It’s good to be back. And here are some of my thoughts on the Wichita State basketball team after watching its three games in Puerto Rico:
* I’d give the Shockers a ‘C’ for the tournament. Going 1-2 in Puerto Rico wasn’t the plan. And it’s difficult to say how the lone win, over Colorado, will hold up because the Buffaloes don’t have the look of a quality team. The key game was against Alabama, which does have that look and should stay in the Top 25 all season. The Shockers lost that one, 70-60, and were badly outclassed athletically.
* I’m back to being concerned about this team’s interior offense. Garrett Stutz and Carl Hall did a nice job rebounding in Puerto Rico, but the Shockers have to have a go-to offensive guy on the inside and so far there hasn’t been. Stutz is an interesting basketball player. He is dangerous with both hands but still has issues with his foot work down low. He is not an explosive jumper and he never will be. So you people who want him to catch the ball and dunk it in the low post are never going to be satisfied because that’s not Stutz’s style. He’s not a power player because of his physical limitations.
* Carl Hall is a ferocious rebounder. But he’s far from a polished offensive player, which is why he spent so much time on the bench late in the Shockers’ overtime loss to Temple on Sunday. I love Hall’s energy, though. And I think he’ll be a nice boost for the Shockers as the season progresses, even if he’s not a huge scorer.
* Either Ehimen Orukpe or freshman Jake White needs to develop quickly into a player who can make serious contributions. I didn’t see much from Orukpe on the Puerto Rico trip and White played only a few minutes. It will be interesting to watch how WSU coach Gregg Marshall brings the 6-foot-8 White along.
* Toure Murry played great in the three games in Puerto Rico, except for that ill-advised three-point shot he took way too early late in the overtime against Temple on Sunday. Murry has proven to me that he’s at his best when he’s taking the ball to the basket or pulling up for a mid-range jump shot. Three-pointers aren’t his game. He’ll make a few, but Murry is a slasher and a player who can improvise close to the basket. He was easily the Shockers’ MVP in the tournament.
* My personal message to David Kyles: Be a star. It’s OK to be a star, so just be one. You have the ability to be this team’s best player. And it’s OK to do that. Don’t have games like you did against Alabama (0-6 from the field, 0-4 from the three-point line). You’re too good for that. Whatever it is that sometimes holds you back, break free from those chains.
* Did freshman guard Tekele Cotton move ahead of junior Demetric Williams during Sunday’s loss to Temple? It sure looked that way, with Cotton on the floor during defensive possessions late in regulation and in the overtime. I like Cotton a lot. He’s strong and I think he can score as well as defend. Williams, on the other hand, did not have a good tournament. For the season Williams has only two assists and 10 turnovers. And he’s not shooting well, either. He plays defense well, but so does every other Shocker backcourt player.
* Wichita State is shooting 55.9 percent from the free-throw line (38 of 68). That’s atrocious and defies explanation. And it simply must improve.
* Did Wichita State help itself in Puerto Rico? Absolutely, because of the quality of its opponents. But the Shockers didn’t get the maximum boost from their four-day excursion because they didn’t beat one of the high-quality teams they played in Alabama and Temple.