Author Archives: Paul Suellentrop

Paul Suellentrop is in his seventh season covering Wichita State athletics for The Wichita Eagle.

WSU’s Darius Carter with Athletes In Action

Wichita State senior forward Darius Carter is prepping for a bigger role for the Shockers with a four-game tour of Latvia and Estonia with Athletes In Action. AIA is 2-1 with a final game on Wednesday.

AIA says you can watch the game here:  www.Livestream.com/AIABasketball

Carter, playing for former WSU assistant Mike Rohn, is getting plenty of minutes. In three games, he is 11 for 26 from the field (0 for 1 from three) and 13 of 20 (65 percent) from the line. He is averaging 11.6 points with a high of 15 in AIA’s most recent game, a 99-93 win over Latvia.

Carter is averaging 5.6 rebounds and blocked three shots in AIA’s opening game.

 

 

 

Catching up on the Shockers after vacation

My attempt to sum up the past two weeks:

  • Eric Hamilton will attend Sunrise Christian and WSU is at the NCAA limit of 13 scholarships. Everybody wins here. Hamilton gets another year to develop and is trading his first season (with limited playing time) for a fifth season. WSU continues to find imaginative ways to build its roster and strengthens its ties with a high-level prep school in Wichita.
  • The Diamond Head Classic matches WSU with Loyola Marymount to open. Nebraska or Hawaii is next. It speaks to how poorly DePaul played in two previous tournament meetings that WSU preferred ANYBODY else in the first round, even considering DePaul’s Big East membership. DePaul and Loyola Marymount ranked similarly in the RPI the past five seasons. Getting to Nebraska (five starters back from an NCAA at-large team) is the prize. Hawaii returns two starters and adds a transfer from Missouri. Colorado and former WSU assistant Tad Boyle loom on the other side of the bracket. I wouldn’t discount George Washington, which returns four players who started 14 or more games from an NCAA at-large team.
  • WSU senior Darius Carter is on an Athletes in Action trip to Estonia and Latvia. His team, coached by former WSU assistant Mike Rohn, will play six games between Friday and Wednesday. Kansas State’s Justin Edwards and Kansas forward Landen Lucas are also on the roster.
  • WSU’s women’s basketball team released its non-conference schedule and it appears strong. Creighton, Tennessee, Kansas State, Ohio State and Clemson are the highlights. This appears to be a schedule that can support an NCAA at-large bid, should it be needed. It is good to see Creighton on the schedule. Those two schools will benefit in many sports from continuing to play. The men’s basketball programs should join that trend.
  • Tickets to WSU’s game against Memphis in Sioux Falls, S.D. went on sale Friday. My question – wouldn’t these programs accomplish more with a home-and-home series?
  • Former Shocker Ramon Clemente averaged 8.0 points and 4.3 rebounds for Puerto Rico in the Centrobasket Championship in Mexico that ended Thursday. Clemente has a chance to play for Puerto Rico in the upcoming FIBA World Cup. You can see his dunk here.

Wichita State and autonomy

The NCAA passed what has become known as autonomy legislation on Thursday, opening the door for the top five conferences to make their own rules on items such as stipends, insurance, contact with agents, etc. Much of the details are still to come (in fact, it’s not official until after a 60-day veto period).

What does it mean for WSU?
Athletic director Eric Sexton has said recently (and repeatedly) that Wichita State will do as much as is financially possible to avoid losing ground to the high-profile conferences. Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin has said his schools are committed to keeping pace with their men’s and women’s basketball programs.
What that means won’t be clear until the specifics are adopted.

On Thursday afternoon, senior associate athletics director Becky Endicott hadn’t received formal word from the NCAA or the MVC on the legislation. Volleyball coach Chris Lamb, busy with two-a-days wasn’t aware exactly what happened on Thursday. So if you expected mass panic and surrender at Koch Arena, no such luck.

“We’re waiting,”  Endicott said. “Until we get notification from them, I’m not going to jump to any conclusions.”

