MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kansas State head coach Jerome Tang and selected players met with the media on Friday afternoon (August 4) to discuss their preparations for the historic 10-day trip to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel and Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates [UAE] from August 9-20.
The traveling party will spend 3 nights each in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and 4 nights in Abu Dhabi, departing the U.S., on Wednesday, August 9 and returning Sunday, August 20.
K-State, along with the University of Arizona, are the first college teams to ever take a foreign tour to Abu Dhabi.
The exhibition tour is being generously sponsored by Athletes for Israel and its Founder and Chairman Daniel Posner as well as the Abu Dhabi Tourism Board. In their efforts to combat antisemitism and racism, Athletes For Israel brings athletes to Israel so they can experience the Holy Land and develop a connection with its history, culture, innovation and people.
For more information on the organization and its mission, visit athletesforisrael.org.
Below is an edited transcript of Friday’s press conference:
Head Coach Jerome Tang
On what he is most looking forward to…
“The food. I hear they have great fruit over there. Dylan Cowell from Auburn. He talked to our team. And he said it was the best watermelon he’s ever eaten. It’s life over there. And then I’ve heard that their breakfast are incredible. So, looking forward to that.”
On if his team is ready for this trip…
“I think the time together is gonna be important, but we need some people to take leadership roles, understand what that looks like in different aspects and then see who can step up to the plate.”
On strategy playing games on the trip…
“I want every guy to come back and think he’s gonna play 30 minutes and has got a major role on the team. In this day and age of the portal and all of that, the last thing you want is to lose a kid after a foreign tour.”
On deciding to take a foreign tour to Israel and Abu Dhabi…
“Well, for me personally, it’s a bucket list. Something I wanted to do. (Complete Sports Management) Lea Miller-Tooley and (Athletes for Israel) Daniel Posner reached out to us about it. We were actually going to Greece. And so, when this came about, it was just something that you couldn’t turn down.
On what player has impressed the most in summer workouts…
“Really impressed with Cam’s (Carter) work ethic, like he just is carrying himself differently. You can just see how much Markquis’s work ethic has rubbed off on him, where Cam is living in the gym and really focused about what he’s doing. That has been really good. I mean, he just lives in the gym.”
On Nae’Qwan Tomlin…
“Well, he has a different confidence about him. You know, because he is so close to doing what he wants to do, but I mean yet it’s so far away, and so he’s got to think about just doing the right thing every day.”
On preparations for the trip…
“Complete Sports Management and Lea Miller-Tooley’s group have done all preparations for us. They have everything scheduled for us and things that we’re gonna get to see and you know, it’s the birthplace of three religions and we’re going to experience a little bit of each religion and learn about it. We’ve had two people come in and talk to us from today was we learned about the Jewish culture and faith and a couple days ago it was the significance of the Christian faith in Jerusalem, the whole thing with Jesus and how everything is, you know, the city’s divided and, and then I think on Monday, we have Imam coming in to share about the Islamic faith and how its presence is there in Jerusalem. We want to learn about each one, but we also want to be respectful of everyone. I told our staff, we got three things on this trip, the first one is every kid comes back and still wants to be part of this program. Number two is that when we’re in public, we do anything that we represent K-State in a way that we shine the best light on our university and how we conduct ourselves and the number three is that we have a great time together.”
On the growth of the Big 12…
“Well, it’s a whole lot better thinking about the conference growing than wondering whether you’re going to be in a conference, and I was at Baylor when the last time it happened. And we were wondering, you know, I mean, obviously there was going to be a place for certain schools, but we weren’t sure where we would be. And I’m sure our fan base. We’ve experienced that during that same time, too. So right now, being a part of an expanded conference have grown conference, one of the top three conferences in the country and, man I’m like, let’s go get them all. I’m excited about some of the schools that are coming in and the potential of other schools to come to.”
On Commissioner Yormark…
“Well, Brett is cutting edge. Like he is like he’s a go-getter and he’s got a ton of great ideas and it’s fun to be a part of something that is always pushing the needle. And you know, on wanting to be the first and not just following what everybody else is doing and I love that about him and the event in Rucker Park was a terrific idea. And it was extremely well executed except for rain. I mean, it was terrific. And I look forward to being a part of that. I look forward to being a part of games in Mexico and some of the other things that we have planned. I want to spread the brand all over the world. And that’s what we’re going to do when we are in Israel. And, hopefully play some good basketball and, just people get to see what terrific young men we have on this team and just spread the K-State brand across the world.”
