Who is Markquis Nowell? Three things to know about Kansas State’s star point guard.

Tribune Content Agency

Fans of Kansas State basketball — and those following other Big 12 squads — have long known about Markquis Nowell, the undersized (more on that in a second) point guard who has taken a major leap in his second season with the Wildcats.

One of two holdovers from the Bruce Weber era, Nowell is a prolific set-up man, a 3-point shooter with limitless range and a pesky defender, averaging better than two steals per game in each of the last four seasons, including a career-best 2.4 per game in 2022-23.

If the national audience wasn’t especially familiar with Nowell, that changed when he delivered 27 points, nine assists and three steals to take down No. 6 seed Kentucky. The Lexington-based Cats were actually favored to defeat the No. 3-seeded Big 12 squad, but it was the 5-8, 160-pound Nowell who got the last laugh over 6-9, 260-pound Oscar Tshiebwe and company.

“He’s the best guard in the country,” a teammate said after the game.

That brings us to our first fun fact …

The ‘little’ point guard has All-America-big game

Yes, John Calipari, coach of Kentucky, did indeed refer to Nowell as “the little kid” when describing a sequence in which he felt Kentucky had defended well … only to give up a bucket.

The nature of the quote was complimentary about Nowell’s shot-making, but fans on social media did not appreciate Calipari’s remark, and the Kentucky coach ultimately reached out to Nowell to apologize.

“Just Spoke To Coach Cal,” Nowell wrote on social media. “We Are Good!!”

Still, there’s nothing little about Nowell’s game, be it his no-look alley-oop feeds, 3-pointers launched from even beyond NBA range or his leadership on the court. In fact, he might be the NCAA Tournament’s MVP to date.

Averaging a career-best 17.1 points and 7.8 assists, Nowell was named a third-team AP All-American and picked up first-team All-Big 12 honors this season. He was also spoken about as a candidate for both Big 12 Player of the Year (Jalen Wilson, Kansas, won the award) and Most Improved Player (KJ Adams, Kansas).

Oh, and Nowell also landed on the Big 12’s All-Defensive team.

The Sweet 16 in NYC is a homecoming of sorts

Nowell isn’t the only player on the K-State roster excited to be playing in Madison Square Garden, but he’s among the most excited given he’s from New York. In fact, you can find him on Twitter: @MrNewYorkCityy.

Originally from Harlem, Nowell began his college career at Arkansas-Little Rock, where he played for three seasons before transferring to Kansas State. In his first year with the Wildcats, Nowell averaged 12.4 points, 5.0 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game.

Nowell was recruited to the Wildcats by a former KSU assistant with another New York connection, as explored by The Wichita Eagle’s Kellis Robinett in this story.

One of two players to remain with K-State after the coaching change that saw Weber ousted and Jerome Tang — the 2022-23 Big 12 Coach of the Year — hired in his place, Nowell took a major leap forward.

In addition to his impressive points and assists totals, Nowell is hitting around 35% of his 3s despite many coming from deeper-than-normal range, plus his 88.7% free-throw shooting makes him an ideal ball-handler for late-game situations.

Nowell helped build the K-State roster

Yes, in the age of the transfer portal it’s never been easier to leave a school and start fresh. The Wildcats completely turned over their roster in the first year of Tang, but Nowell, a holdover along with Ismael Massoud, made sure the Cats would build the right foundation to get their new coach’s tenure started off strong.

Sure enough, it has been the duo of newcomer Keyontae Johnson and Nowell that has completely remade Kansas State into a title contender. And Nowell’s handprints were all over the addition of Johnson.

During Johnson’s recruiting visit to Kansas State, he sat in a car with Nowell and talked for 30 or 40 minutes, he recalled, which was his first chance to see Nowell’s vision for the future of K-State.

So then, Nowell isn’t just the heart and soul of K-State’s team, he also deserves a producer credit. Or perhaps recruiter would be more apt. No one in the program would argue — and that even goes for the coach.

“He didn’t kind of help,” Tang said. “He helped a ton, probably more than the staff.”

How so? Nowell gave input to the coaches, shared his vision with players K-State was recruiting and sealed the deal over Varsity Donuts. He’s also taken the next step as a leader, credited by teammates for one notable halftime speech that sparked a come-from-behind victory over Iowa State.

He’ll be looking for something similar in the Sweet 16 vs. Michigan State.