My guess is a school such as WSU is well-positioned to weather these changes, perhaps more than the rest of the MVC. Trying to stay in the same zip code as Nebraska will be easier for WSU than it will be for Loyola, for example. MVC schools with football also face different decisions and burdens than WSU will.

Sexton’s prime worry is that the high-profile conferences will press their advantage in competitive areas (such as adding scholarships or changing transfer rules). That would be a significant issue, because every athlete gobbled up by the Big 12 or SEC is one less available to other schools. If, as Sexton hopes, the top five limit their changes to perks (stipends, insurance, guaranteed four-year scholarships, etc.), it is more realistic for the rest to keep pace.

WSU may learn that matching the Big 12 with a true-cost-attendance-stipend is critical, but it is not required to match those schools in other areas.
Of course, it’s all a competitive area. In a sport such as track or baseball (where partial scholarships are available), WSU can offer more of a scholarship to an athlete. However, if Oklahoma or Nebraska can offer to give a walk-on meals, it can counter WSU’s offer with something real.

Ultimately, MVC schools will pump money into basketball. They will tap donors harder. Olympic sports may suffer. There will be challenges for WSU and you (the fan) may feel it in your bank account. In 10 years, WSU may have dropped a sport or scaled back its competitive profile in order to help other sports keep pace. It will be easier for WSU, with a large fan-base and no football, than it will for others.

Let’s also recognize that there always were and always will be significant differences between schools such as Michigan, Alabama, Kansas, Missouri and their ilk and Wichita State and its peers.

Some, but not most, of WSU’s success in any sport is related to beating higher-profile schools for recruits. More of its success is related to beating similar schools for the top talent available (see Carl Hall, Toure Murry or Rashard Kelly) and developing talent when others missed it (see Ron Baker, Conor Gillaspie, decathlete Austin Bahner or volleyball’s Sara Lungren). Winning recruiting battles against higher-profile schools happens  (see Cleanthony Early, volleyball setter Chelsey Feekin, countless baseball players, track athletes Kord Ferguson and Audacia Moore), but it’s not a daily occurance.

In that way, trying to stand on equal recruiting ground with Mountain West, Big East and Conference USA schools is just as important as trying to keep pace with the ACC.

WSU, and schools such as Gonzaga, Northern Iowa and VCU, will always need to find inventive ways to survive when matched against schools with bigger budgets, populations and TV contracts. Let’s also recognize that there are also intra-conference differences (Ohio State-Northwestern, Texas-Iowa State for example) that need to be factored in. My guess is Mississippi isn’t excited about searching for more money in order to keep up with Florida, any more than Big East, Mountain West or MVC schools are bracing for more expenses.

Some stories that may help you understand what might be coming:

USA Today: First round of autonomy legislation due Oct. 1.

Washington Post: Big 10 commissioner says smaller conferences not precluded from ramping up.

Springfield News-Leader: Missouri State AD Kyle Moats is looking for $200,000.

Omaha World Herald: NCAA changes the game on Creighton.

 

Ramon Clemente makes national roster again

Former Shocker Ramon Clemente announced his inclusion on the roster for Puerto Rico’s team in the Centrobasket Championship in Mexico starting Aug. 1.

Update: Puerto Rico’s roster.

Should this anger Cleanthony Early?

Former Shocker Cleanthony Early must make the Knicks after being drafted in the second round.

Former Shocker Cleanthony Early must make the Knicks after being drafted in the second round.

Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early wasn’t a lock to be a first-round pick in the NBA Draft last month. A lot of draft gurus, however, predicted him to go in that first round, one as high as No. 18.

Early dropped into the second round, where the Knicks grabbed him and it seemed like a reasonably happy ending for a hometown kid. Players drop all the time in the draft and the rise in foreign-born players makes it harder and harder to predict where someone might go. NBA teams like to draft foreign players and let them develop overseas for a few years to save money and a roster spot. Early might have been first-round worthy based on talent alone, but circumstances intervened.