On the two open scholarships…
“We are actively looking for the right two guys to be a part of our program. And if we find them, we can be really really good. If we don’t find them, we have an NCAA tournament team. But our goal is not just to go to the NCAA.”
On his impressions of Tylor Perry…
“Well, that he is a winner. He knows how to win. He’s a terrific kid, so people like him and he likes people to like him and but part of being a leader is that people aren’t always going to like you and that’s something that he’s gonna have to learn. He wants to get to the NCAA Tournament. He’s never done that before. And I want to be a part of helping that happen. And part of that happening will be him, being comfortable not being liked, in order to get the team to be the best that they can be.”
On Athletes For Israel…
“So last year in the NCAA Tournament, I’m very outspoken about my faith. And given the opportunity I take joy in sharing what’s important to me and but also we had Baybe (Abayomi Iyiola) and Ish (Massoud) on our team, who are both Muslims. We provided the opportunity for those guys to observe Ramadan to go to the mosque for prayer and, be able to share their faith because this is about loving people, right? And so, Daniel Posner, and Athletes for Israel and some of the other sports organizations there in Israel that represented different religions saw how we conducted ourselves and said that’s what we want, because we want to be able to build unity through sports. And so that’s what attracted them to us. And so, we’re excited about this opportunity. We’re gonna be one of the first U.S. colleges (along with Arizona) to ever play in Abu Dhabi. And we’re part of what Abraham Accords now allows communications between Israel and Arab countries. N college team has ever flown from Israel to an Arab country, and we get to do that. And so, anytime you get a chance to be, you know, a first in something and, you know, be part of building peace. I mean, that’s exciting.”
On if the players are excited about one particular part of the trip…
“I’m not sure yet. We’re learning so much information and we’re finding out so much of how culturally diverse Israel is. I hope that when we go there, we have the type of experience I expect us to have. And we represent ourselves the way that we expect to represent ourselves that our players will be able to talk positively about their experience that other people will want to visit those countries also and that we do such a good job that they want to have us back.”
On the benefits of a foreign trip and his experience at Baylor…
“(In 2019-20), we lost our second game of the season to Washington, in Alaska. And then won 23 in a row from there, and then COVID hit. So yeah, so there was some good and bad. I mean, it helped us. And so when the season was actually going really terrific. And then, you know, COVID hit so it didn’t particularly end well. These trips are incredible for team building. And it’s great, the educational part of it. And, you could go to, Cancun or the Bahamas and play a few games, but you get a chance to help your guy’s experience something that they may never get to do again. You have to take the opportunity.”
K-State to Travel to Israel, Abu Dhabi August 9-20
For the first time since 2016, K-State will embark on an international tour with a 10-day trip to Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, Israel and Abu Dhabi, UAE from August 9-20.
During the Israeli portion of the trip, the team will enjoy walking tours of the Old City Jerusalem, the City of David, Bethlehem and Old City Jaffa, visits to the Yad Vashem – the World Holocaust Remembrance Center – as well as the Western Wall and the Dead Sea. While in Abu Dhabi, they will visit the Abraham Peace Accords House and the Grand Mosque among other cultural experiences.
K-State is expected to play up to 3 games with further information to follow. Currently, the Wildcats are scheduled to play the Israeli Select Team on Tuesday, August 15 at 11 a.m., CT (7 p.m. local time) at the Hadar Yosef Sports Center in Tel Aviv. Any broadcast information will be made public once official.
The trip is being sponsored by Athletes for Israel and its Founder and Chairman Daniel Posner as well as the Abu Dhabi Tourism Board, while it is being coordinated by Complete Sports Management (CSM), which specializes in running high level international tours for men’s and women’s programs highlighting the educational, cultural and team bonding aspects of travel abroad.
The NCAA permits teams to make an international trip once every four years and this will be the first by the men’s basketball since August 2016 when the Wildcats played 5 games in various cities in Italy and Switzerland. The team was scheduled to take a trip overseas in 2020 but it was cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Overall, this will be the program’s sixth trip outside the country for a summer exhibition tour, which includes excursions to Japan in 1981, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden in 1993, Vancouver, British Columbia in 2004, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2012 as well as Italy and Switzerland in 2016.
