KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jerome Tang couldn’t have asked for a better season in his first year as head coach at Kansas State, making it all the way to the Elite Eight.

This season, it’s all about the Wildcats finding their own identity with the collection of players and coaches they have.

“We learned last year is how we want to do it. Now, it’s not other people’s ideas,” Tang said. “This is how we want to do it. We’re now doing things that we believe in.”

This season, K-State has to replace the likes of Markquis Nowell and Keyontae Johnson. But with North Texas transfer Tylor Smith and Creighton transfer Arthur Kaluma, they feel they have the pieces to make another run. 

“They understand that there’s always sacrifice in winning, and they understand hard work. They approach the day like professionals,” Tang said.

“I think it makes it harder for us to guard and scout,” Smith said. “A lot of people at North Texas could scout against me. This year, it’s going to make the game so much easier for me, open up for me, and I wouldn’t mind stepping up shooting for 40 minutes.”

“I just knew it was a place to be, just with how coach and his staff interacted with his players and what he was preaching. This is a great place to be,” Kaluma said.

Now Tang and the Wildcats have their sights set on the upcoming season.

“We’re going to be toughest, fastest, grittiest, most-connected team in the country,” Tang said.

A couple weeks ago, Tang and his staff visited Boulder, Colorado, to link up with Colorado football coach Deion Sanders and his staff. Tang said he wanted to learn more about being a CEO of a program.

“There’s a lot of things about the business that he sees, and his team sees that, as somebody new, I may not see,” the Wildcats coach said of Sanders. “I wanted to talk to him and find out what am I missing.”

Tang hopes he’s not missing anything for this season, which starts in Las Vegas vs. USC in November.