Ezeagu gives K-State much-needed post presence
When Kaosi Ezeagu left Texas-El Paso at semester last year and signed with Kansas State, he knew the job description.
At a sturdy 6-foot-10, 255 pounds, with the athleticism to contest shots on the defensive end, the role of rim protector was a given. But K-State coach Bruce Weber also envisioned a true, back-to-the-basket post presence on offense, as well, something the Wildcats have lacked in recent years.
"Personally, that's what I feel I bring to the team and where I can contribute," said Ezeagu, who through three games has shown that, as long as he avoids foul trouble, he can be a force at both ends of the floor. "I feel that's something I can bring to the table and I think it's something that our team does need going forward.
"So I'm trying my best to do what they need me to do."
It's certainly what Weber wants from his big man.
"It's really important, and it's been one of my first focuses from the start of the year," said Weber, who also recruited 7-foot freshman Davion Bradford and 6-11 sophomore transfer Carlton Linguard from Temple (Texas) College to bolster the inside game. "One, to get the ball inside."
So far, so good for Ezeagu, who is averaging 9.3 points and 3.7 rebounds for the 1-2 Wildcats. They play host to UNLV at 7 p.m. Saturday at Bramlage Coliseum.
With the exception of a one-rebound performance in a loss to Colorado, Ezeagu has been remarkably consistent, scoring between eight and 11 points and blocking eight shots total. His 11 points in Monday's 62-58 victory over Missouri-Kansas City included a 7-for-9 effort at the free-throw line, all in the second half.
"When you go inside, you're going to get to the free-throw line, which is a good thing," Weber said. "We got to the free-throw line 27 times (against UMKC) and obviously UMKC was very aggressive and that was part of their game plan, to be very physical with us.
"It was great that (Ezeagu) was able to step up. He made big, crucial free throws. It's a seven-, nine-point game (and) I think he makes four out of five or five out of six in that stretch, and if he doesn't make them, who knows what happens with that game."
The free-throw accuracy was a big step forward for Ezeagu, who was 3 of 8 in a season-opening loss to Drake and missed both his attempts against Colorado.
"The first two games, I didn't feel like that's really me," he said. "I feel like I can do a lot better than what I showed, so I've been working on it in the morning after practice all the time.
"After the last game, I'm getting more comfortable at the free-throw line, and I feel like I'll be able to do better and help my team from that point."
Weber also likes what he's seen from Ezeagu on defense, and not just with the blocked shots.
"He's done a really good job defensively, getting into ball screens," Weber said. "That's one of the things we were worried about, (but) for the most part, he and Davion have been very aggressive.
"It's going to be a key Saturday because they (UNLV) slip ball screens and they set some ball screens."
Ezeagu played sparingly as a UTEP freshman, though most of his minutes came at the end of that season. But he was redshirting last year before deciding to transfer and sit out the rest of the season at K-State.
"I feel like the first two games, because I hadn't played in a while, (I was) not nervous per se, but I needed reps," Ezeagu said. "Game reps are kind of different, so I feel like I finally started to settle in. I feel like my teammates are trusting me more in certain situations, and I feel like we'll be good."