Fans will be able to follow the Wildcats throughout the tour on kstatesports.com and various department social media channels.
The Wildcats At A Glance
Led by Naismith National Coach of the Year Jerome Tang, the Wildcats compiled a 26-10 record in 2022-23, which included a tie for third place in the Big 12 and the school’s 13th trip to the Elite Eight. The 26 wins are the third-most in school history and the most since winning 27 in 2012-13.
Senior Nae’Qwan Tomlin, who declared for the NBA Draft before opting to return for his senior season, headlines six returners, including three starters, for K-State in 2023-24.
The 6-foot-8, 195-pound forward from Harlem, N.Y., was third in scoring (10.4 ppg.) and double-digit scoring games (21) behind All-Americans Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson and second in rebounding (5.9 rpg.) to Johnson, while he led the way in blocks (1.0 bpg.) and dunks (43).
Tomlin averaged 10.4 points on 50 percent (147-of-294) shooting from the field, including 27.5 percent (19-of-69) from 3-point range, to go with 5.9 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.0 blocks in 27.3 minutes per game. He ranked among the Big 12’s top-15 in 4 categories, including seventh in blocked shots and ninth in rebounding.
Tomlin will be joined by fellow regular starters – senior David N’Guessan and junior Cam Carter – along with sophomores Jerrell Colbert and Dorian Finister and redshirt freshman Taj Manning as returners.
Carter, along with Tomlin, was among four players to start all 36 games a year ago, as he ranked fourth on the team in 3-point field goals (35), assists (1.4 apg.) and steals (0.9 spg.) and fifth in scoring (6.5 ppg.), field goals made (86) and minutes (26.3 mpg.). He scored in double figures in 8 games, including a career-best 17 points in the win at No. 6/6 Texas as well as 12 points in the win over Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.
N’Guessan started 11 of the first 12 games before an injury sidelined him for 6 games at the start of Big 12 play. He returned to play the last 16 games, including 7 starts, highlighted by an 11-point performance in the win over Michigan State. He led the team in field goal percentage (70.6) while averaging 6.4 points to go along with 3.5 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per game.
Colbert and Manning both redshirt the 2022-23 season, while Finister was limited to just 6 games.
Graduate transfer Tylor Perry (North Texas) and junior Arthur Kaluma (Creighton) as well as the top-30 freshman recruiting class of Dai Dai Ames, R.J. Jones and Macaleab Rich arrived on campus in early June.
Kaluma and Perry were both rated among the top-20 transfers by ESPN in June.
Kaluma arrives after a 2-year stint at Creighton, where he was selected to the BIG EAST All-Freshman and All-Tournament teams in 2021-22. He averaged double figure scoring both seasons as a Bluejay, including 11.8 points on 42.3 percent shooting with 6.0 rebounds per game as a sophomore in 2022-23.
Perry, the 2023 Conference USA Player of the Year and NIT Most Outstanding Player, joined the team as a graduate transfer from North Texas, where he tallied more than 1,000 points in his 2-year career. This past season, he was the leading scorer (17.3 ppg.) on the first 30-win season in Mean Green history, guiding the school to a second-place finish in the C-USA standing and the NIT crown.
A Chicago native, Ames was selected as Jordan Brand Classic All-American after concluding his high school career at Kenwood Academy with more than 1,500 career points. As a senior, he averaged 21.4 points, 3.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 2.4 steals, connecting on 51.3 percent from the field.
Jones played his senior season at prep powerhouse Wasatch Academy in Mount Pleasant, Utah, where he led the Tigers in both scoring (11.9 ppg.) and assists (5.2 apg.) en route to earning All-NIBC honors.
Rich led his East St. Louis High School to a third-place finish at the Class 3A State Tournament, joining Ames on the All-State First Team after averaging a near double-double with 20 points and 9.1 rebounds per game.
How to follow the ‘Cats: For complete information on K-State men’s basketball, visit www.kstatesports.com and follow the team’s social media channels on X (formerly Twitter), Threads, Instagram and Facebook.