Now we learn about Oklahoma City and Stanford’s Josh Huestis. Huestis, picked No. 29, won’t sign his guaranteed rookie contract and will play in the D-League, as part of a deal with the Thunder made before the draft.

As Grantland’s Zach Lowe writes:

The main benefit of being a first-round pick is avoidance of that uncertainty. First-round picks are guaranteed two years of full NBA paychecks, unless their team renounces their draft rights, which essentially never happens. Huestis could guarantee himself $1.5 million today by signing a contract the Thunder had to place in front of him earlier this month by league rule.

But Huestis isn’t signing that contract.

This seems to be something the NBA Players Association will be interested in. One of their members isn’t getting a guaranteed contract and that’s not a circumstance unions look favorably on.

Early, by several projections, appeared a fit with the Thunder. He worked out for the team. He offered a mature set of skills for a team that appears to need scoring off the bench and wants to win now. Instead, the Thunder, perhaps, passed him over for a player who isn’t close to NBA-ready and might fade away into D-League obscurity.

There is no point in Early worrying too much about this. His priority is making the Knicks and turning himself into a productive NBA player. If he proves that twice a year at the expense of the Thunder, he should be allowed to enjoy that moment and think about what OKC passed on.

Wichita State Summer League recap

Cleanthony Early made a good impression when healthy. Nick Wiggins won a Summer League title with Sacramento.  Gal Mekel shot the ball extremely well for Dallas.

Three Shockers played in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas and Early and Mekel have more NBA adventures to look forward to.

Here’s how they did:

How MTXE almost didn’t happen

A 1978 Wichita Eagle story about the hiring of basketball coach Gene Smithson, part of our Shocker Summer nostalgia series, contained this passage:

Smithson, who was named Monday, was not among the 108 candidates that the Wichita State search committee worked with. Smithson said WSU contacted him for the first time Saturday. That would be hours after Bill Olsen, Louisville assistant, caught a plane back home to Louisville after spending the night in Wichita. Olsen’s departure came only four hours before a press conference scheduled to announce his acceptance of the job.

Bill Olsen?

That episode is a bit of Shocker history that escaped many. Smithson, of course, recruited some of the greatest Shockers and ushered in a landmark era, albeit one marred by NCAA probation.

It almost didn’t happen that way. What happened with Olsen?

Olsen, now retired, remembers Wichita fondly and was set to take the job, one he grew familiar with when Louisville and WSU played in the Missouri Valley Conference.

“It was one of the great places to go,” he said Thursday in a phone interview. “It was always packed and sold out. I thought there was great potential there.”

Olsen interviewed on campus and returned to Louisville, where he made a list of concerns for athletic director Ted Bredehoft to address, preferably in writing. Olsen, perhaps before most, saw Levitt Arena as an aging facility in need of an upgrade. He found the arena lighting poor and the lack of practice space troubling. He said Harry Miller, fired after the 1978 season, told him players had to live out of their gym bags and practice at other gyms in the fall (although Olsen wasn’t sure what activities took over Levitt, and in those days men’s basketball overwhelmingly out-ranked women’s sports).

Olsen sent WSU sports information director Joe Yates to check out an on-campus gym, presumably Henrion, as a practice site. Yates, Olsen said, measured the floor and reported it was too short for a college team.

“We were used to Freedom Hall, which was a great basketball facility,” Olsen said.

Olsen was offered the job and he returned to Wichita in early April 1978 intending to sign a contract. His salary, with TV and radio bonuses, would be around $50,000, more than Louisville coach Denny Crum made. But when he got off the plane, Bredehoft was nowhere to be found. Olsen checked into the Wichita Royale, under a fake name, and waited. He talked to Bredehoft the next day, and said the answers to concerns about Levitt Arena didn’t satisfy him.

“I did not feel comfortable taking a job when the AD did not meet with me the night before I was to sign a contract,” Olsen said.

So Olsen booked a flight back to Louisville. Three days later, WSU hired Smithson. Olsen, who started as an assistant at Louisville in 1969, became athletic director in 1980 and held that job until 1997.

