WICHITA — In the two-plus seasons they have played together at Kansas State, Barry Brown and Kamau Stokes have developed an instinctual relationship on the court.
“In three years, that chemistry from practicing and being in tough situations and all the games and all the hours we’ve been together plays a big role,” Brown said. “I know his strengths and he knows my strengths and we know how to put each in a position to thrive. That plays a big part in how we feed off each other.”
Playing side-by-side develops chemistry, but the inner workings of knowing each other’s game has come in practice where the junior guards often go against each other.
“They get mad at me because I don’t let them practice together much because I want them to compete against each other,” K-State coach Bruce Weber said. “The day before a game, once a week or so early, we have them on the same team.
“They are older, they’re smarter, they know each other’s strengths. It’s fun to coach them. Experienced guards always make it a lot easier on the coach.”
Brown and Stokes are playing like savvy veterans, leading the Wildcats to an 8-1 start as they face Tulsa (4-4) at 7 p.m. Saturday in the Wichita Wildcats Classic at Intrust Bank Arena.
“This is our third year together so we’re familiar with each other’s game,” Stokes said. “We believe in each other, so when it’s time for us to make plays I believe in Barry and he believes in me so we just get along.”
The Wildcats’ backcourt tandem have nearly identical statistics. Stokes, a 6-foot point guard, averages 15.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists and 1.4 steals while Brown, a 6-3 shooting guard, averages 14.8 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 2.0 steals.
Stokes has started 64 of the 65 career games he has played, missing the latter portion of his freshman season with a knee injury, while Brown has 65 starts in 77 games.
Brown is a tenacious defender, setting a K-State record with 82 steals last season.
“He always wants to guard the other team’s best player,” Weber said.
Stokes has made the transition from high school shooting guard to college point guard but remains an offensive-minded player. He is shooting 50 percent from 3-point range, 25 of 50, after connecting at a 36-percent clip last season.
“I’ve been in the gym getting 3s up,” Stokes said. “Whenever you’re in the gym as much as I am, it always shows on the floor.
“I talked to coach Weber and the coaching staff and they told me if I wanted to get where I wanted to go, I had to get in the gym more. I took that upon myself to do that and I feel like that’s where it’s coming from.”
TULSA AT A GLANCE — The Golden Hurricane, under fourth-year coach Frank Haith, are coming off a 65-58 loss at Illinois State despite grabbing 49 rebounds with a plus-20 rebound margin for the second straight game. … The Hurricane and Wildcats have a common opponent in Oral Roberts, with TU winning 90-71 and K-State 77-68. Tulsa dropped a two-point decision to Iowa State on a neutral court. … Tulsa leads the series with K-State 5-1, but the teams haven’t played since 1990.