Forget for a moment that Ismael Massoud is a 6-foot-8 forward who spent much of last season playing the role of a traditional big man at Wake Forest.
Kansas State’s newest incoming transfer won’t be doing much of that for the Wildcats next season.
Even though Massoud is capable of battling for rebounds and playing with his back to the basket in the paint, his offensive skillset is much better suited for the perimeter. One look at his stats is all it takes to realize his natural position is at the four as a stretch player or even on the wing as a three. He is the rare big man who shoots it better from three-point range (36.3%) than he does from two-point range (35.3%).
“We were undersized because of COVID and just in general, so I had to play a lot at the five last season,” Massoud said. “It definitely made me a better player, being down there and playing against bigger guys. It made me stronger, too, but I’m looking forward to moving back to the perimeter.”
“They have really great guard play at Kansas State and they obviously have really good bigs. I expect to fit right in between both of those and complement them.”
Indeed, the Wildcats plan to use Massoud as a plug-and-play forward who can stretch the floor with his shooting ability while also occasionally asking him to move inside to help fill the rebounding void left by departing transfers Antonio Gordon and DaJuan Gordon.
K-State men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber said he was hesitant to fill the team’s final scholarship spot this cycle, because the Wildcats already had 13 scholarship players with Mike McGuirl returning as a “super senior.” But he changed his mind after talking to Massoud, saying he “was too good to turn down.”
He should immediately compete for a starting spot at the four.
“He’s definitely an upgrade to our forward spot, especially on the offensive end,” K-State assistant coach Shane Southwell said. “He has that ability to stretch the floor with his shooting ability, but also as a passer. People have to be mindful of his ability as a passer and where he is on the floor. Just looking at his tape from this past season, you can watch the opposing bench and see how mad they were when Ismael got a shot up because he is that much of a scoring threat. He will definitely be a big-time weapon for us.”
Massoud averaged 8.3 points and 3.4 rebounds as a sophomore last season. But he flashed big-time potential in a victory over Pittsburgh in which he drained eight three-pointers on his way to a career-high 31 points. He also had 17 points in a game against Duke.
K-State was the worst Big 12 team from three-point range last season. Perhaps that will change with Massoud and a pair of other capable shooters — Markquis Nowell and Mark Smith — joining the roster as transfers.
“My dad used to tell me that if you’re tall and you can’t shoot you will always be labeled as this and that,” Massoud said. “So he made sure that I really worked on my shot. I always had to do form shots and work with weighted balls. I used to do 500 form shots every day. I have put the work in on my jump shot.”
Though he hasn’t visited campus yet, Massoud has a good idea of what to expect next season.
He is originally from Harlem, New York, which is the same hometown as both Nowell and Southwell. He actually used to play with and against Nowell all the time in summer leagues. Massoud calls Nowell “ultra competitive” and “a winner.” Massoud is eager to team up with him and K-State’s returning players next season.
His natural skills should be on display as their newest teammate.
“I am a lot better playmaker than I was able to display at Wake Forest,” Massoud said. “I am a really versatile player. I played the three in high school, but I am very comfortable at the four. I’m versatile on defense. I can switch ball screens. I feel like I can defend all five positions. All of that is a big part of my game and I look forward to getting back to that at Kansas State.”