While he never reached his dream of becoming a head coach, Olsen and his family happily stayed in Louisville. He helped Crum coach the Cardinals to an NCAA title in 1980 and oversaw another in 1986. He hired football coach Howard Schnellenberger in 1985, starting Louisville on its path to the ACC.

“It turned out well for us,” he said.

Catching up with Wichita State baseball

  • While there are warning signs that raise concern, coach Todd Butler is cautiously optimistic about sophomore pitcher Sam Tewes’ right elbow. Tewes complained of tingling in his right arm during a game in late June in the Cape Cod League and hasn’t pitched since. “Hopefully, it’s just a small strain,” Butler said. “Hopefully, it’s just going to be rest and recovery and rehab. His arm feels better.” Tewes is shut down for the rest of the summer and will send his MRI to Dr. James Andrews in Birmingham, Ala., for a second opinion, Butler said.
  • Decision day for six Shockers drafted is Friday. Third baseman Chase Rader announced on Twitter last week that he will not sign with Detroit. “I’m nervous about all of them,” Butler said. “You’re just nervous until the 18th. We’re trying to stay in communication with them and respect their opinions and what they decide.”
  • The coaches are taking a brief break from recruiting road trips this week for camps. They spent much of June watching prospects in exposure camps around the Midwest, working on the class of 2015 (which already includes commitments from players such as Keylan Killgore, Greyson Jenista and Clayton McGinness) and 2016. Butler is making the most of Wichita’s location, a factor that he didn’t count on when he took the job. If a player from Texas or Oklahoma is headed to Nebraska or Colorado for a tournament, they’re likely coming through Wichita and they can set up an unofficial visit on the way. “We have the Jayhawk League, we have all the junior colleges, we have the NBC World Series,” he said. “We’ve seen a tremendous amount of players come through Wichita.”
  • WSU outfielder Mikel Mucha, who missed most of last season with a broken leg, is playing for the El Dorado Broncos and said his leg feels good.
  • Derby infielder Travis Young will walk on at WSU instead of playing defensive back at Butler County.

For Knicks fans: A Cleanthony Early rewind

Former Shocker Cleanthony Early went to the New York Knicks on Thursday in the NBA Draft.

Former Shocker Cleanthony Early went to the New York Knicks on Thursday in the NBA Draft.

Getting to know Cleanthony Early through stories from The Wichita Eagle.

Early’s mother got him out of the Bronx.

An NCAA loss to Kentucky didn’t rattle Early.

Early put too much stress on himself early in the 2014 season.

You can always find Early on Twitter.

Always talking. Always confident. That’s Early.

Early’s two seasons rank among WSU’s best.

A year at prep school changed Early.

Early’s three-pointer at Illinois State capped an improbable comeback.

Early alerted NBA scouts with his performance against Louisville.

 

Thursday’s mock drafts

What type of team wants Wichita State’s Cleanthony Early? The consensus is he fits on a playoff team as a scorer off the bench. Teams such as Houston (which may need to replace Chandler Parsons), Oklahoma City, Memphis and Miami seem to make sense. Early, 23, profiles as a player who could contribute quickly as a three-point shooter.

We find out tonight when the NBA Draft begins at 6 p.m. Remember, the difference between the first round (guaranteed contracts) and the second round (no such thing) is significant. Expect to see Early on an NBA roster regardless, but the security and pay-check from the first round matters.

Boston Globe – No. 23 to Utah

Cleveland Plain-Dealer – No. 22 to Memphis

New Jersey Star-Ledger – No. 21 to Oklahoma City

Newsday – No. 22 to Memphis

Los Angeles Times – No. 29 to Oklahoma City

Yahoo.com – Not included

New York Post – No. 26 to Utah

Detroit News – No. 18 to Phoenix

Orange County Register – No. 26 to Miami

DraftExpress.com – No. 35 to Utah

Sports Illustrated – No. 26 to Miami

NBA.com – Not included

NBADraft.net – No. 26 to Miami

CBSSports.com – No. 24 to Charlotte