Seven years have passed since Shane Southwell played his final game at Kansas State, but most casual fans probably still recognize him more as a former player for the Wildcats than they do as a young assistant currently working under men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber.
That may soon change.
Southwell has flexed his recruiting muscles this spring and has used his New York connections to help K-State add much-needed experience and depth to its roster. He was the lead recruiter for three of the Wildcats’ latest additions — incoming transfers Markquis Nowell and Ismael Massoud, plus high-school prospect Maximus Edwards.
Not bad for a guy who was the second-youngest assistant coach in the Big 12 this past season. Southwell was seen as a bit of a risky hire when Weber poached him from Robert Morris last spring, given that he was just one year into his coaching career. But the 29-year old Southwell is rewarding Weber for putting his faith in him.
“We had to have a big offseason,” Southwell said during a recent interview. “We had to get guys that wanted to be at K-State and that fit our positional needs. Recruiting right now is different than anything we have ever experienced with so many players in the transfer portal, but we think we did a good job. We got better.”
You will notice something in common between Southwell and all three of the players that he recently lured to K-State. They all grew up in the Northeast.
Southwell learned to dribble and shoot in Harlem, New York. That just so happens to be the same hometown as both Massoud and Nowell. Edwards is from Stratford, Connecticut, but he plays for a high school basketball team in The Bronx.
It may not be easy to sell a Midwestern school like K-State to most young New York prospects, but Southwell can do it because he successfully made the move himself not so long ago.
As a player, Southwell left the Big Apple for the Little Apple and helped the Wildcats reach four consecutive NCAA Tournaments. He was also part of the team that shared a Big 12 championship in 2013.
“Not a lot of people can tell the story of the university that they’re selling better than the guy that actually played there and has done it,” Southwell said. “So it really resonates for them, especially because they’re coming from the inner city. They’re coming in from an area that I’m familiar with. New York is basketball heaven and Kansas State is a good college option for some of those players. I know that, because I lived it. “
Just in case he needs more ammunition, Southwell is also quick to point out that former K-State players Jordan Henriquez, Curtis Kelly, Devon Peterson, Omari Lawrence and Jevon Thomas (plus current senior Mike McGuirl) all grew up in the Northeast.
“We have had a heavy influence of Northeast basketball here at Kansas State over the past 10 years,” Southwell said. “We are just trying to continue that.”
Recruits seem to be listening.
Nowell, a 5-foot-7 guard transfer from Arkansas-Little Rock, said he has known Southwell since his sophomore year of high school. Talking to him every day made it easy for the former All-Sun Belt player to pick K-State over other attractive options such as LSU and Oklahoma State without officially visiting campus.
“I’ve known Coach Southwell for a long time now, and we’ve been in contact for many years,” Nowell said. “I just felt like it was the perfect time for us to link up. Coach Southwell played a huge part in why I came to Kansas State.”
Massoud, a 6-8 forward transfer from Wake Forest, said K-State passed schools like Vanderbilt and Utah on his recruiting list when he realized he could play for a coach from Harlem.
“It makes the conversation really easy because you know the person that you are talking to can relate to you,” Massoud said. “Coach Southwell and I grew up in the same place and he played at Kansas State. It was great getting to know him. I’m really looking forward to playing for Kansas State, and he is a major reason why.”
Edwards, a 6-foot-5 wing with a three-star rating, said he didn’t know Southwell before he began recruiting him. But he was blown away when Southwell told him he had been following his career for several years as a fan of grassroots New York basketball. He could also tell Southwell was from the Northeast when they first spoke on the phone.
“We built a good relationship,” Edwards said. “He showed love from Day 1. He always tells me how I can fill his shoes. After watching what he did at K-State, I just want to continue that legacy. Us being from the same area makes going to school there even better.”
Southwell says he hopes to cast a wider recruiting net in future years, and perhaps land a prospect who lives within driving distance of K-State’s campus. But he is always going to recruit the Northeast. That’s where he grew up and that’s where he has the most connections.
Lately, they have been paying off.
“It all comes down to familiarity,” Southwell said. “You see it all around the country. Familiarity is really, really important. That was probably the biggest thing for me with guys like Markquis, Ismael and Max. My story connects with them and resonates with them.”