MANHATTAN — Austin Trice fancies himself part Worm, part Energizer bunny.
Whether it’s on the practice court or in the locker room, he gives the Kansas State Wildcats a little bit of both.
“I love basketball,” said Trice, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior forward, who will make his K-State debut when the Wildcats open their regular season at 7 tonight against Kennesaw State (1-0) in Bramlage Coliseum. “It’s a part of me that’s always been a part of my life, so I’m going to try to get everybody on the same page as me when it comes to the energy.”
On the court, Trice said he patterns his game after Dennis Rodman, a former NBA rebounding fiend known as Worm. Last year as a sophomore at Wabash Valley (Ill.) Community College, Trice ranked fourth nationally in rebounding with a 12.1 average, along with 12.6 points per game.
That could be welcome relief for K-State, which despite returning all the principals from a 25-12 team that reached the NCAA Elite Eight, was outrebounded 34.1 to 30.7 on average last year.
“We were last in the Big 12 in rebounds, so to make a jump forward from last year without even putting the ball in the basket, rebounds are going to be really important,” said senior guard Barry Brown, a preseason all-Big 12 pick. “(Trice) crashes the glass hard, especially on the offensive end, and then also on the defensive end.
“Having him crash the glass hard on the offensive end forces us — especially our bigs and even the guards sometimes on a switch — to box out.”
Trice has no delusions when it comes to his role with the Wildcats. In a closed scrimmage against Oregon — a 75-70 K-State victory — he had four points and five rebounds in 15 minutes, while last Friday he scored two points with 12 boards in a 79-39 exhibition rout of Pittsburg State.
“I want to bring a Dennis Rodman-type mentality to the team, so I try to bring that mentality every day,” Trice said. “I try to go for every rebound, offensively and defensively.
“That forces (the rest of the team) to have to pick up and make sure they box me out and make sure they look for the rebound every time I’m going to the glass.”
K-State coach Bruce Weber has implored big men Dean Wade (6.2 rebounds last year) and Makol Mawien (3.4), along with wing Xavier Snead (5.1) to improve their rebounding numbers from a year ago. Trice clearly figures into that mix as well.
“You see he does play with great energy and that’s what he’s got to do,” Weber said. “He’s got to come in and give us that energy, that spark. He got his hands on a lot of balls (against Pitt State), he was active, he dove on the floor, he had a couple of steals (and) all that stuff gives you extra possessions.”
When he’s not giving the Wildcats extra possessions, Trice likes to act as if he’s possessed. That’s especially true leading up to a game.
“For the game, I’m probably going to be the loudest one in the locker room,” he said. “I’m going to be yelling, I’m going to be in everybody’s face, smiling, trying to get everybody in the right mode for game time.”
After spending time at two different junior colleges — as a freshman he played Moberly, Mo. — Trice is just happy to be in a Division I locker room.
“Going the juco route is a very humbling experience,” he said. “We take a small school bus that fits 15 people to drive six or seven hours just to get to tournaments and games.
“To come to Kansas State and have charter flights and food waiting for us and things of that nature, I’m just so blessed and grateful.
“I thank God every single day that I’ve been put in this position to play for the Kansas State basketball team.”