Here’s how Keyontae Johnson, Markquis Nowell hope to be remembered by K-State fans

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Travis Heying/The Wichita Eagle

Only a few minutes had passed since Kansas State’s memorable basketball season came to an end with a 79-76 loss against Florida Atlantic in the Elite Eight on Saturday inside Madison Square Garden. But Jerome Tang was already looking ahead to the future.

Sad as it is for him to bid farewell to a pair of star players like senior guard Markquis Nowell and senior forward Keyontae Johnson, he is also happy to know this won’t be the last time K-State fans get a chance to cheer them on.

“I think both of their numbers should go up in the rafters at some point in time,” Tang said.

A compelling argument could be made for both Johnson and Nowell to join a list of K-State basketball greats who are waiting for jersey retirements at Bramlage Coliseum. It will happen for Jacob Pullen and maybe Michael Beasley. Odds are good Barry Brown and Dean Wade will be next. After that, why not Johnson and Nowell?

Johnson only played one season at K-State, but he left an impressive legacy behind. The Florida transfer who survived a well-publicized health scare with the Gators led the Wildcats in scoring this year and received some prestigious honors along the way. He was named first-team All-Big 12 and a third-team All-American.

Nowell played two seasons with the Wildcats, but that was enough for him to become one of the most popular players in recent memory. Not only did he lead K-State to 26 victories this season, he guided it on an NCAA Tournament run and a record-breaking performance in the Sweet 16 that featured 20 points and 19 assists.

No matter what happens in terms of jersey ceremonies, both players hope they are remembered fondly by K-State fans.

What should fans recall first about Nowell?

“That I’m a winner and I gave my all,” Nowell said. “I gave my heart and soul to K-State, on and off the court, to see the fans happy, to see my teammates happy and this coaching staff. I just want them to remember how much I invested in and how much I loved and truly cared about K-State.”

Johnson answered the same question in a different way.

“I tried to give it my all,” Johnson said. “Even though I sat off for two years I came in and tried to do everything I could to change the program around. This is the best fan base I’ve ever had. I really appreciate them. If I could do it again I definitely would. I love Kansas State.”