Even when he's away from the basketball court, Nijel Pack's head is still in the game.
He can thank his mother for that.
All Pack, Kansas State's freshman point guard, has to do is look around his dorm room for words of inspiration. They're there in purple lettering for anyone who enters to see.
"My mom got them for me. I didn't really decorate my room at all," Pack said with a smile. "They say, 'Work Hard' and 'Stay Humble,' and those are two really big things."
So far, they have served Pack well in his short time at K-State, where he already has impressed coaches and teammates alike.
Pack was ranked No. 84 nationally by ESPN and in the top 125 by both 247Sports.com and Rivals.com out of Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis. He came in with a reputation as a playmaker and shooter, both areas of need for a young Wildcat team.
"Dude can shoot the ball," sophomore forward Montavious Murphy said. "He's unbelievable how he shoots the ball.
"He gets in the gym (and) he works on it. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does."
Pack signed with K-State even before veteran point guards Cartier Diarra and David Sloan transferred at the end of last season. Now K-State coach Bruce Weber is counting on him to play a major role right off the bat.
"The nice thing is he's a point guard and he makes plays for others," Weber said. "He passes the ball well. I think the best thing is he has that feel of the game, those good fundamentals (and has been) well coached.
"When you say point guard, he can also really shoot the ball. We've got him running around, coming off screens, and he can make those shots. So if Rudi (Williams, junior college transfer) continues to progress, we can get Nijel off the ball a little bit and let Rudi handle it."
Pack averaged 17.7 points on 49.7% shooting his senior year in high school, including 40.3% from 3-point range. He also had 4.2 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.0 per game.
"I would call myself a true point guard," Pack said. "I'm definitely able to do everything that a point guard is supposed to, and everything that's needed on the court.
"And especially being able to score, shoot, get assists — even rebound for my size — and play defense really well."
Not that he wants to be pigeonholed.
"I would describe myself as an all-around player, especially coming into this team," he said. "I feel like everything that I do is needed, coming from the offensive end and defensive end, and being a leader.
"Even being very young, I feel that with the previous experiences of playing on really good teams, I can bring some of those ways to this team."
Weber also got an experienced point guard in the spring after Diarra and Sloan departed, signing Williams out of Northeastern Oklahoma A&M. Williams led the junior college ranks with 8.9 assists per game as a sophomore and ranked second nationally his freshman year with 8.3.
"Me and Rudi's relationship is actually really (good)," Pack said. "Things that we can pick up from each other, like on the court, he's an older guy so he's been through the college experience.
"We push each other every day. Coming in, he was more experienced with the movement and things like that, so I kind of watched and learned some things from him. He pushes me every day, offensively and defensively … and I feel like we'll be a double threat when games start."
The Wildcats are scheduled to open their season Nov. 25 against Drake in the inaugural Little Apple Classic, then face Colorado two nights later. South Dakota State, which was scheduled to play Colorado and Drake as part of the two doubleheaders, has since bowed out, but Weber said he hoped to have a replacement soon.
In the meantime, the Wildcats continue to grind through practices. For motivation, they need only look at the Big 12 preseason poll, which has them dead last.
Or they can draw inspiration from the messages on Pack's wall.
"'Practice like a champion,' that really hits a lot," Pack said. "Especially the days that you don't want to practice, it gives me extra motivation.
"'Winners are not people who never fail, but people who never quit.' I feel that fits in with us, especially this year. We're known to be winners. We've fallen before, but we're not going to quit. We're never going to give up."
Then there's one that Pack, at 6-foot-1, personally takes to heart: "It's not how big you are, it's how big you play."
"That kind of fits me really well," he said. "I'm not the biggest guy on the court, but I'm going to play with the most heart."