Shocker Invitational (Team 2)

OK, I like this team. No doubt about it, I believe it’s a contender to win the Shocker Invitational, coming soon to a desktop near you. Or laptop, tablet, video screen – the options will be limitless.

Team 2 is a doozy, made up of center Nate Bowman, power forward Ron Heller, small forward Jason Perez, shooting guard L.D. Swanson and point guard Malcolm Armstead.

I like this team’s toughness. Its defense. It’s scoring ability. It’s versatility. I LIKE THIS TEAM!

Here’s why:

Former Wichita State center Nate Bowman (17) was a New York Knicks teammate of his ex-Shocker teammate Dave Stallworth (9).

Former Wichita State center Nate Bowman (17) was a New York Knicks teammate of his ex-Shocker teammate Dave Stallworth (9).

The 6-foot-10 Bowman played at Wichita State from 1962 through 1965. He was a key part of the Shockers’ Final Four team in 1964-65 until he was declared academically ineligible for the second semester. It was a huge blow, as was the fact that star forward Dave Stallworth had used up his college eligibility at the end of the first semester.

The Shockers, I’m convinced, would have won a national championship with Stallworth and Bowman. Without them, they were drubbed by Princeton and Bill Bradley in the national semifinals.

Bowman averaged 9.2, 12.8 and 12.4 points in his three seasons, to go with 7.6, 8.9 and 8.6 rebounds. He was also a talented defender who went on to play with the New York Knicks in the NBA, helping that team win a championship as a bench player in 1969-70. Bowman died in 1984, when he was just 41.

The 6-7 Heller, who played for the Shockers from 1958-61, still ranks ninth all-time in career rebounding average at 9.8 rpg. He’s also the No. 38 all-time scorer with 1,022 points.

As a senior in 1960-61, Heller averaged 17.4 points per game. He later was an assistant coach at Wichita State, a color commentator for Shocker games on both radio and television and the head basketball coach at Friends University before his death in 2006, at the age of 68.

Perez played on some so-so teams during his WSU career from 1996-2000, but was anything but a so-so player. His 1,839 points rank No. 5 in Shocker history and he is the last Wichita State player to average 20 or more points in a game (20.2 ppg in 1999-2000).

Perez was also an outstanding passer (13th in career assists) and defender (first in steals.) He also ranks fourth in three-pointers, with 196. And only six players – Xavier McDaniel, Antoine Carr, Cleo Littleton, Cheese Johnson, Aubrey Sherrod and Dave Stallworth – made more field goals in their Shocker careers than Perez.

That’s a heck of a frontline. And the guards for Team 2 aren’t bad, either.

Let’s start with Swanson, who doesn’t get enough credit for his senior season in 1994-95 when he averaged a team-high 14.6 points, 5.4 assists and 4.0 rebounds while playing 38.4 minutes per game.

True, it wasn’t a very good team, one that finished just 13-14. But Swanson, who specialized in buzzer-beating, game-winning shots, was a really good player for his two seasons after transferring to WSU from a Texas junior college.

Finally, there’s Armstead. He and Swanson are interchangeable in the backcourt for Team 2 because both can play the point.

Armstead averaged 10.7 points per game for the Shockers’ Final Four team of 2012-13 and was arguably the team’s best player during the second half of the season. He led WSU in assists and steals and became the team’s leader in his only season as a Shocker after transferring from Oregon.

See why I like this team? It’s loaded. And a definite contender in the Shocker Invitational.