The story behind Kansas State’s pregame hype ritual and how it became a viral video

The Kansas State men’s basketball team has become a viral sensation over the past few weeks.

Log on to social media and it is easier than ever to find videos of Markquis Nowell delivering a highlight pass, Nae’Qwan Tomlin throwing down a ferocious dunk or Keyontae Johnson draining a clutch three-pointer. But those are just the tip of the iceberg.

The most popular videos of all don’t really have anything to do with basketball. They feature the entire Wildcats roster sitting in the locker room before a game and clapping along to the beat of “Low Down,” a rap song from Lil Baby.

Jerome Tang and his players do this before every single contest. It’s a tradition. Players usually sit in chairs and bob their heads to the music. Tang and his coaching staff stand at the front of the room and sway back and forth. Sometimes they dance. No matter what, they all clap in unison as the song goes on.

“That is just something for us to get hype,” K-State guard Tykei Greene said. “It helps us stay connected. We are all on the same page, the same melody, the same tone, just staying together. A lot of people don’t realize that. They think we are just listening to music and clapping, but it’s really important to us.”

For reasons that no one who plays for the Wildcats can fully explain, those videos have resonated with people all across the world.

K-State fans began copying the routine in their living rooms before games and started sharing their own videos on social media last week. Then the Wildcats won a pair of games in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Sweet 16 this week at Madison Square.

Now, people who have little or no connection to K-State are joining in. The trend went mainstream on Wednesday when Dude Perfect, a group of extremely popular YouTube personalities, sent out a video on Twitter of their team doing the entire clap routine with a caption that read: “Tryna get ready for work like K-State.”

You know you’ve gone viral when a YouTube group with 59 million followers mentions you on Twitter.

“It is funny and very surprising,” K-State forward Ismael Massoud said. “We’re not even doing anything crazy. It’s just us clapping. It’s funny to see what’s happened with it and how certain things can go viral out of nowhere and get people’s attention. I don’t understand it, but it’s been really cool to see.”

Jareem Dowling deserves credit for those videos and their wide reach.

The K-State assistant coach uses social media more often than most influencers and decided a few weeks ago that he needed to flood his Instagram and Twitter accounts with videos of the pregame hype routine.

But the story behind the tradition goes back several months.

It started before K-State played its first home game of the season against Texas-Rio Grande Valley. Tang was about to lead a team onto the floor for the first time as a head coach and he wanted to create a fun atmosphere in the locker room beforehand.

So Tang asked players to blare a pump-up song on the team’s boom box. They chose “Low Down” and he started to dance. Then he clapped. The players joined it. The rest is history.

“Coach Tang didn’t even know what he was doing,” Dowling said. “The guys found it funny at the time it was going. Then he started doing his clapping thing and they started doing their clapping thing. It just became a thing.”

Athletes tend to be superstitious, so no one wanted to break routine when K-State began the season with six straight victories.

Dowling remembers the Wildcats getting “super into it” when they won an early season tournament in the Cayman Islands.

“It just shows how we can vibe together and how connected we are as a team,” K-State guard Desi Sills said. “I think people like it because it shows how much we love each other.”

The pregame routine definitely helped bring everyone together.

“For them to see their coach that relaxed 15 minutes before tipoff, it made them relax that their coach can be that way,” Dowling said. “When your coach is super serious it can make you feel like you have to be that way. But he is up there dancing and probably hurting his ankles. It became something we started doing before every game.”

So why is it just now becoming an Internet sensation?

Timing is everything. Dowling kept those videos private most of the season but decided to release them when K-State earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Excitement was building around the team. Why not give fans something fun to watch as they cheer on the Wildcats from home? The team loved it. Dowling thought fans might enjoy it, too.

Then K-State went out and beat Montana State and Kentucky to move within two wins of the Final Four. Just like that, the videos gained a life of their own.

There’s no telling who will join in on the “Low Down” trend next.

“I give all the credit to K-State nation,” Dowling said. “I want you to put that in big, bold letters. Because without them it wouldn’t catch on. I’m glad everybody else is re-posting it. But I love the fact that K-State nation did it first.”