Wichita State basketball media day

Ten practices into the regular season, Wichita State took a break for media day. Some quick ¬†hits from the men’s side:

  • WSU coach Gregg Marshall is dealing with a few nagging injuries. Guard Demetric Williams (ankle surgery) is practicing and making progress more quickly than Marshall expected. “He’s not 100 percent,” Marshall said. “In the last week or so he’s actually come back and practiced more than I thought he would. There’s certainly a little rust there. He’s not in great shape, but he is a four-year guy and a veteran.” Guard Fred VanVleet is limited in practice as he recovers from a sprained ankle that’s bothered him since the start of practice. Freshman forward Zach Bush is also rehabbing a sprained ankle. Center Chadrack Lufile is practicing after missing time due to a dislocated right shoulder. “It’s good now,” Lufile said. “It popped out in practice and I’ve been doing rehab.”
  • ¬†Marshall is a big – huge – fan of the NCAA’s two-hour practice allowance for the summer. It was perfectly timed for the Shockers, who are working in six newcomers and two more players who practiced last season but did not play. The only way Marshall would love the rule more is if the NCAA added two more hours. With that time, it appears the Shockers are well into understanding how the coach wants them to play. “We’ve implemented a good portion of our system,” he said. “They’re picking that up fairly well. We’ve got great guys that are very coachable and do what we ask them do to. It’s just a matter, right now, of building a team.”
  • Marshall had strong words to describe Cleanthony Early, a junior-college transfer who was the two-time NJCAA Division III Player of the Year. “He will be a factor from Day One,” Marshall said. “We haven’t had anybody like him since I’ve been here – a forward that is incredibly athletic, and fairly skilled and 6-foot-8 and pretty strong.”
  • Freshman Derail Green and junior transfer Nick Wiggins are excellent shooters. Of course, that skill alone won’t get a player on the court. “Derail can really, really shoot the ball,” Marshall said. “His problems right now are learning to defend and rebound. Same thing with Nick Wiggins. Defend and rebound. If you can’t defend and rebound in practice, you’re probably not going to get the opportunity to score too much in live action. That point is trying to be driven home, to varying degrees of success.”
  • One guy who gets that is sophomore forward Evan Wessel. Marshall again called him a quick study who recently played shooting guard in a scrimmage without a hitch, despite not practicing the position. “He did it flawlessly,” Marshall said. “He really plays hard. He knows all the little things. I don’t think he’s Steve Kerr shooting the basketball, but he jumps up there and knocks a shot down on a pretty consistent basis.” Marshall compares him to former Shocker Graham Hatch in playing style and hustle, although he is behind Hatch as a shooter.
  • Center Ehimen Orukpe will give the Shockers plenty of defense, as he did last season. There is an opportunity for him to earn more minutes. “He’s worked hard,” Marshall said. “He will have an opportunity to block some shots and be in there as a defensive presence.”
  • Senior forward Carl Hall is the Shocker most likely to show up on preseason All-MVC teams (he is on mine) and with good reason. He earned MVC Newcomer of the Year honors in 2012 and appears primed to improve. “He made a 17-footer the other day in practice and looked great,” Marshall said. “He’s really invested a lot of time this spring and summer to get better and it’s paying off.”
  • Marshall installed Early as the favorite in Thursday’s Shocker Madness dunk contest. Early agrees. “Challenge _ I don’ t know, but we’ve got a couple of other good dunkers,” Early said. “I haven’t been thinking about anything yet. I’ve got a few tricks up my sleeve.” Players mentioned Wiggins, Bush and Tekele Cotton as possible challengers, depending on if they participate. Early, however, seems to be the favorite. “I’d bet my paycheck on Cleanthony,” Williams said. “He can get up. He’s real athletic and I feel like he’s got a couple tricks underneath his belt.”