No sooner would a Kansas State player put the ball in the basket this fall than it would fly out again in an unpredictable direction. It was a plot, of course, and fiendish in its way. The device that Coach Tex Winter had installed in the basket was designed to teach the tall young men of K State a soft, soft touch on the backboards as they kept flipping the zany rebounds back in again. How well the tallest of them, 7-foot Roger Suttner, does, is most important.
Gone from the 1961-62 squad are four starters, enough to ruin some teams, but not necessarily Kansas State. Traditionally strong in reserves, Coach Winter will call on last year's good subs, plus an impressive junior-college transfer, as this year's starters. Of the 10 lettermen back, none ranks with Suttner. "If he doesn't make it as our No. 1 center," says Winter, "we won't even be mediocre." Suttner's big problem is lack of weight. A force-feeding program got him up to 205 pounds last spring, but he melted down to 193 again during the summer. Now the diet-in-reverse is on again.
Another big hope is happy-go-lucky Willie Murrell, a sort of Vic Power of basketball. A much-recruited junior-college All-America, the 6-foot-5 forward is tremendously quick, an able re-bounder and can score with hooks and jumpers. Gary Marriott, 6 feet 5 and the best shooter on the team, will start as the other forward. He can be beaten on defense, but his left-handed hooks rarely miss.
A disappointment last season was Guard Al Peithman. He began to ignore the play for the shot and ended up with neither, but he seems to be returning to his sophomore form. Junior Max Moss, a good shot, or sophomore Larry Cohan will be at the other guard spot, backed up by 6-foot-5 Jeff Simons. None of the guards will be as strong on defense as last year's, and State will use its full-court press much less.
With some teams in the Big Eight breaking away from their traditional ball-control style of play ( Oklahoma and Missouri), Winter sees trouble ahead. The Kansas State defense is murder against ball-control offenses, but, says Winter, "the freewheelers can hurt us."