Michael Beasley’s approach impressed college coach

Beasley's approach impressed college coach
Kansas State head coach Frank Martin shares his thoughts on Michael Beasley

Posted June 23, 2008 | By Adam FluckIt was approaching midnight, and the Kansas State men’s basketball team’s plane had just landed in Manhattan.

Heading into that evening’s contest at Texas Tech, the Wildcats had won eight of their last nine games, and were in first place in the Big 12. An NCAA tournament birth was on everyone’s minds.

The arrival of perhaps the most talented player in the nation, a freshman by the name of Michael Beasley, had instantly brought back an air of excitement that surrounded Head Coach Frank Martin’s program. But things didn’t go as planned in Lubbock. Beasley’s shot wasn’t falling, and he connected on only 6-of-20 attempts. The 19-year old also picked up his only technical foul of the season. Worst of all, K-State lost the game, giving Pat Knight his first win after succeeding Bob Knight.

By the time the bus from the airport made its way to campus, everyone was ready to head home as the next day’s classes awaited after a few hours sleep. But Beasley didn’t go home—he opted for the gym, where he put up shot after shot after shot, until 2:30 in the morning.

That kind of approach, Martin says, is what separates Beasley from everyone else. Bulls.com talked at length with Beasley’s college coach about the freshman’s arrival in Manhattan, concerns about his character, and why he believes Chicago should draft him with the NBA Draft’s top overall selection.Bulls.com: Could you share with us the first time you saw Michael Beasley on a basketball court?
Frank Martin: “It was the summer between his 9th and 10th grade, and he was playing in a 16-and-under tournament against the Miami Tropics. He could really rebound the basketball and had great hands, but I remember he was kind of gangly and he didn’t do much scoring.”

Bulls.com: Beasley initially had committed to attend UNC-Charlotte but changed his mind after Dalonte Hill, his AAU coach who was a member of the 49ers’ staff, left for Kansas State. What was the process of bringing him to Manhattan like?
Martin: “Everybody wanted to blame him or fault him for the decision that he made to come to K-State. I applaud him because of his loyalty, and it’s who he is as a person. He’s a very loyal person and he’s not someone who has an entourage of people around him. He’s got two or three people in his life that he really trusts. Relationships are very important to him and trust is very important to him. That’s why he came here. When [Bob Huggins] left, we all knew Dalonte had a special relationship with Michael, and Dalonte was staying. So when I got the job, I don’t want to say I had to convince him to stay, but he didn’t know me like he knew some of the other guys, yet I was asking him to stay and put his future in my hands. He’s a very loyal kid. He doesn’t go against the people who are important in his life, or the people he plays with or plays for.”

Bulls.com: How would you describe his arrival and acclimation to college life?
Martin: “It was tremendous. He was unbelievable how he handled all the publicity, attention, pressures and expectations. People here expected him and Bill Walker to be our saviors, guys that were going to bring a national championship to K-State. He had to embrace that kind of responsibility without having any kind of senior leadership whatsoever to help. For him to have done it the way he did—never questioning my leadership—was remarkable. The people in this community just love him. And it’s not because of what he did as a basketball player. It’s because of the way he acted away from the court. I go to Wal-Mart to buy something and people come up to me all the time. People of all ages tell me what a great kid Michael Beasley is because he helped them take their bags to the car or he took time out of his day to hold a conversation with them. To act in the way he did while dealing with all the pressures and responsibilities that came with the notoriety that he received was very impressive.”

Bulls.com: Beasley is quick to admit he’s “still a kid” when fielding questions about his character. What’s your assessment of him?
Martin: “I wish my kids will grow up to have his character and I’ve got three of them. He’s phenomenal and he’s a treat to be around. He makes coaching an easy profession. He cares about winning and nothing else. He wants to be the best, so he works at it, but he doesn’t go around thinking he’s the best. He’s receptive to coaching. You could go back and speak to any one he’s ever been a student of, coached by, or played with, and you won’t find one person who will give you a negative comment about Michael Beasley. I was a schoolteacher for many years, and the stuff that he’s done, it was nothing more than a young teenager looking for attention. He’s never placed harm on anybody and he never will place harm on anybody. It’s not in his personality and it’s not who he is. He doesn’t steal, he’s not into drugs and he’s not a gangbanger. He’s a simple kid who enjoys being a kid. He never missed a practice. He’d roll an ankle, but he’d refuse to come out of a drill. He’s an unbelievable person.”

