The Basketball Tournament is now in its 10th edition and in most of the years that it has been contested, K-State has had a team made up of former players (and some ringers) compete as “Purple and Black.”
Purple and Black is 4-6 all-time in TBT and got a big win last season when Jacob Pullen hit a game-winning three at Koch Arena in Wichita. Pullen was set to return in 2023, but had to pull out within the last week. Regardless, it still looks like Purple and Black might have their best shot at making a deep run since one of their first teams made it to the Super 16 over five years ago.
Here is a look at the former Cats suiting up for Purple and Black tonight at 6:00 on ESPN2, and some memories of their time in Manhattan.
Bebe Iyiola was a transfer from Hofstra who just wrapped up his lone season in Manhattan, and while playing time was limited, Iyiola was still impactful for the Wildcats on their way to an Elite Eight.
Iyiola gave key minutes in certain games that K-State needed a big and Jerome Tang relentlessly praised Iyiola’s mindset and personality.
As for what Iyiola brings to the table for Purple and Black, I actually think he is pretty significant member of this year’s team. In TBT older guards that were good in college have better longevity because they can shoot and find crafty ways to finish, but most teams have bigs that have put a lot of wear and tear on their knees and can’t play too many minutes. Iyiola being fresh off playing his college career is going to be massive for Purple and Black.
Speaking of fresh Cat alums, Desi Sills is going to be another player perfect for TBT this year. Young, high motor that will contribute on defense and offense, and his finishing ability around the rim will be appreciated. Sills is also going to eat up the crowd that will be in Koch Arena for the games.
As for Sills’ time at K-State, I was highly skeptical and quite frankly a hater at first. But Sills acclimated and started to understand his role and became a highly valuable member of the Elite Eight team. He also scored 24 in the overtime win against Kansas which is enough to put him in K-State lore forever.
I thought DJ Johnson is one of the more impressive players to come through K-State in my lifetime. He was a warrior and always was giving his all for the Wildcats and it was good to see him get a final crack at the NCAA Tournament in his last season of 2017, after being on successful teams early in his career, being injured and then sitting through two really big negatives.
Johnson’s work around the basket and automatic extended block shot will be a big help for the Wildcats this year, as well as providing depth at the four.
HENRY (BILL) WALKER
Last year was Bill Walker’s first season with Purple and Black, and next to Jacob Pullen he probably got the biggest cheers from the fans in attendance. It was just great to see Walker back in purple and playing for something K-State adjacent. Despite not getting all of the shine he deserved because he played with Michael Beasley, you can’t tell the story of K-State basketball without Walker and what he meant for the program’s resurgence as a national threat.
Walker had his moments on the floor last year in TBT, and although he is aging, the former NBA veteran still can give some good minutes and was a player the Wildcats needed on the floor in key moments because of his scoring ability.
Maybe Jevon Thomas has actually gotten good at basketball since 2015, but I doubt it and he is easily my least favorite K-State basketball player in my lifetime. I think that is fair, considering Thomas averaged just four points per game, over two turnovers, and just three assists per contest. He also had no shooting or finishing ability and of course, had the all-time blunder in the second most embarrassing loss of Bruce Weber’s tenure at K-State against Texas Southern.
In TBT’s style, Thomas might have some value if he can defend well and give the Wildcats good minutes, but I really don’t love this addition to the roster.
Justin Edwards is one of the most underrated players to come through K-State. He had to sit out his first year in Manhattan after transferring from Maine and watched his teammates lose to Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament, then he was part of the two worst teams from 2006-2020. It was unfortunate for Edwards and would have been nice to see him on a team with more talent and competency around him.
In TBT action Edwards has always been a key player for Purple and Black because of his age relative to some other players and the skillset he has.
One of K-State’s “big three” in the 2019 conference championship season, Kamau Stokes was a player that was probably underrated in his time at K-State to now being remembered properly by most.
The closer players are to having played NCAA basketball or guys that are still playing at a high level overseas are important to have and give you a good chance to win. Stokes spent all year recovering from an injury and did so by being in Manhattan. Stokes adds to a good group of guards that Purple and Black has in the stable for 2023.
It feels like Marcus Foster crammed the ups and downs of a four-year career into his two years in Manhattan. His freshman year was electric and no one will forget his dunk over David Stockton in Wichita and helped get the Cats back to the NCAA Tournament.
Unfortunately, it all hit the fan in his second year, the team bottomed out, and he was gone from the program with numerous other players. After transferring to Creighton, Foster resurrected his career, owned up to his mistakes at K-State and it all came full circle in the 2018 NCAA Tournament when K-State knocked Creighton out of the first round.
They weren’t insane numbers, but Martavious Irving played in over 30 games every season at K-State, averaged at least 10 minutes every season and was on a team that won the Big 12 title.
Irving’s ability in TBT might be elevated this season by not being forced to play a large number of minutes based on the younger guards on the roster.
Last year Mike McGuirl was the player that was fresh out of K-State and primed to be a good boost of fresh legs. Plus McGuirl was a solid shooter during his time at K-State and can bring that to the Purple and Black again this year.
McGuirl is yet another player on this roster that was on an Elite Eight squad.
Thomas Gipson’s K-State career deserved better than ending in the disastrous 2014-2015 season, but before that he was on a team that won the Big 12 and three NCAA Tournament teams. With good touch around the basket and a big physical body, Gipson can still give the Purple and Black valuable ability on the floor.