The case for Nae’Qwan Tomlin as Kansas State’s most intriguing new basketball player

Chipola College
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Out of all the new players that Jerome Tang has signed during his brief tenure as Kansas State’s basketball coach, one name is clearly more intriguing than the rest.

That honor goes to Nae’Qwan Tomlin, a 6-foot-8 junior-college transfer who can hold his own at four different positions.

He will have two years of eligibility with the Wildcats, and he will almost certainly play meaningful minutes from the get go at Bramlage Coliseum. But good luck deciphering how Tang and his coaches plan to use him. Even they are still trying to figure that out.

“He can play anywhere on the basketball court,” Tang said. “He is a gifted athlete. He’s got great ball skills for a kid his size. When you watch him in person, you see how big and long he is, but when you watch him on film he moves like he’s a 6-2 guard. He is so fast.”

That versatility allowed Tomlin to average 11 points and 4.6 rebounds per game last season while playing for Chipola College in Florida. He also made 37.5% of his shots from three-point range and 54.1% of his shots from the field.

Tomlin was athletic and skilled enough to rank among the nation’s top juco recruits.

Still, K-State associate head coach Ulric Maligi thinks he was underrated by the experts.

“We signed the best junior-college player in the country,” Maligi said. “Nae’Qwan Tomlin is a guy who I feel could play anywhere in America. He’s a 6-8 versatile forward who is very good.”

Juco transfers were hit or miss for K-State under former coach Bruce Weber. Carlbe Ervin and Makol Mawien played important roles on a pair of NCAA Tournament teams for the Wildcats, but neither one of them averaged more than 7.4 points during a season in Manhattan.

David Sloan and Rudi Williams flashed potential as K-State guards, but both left after one season.

But Tang had some big-time success stories with junior-college recruits while he served as a Baylor assistant coach under Scott Drew. Pierre Jackson, for example, averaged 16.7 points and 6.5 assists for the Bears after beginning his college career at Southern Idaho. Kenny Chery also starred for Baylor after starting out in junior college.

The Wildcats may need Tomlin to produce at similar levels immediately next season, as they currently have only seven scholarship players on the roster.

Tang sees that as a possibility for Tomlin, because he is still new to basketball. He didn’t start playing on an organized team until late in high school. Perhaps he is now ready to hit his stride with the Wildcats.

“His best basketball is ahead of him,” Tang said. “He is a gifted young man with a great heart. And he’s a winner. It’s going to be exciting to see his growth over the next couple years.”