Bulls.com: Beasley led K-State to its first NCAA appearance since 1996. What kind of impact would you say he’s had on your program?
Martin: “The part that went unseen about our team is that we had no senior leadership. Our best returning player tore up his knee last summer, so he never even got to practice with us. Our two starting guards were seniors, and not to take anything away from them because they were great for us and helped us, but they averaged 4.5 assists per game combined on a team that had Mike Beasley, who averaged 26.2 points per game and shot 55 percent, and Bill Walker, who averaged 17 points and shot 49 percent. There were a lot of challenges that were presented to him, but he never complained or treated any teammate like they were inferior. On the contrary, he made sure he went out of his way to make teammates, managers and everyone involved know that they were in it together. What he did on the court speaks for itself. The Bulls have a tough decision to make. Everyone wants to talk about what Derrick Rose did against Kansas, but how about what Mike did when we played against Kansas in Kansas in front of 17,000 fans? [Beasley recorded 39 points (13-23 FG, 13-16 FT, 4-7 3-pt. FG) and 11 rebounds in an 88-74 loss.] And he only played seven minutes in that first half after getting called for two fouls two minutes into the game. As a player, he’s just scratching the surface on how good he can be.”

Bulls.com: What impressed you most about Beasley during his one season at K-State?
Martin: “His overall approach—he cares so much about winning, and he cares about being the best, and in that order. We played at Baylor and he was incredible; he set our scoring record with 44 points and set a handful of other records too. But in our locker room after that game, he couldn’t have been more upset because we lost. He loves to win; he practices to win and he plays to win. He wants to be the best. He doesn’t act as if he’s got the answers; on the contrary, when you work with him, he wants to learn the answers.”

Bulls.com: What challenges do you feel he’ll face as he prepares for playing at the NBA level?
Martin: “My one and only concern with him is that he goes to an organization that is right for him. He’s a good kid and he’s a simple kid, but he needs to be somewhere with a sound structure and support system in place. If that happens, he can trust, and when he trusts, he’s just phenomenal.”

Bulls.com: Is there a certain element of his game that will allow him to excel as a pro?
Martin: “His ability to rebound. I’ve been around guys like Jason Maxiell and Udonis Haslem. Haslem averaged about six and a half rebounds a game in high school and right at seven as a senior in college. I used to tell him all the time, ‘You don’t rebound the ball. If you want to play in the league, you’ve got to have something that you do extremely well.’ Mike averaged nearly 13 rebounds a game and that’s been pretty consistent no matter where he’s played—whether in high school, AAU, internationally, or college. I think guys that know how to rebound will do it regardless of what level they are playing. And he’s a great shooter. I feel bad that we couldn’t do more things with him on the perimeter because we needed him to play closer to the basket. That’s what helped us the most. He loves playing on the post, though, and he punishes people down there. That’s something else—people don’t understand how strong he is. When he left campus not long ago, he was benching 185 pounds between 25 and 30 times. He loves the weightroom. Our strength coach is a maniac, he’s been with us for awhile, and he loves Mike Beasley. And he doesn’t like too many guys in that respect.”

Bulls.com: If you were the Bulls, why would you draft Beasley at No. 1?
Martin: “This kid has shown to me that everywhere he goes, his teams win and he becomes the focal player on those teams. He led USA Basketball’s 19-and-under team to the gold medal game for the first time in nearly 20 years. Everyone wants to make a big deal out of all the high schools he attended, and he’s got to live with that. But every high school he went to won the championship they competed for. His AAU team always won. Then, he gets to college and is on a team with nine first-year guys with seven true freshman on the roster, and he leads that team to the highest finish it’s ever had in the Big 12 and into the NCAA tournament. He’s a flat out winner.”