expecting big things from this year’s team.

“I was excited for them every time they won and every time they played,” Pullen said. “Even this season, starting the season off preseason ranked and coming off an Elite Eight taste when you get everybody back, that’s scary for the rest of the world. These guys are focused and they know what it’s like to get there and win.”

 

Tex Winter honored

The night opened with a tribute video in memory of legendary K-State men’s basketball coach Fred “Tex” Winter, who died Wednesday at the age of 96.

Winter pioneered the triangle offense at K-State, taking the Wildcats to a pair of Final Fours before winning 11 NBA championships as an assistant coach alongside Phil Jackson.

“His amazing wisdom and basketball knowledge — most of us just copy everyone else,” Weber said. “He created basketball. He loved basketball. He was a true teacher and coach of the game.”