KANSAS CITY, Mo. | As Michael Orris ran off the court following No 7 Kansas State’s victory over No. 14 Oklahoma State in the Big 12 semifinals on Friday, he flashed a smile.
Why wouldn’t he?
It’s a great time for the former Crete-Monee standout to be a Wildcat.
Kansas State won a share of the Big 12 regular season title and a No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament even after losing the conference tournament title game to Kansas, 70-54, on Saturday.
“I’m just happy I could be a part of it,” Orris said.
Orris had an up-close view of the Wildcats' success as a freshman. While he hasn’t seen much playing time, Orris has taken mental notes.
He plans to put them to use in his final three seasons.
“It’s been a change from what I’m used to, not playing,” Orris said, “but it’s a blessing in disguise for me.”
Orris played in 14 regular-season games and scored four points. Most of what he picked up this season came in practice, going head-to-head with fellow point guard Angel Hernandez, a second-team all-conference selection, and Martavious Irving.
“They’ve done a good job of showing me the ropes,” Orris said.
Hernandez is amazed with Orris’ energy and toughness.
“You can’t teach a motor,” he said.
Hernandez sees a player similar to himself when he arrived at Kansas State a year ago.
“He’s got to develop his shot,” Hernandez said. “He’s not the first player that’s had to do that. I didn’t have a great shooting season last season, and this year I’m shooting it better. He’s going to learn and get better.”
Orris’ is also focused on improving his ball-handling, especially when facing intense pressure.
“Coach always says ball security is job security,” Orris said. “So I have to be solid with the basketball.”
Like most freshmen, it was a tough transition from high school for Orris. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber called it “culture shock,” between the faster pace of the college game and the tougher competition, which Orris needed to adjust to.
Weber is now seeing the same Orris take the court over the last six weeks that he watched on the recruiting trail, a kid out of the mold of Ohio State guard Aaron Craft, someone who is tough, can defend and will fight for every inch on the hardwood.
“He is not the most athletic,” Weber said. “He is not going to be doing 360s, but he is very intelligent and very smart. He knows how to play, and we hope he can take a big step a year from now.”
It wouldn’t surprise Hernandez if that role was as a perimeter defensive stopper.
“When he wants to, he can get after it,” Hernandez said.
What Orris wants right now is a lengthy stay in the Big Dance. He has an entire offseason to work on his game put himself in a spot to contribute in the future.
This March it’s all about enjoying the ride.
“We can really go far,” Orris said. “You see how we played against (Oklahoma State). We can go and make a big run.”