Author Archives: Paul Suellentrop

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

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

 

Tewes leaves Cape Cod game with injury

WSU pitcher Sam Tewes.

WSU pitcher Sam Tewes.

Wichita State sophomore starter Sam Tewes took himself out during the second inning of Wednesday’s game in the Cape Cod League.

“My fingers just kind of started tingling,” Tewes told Matt Schneidman of Kettleers.org. “I couldn’t really grip the ball real well and I wasn’t comfortable, felt like I was hurting the team more than helping. I don’t really know much about (the injury). We’re going to take a look at it tomorrow.”

Tewes is WSU’s lone returner from its starting rotation. He earned Freshman All-American honors for the Shockers with an 8-3 record and a 3.27 ERA. He suffered a dislocated right knee in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. Tewes returned to pitch June 14 for the Cotuit Kettleers and is 1-2 with a 7.44 ERA in three appearances.

Wednesday’s NBA Mock Drafts

Philly.com – No. 26 to Miami

ESPN.com – No. 20 to Toronto

Huffington Post – No. 21 to Oklahoma City

Yahoo.com – Not included

USA Today – No. 25 to Houston

Sports Illustrated – Not included

Q&A with Toure Murry

Former Shocker Toure Murry spent his rookie season with the Knicks. (AP photo).

Former Shocker Toure Murry spent his rookie season with the Knicks. (AP photo).

Former Wichita State guard Toure Murry recently completed his rookie season in the NBA with the New York Knicks. He played in 51 games and averaged 2.7 points with a high of 15 in his final game. He is a free agent who could return to the Knicks. If not, it appears other teams are interested in his services.

Murry is in Houston this summer working out with his trainer and he may, depending on which team signs him, play in the NBA Summer League.

From playing with Carmelo to guarding Tony Parker to chatting courtside with Spike Lee, Murry’s first season in the Association went well. He wants to play a bigger role in the future and with his defensive reputation established, wants to show more of his offensive skills.

What’s the best thing about being an NBA player?

Playing for the city and playing in the best league in the world and being a role model. The NBA is really like a fraternity and it’s tough to get into to. Actually being there and actually doing it … so many can relate to me and talk to me. It can be accomplished and I did it.

What was the toughest adjustment in the NBA?

There’s several things. Traveling - you’re in a different city every night, almost. It’s fast-paced. You’re on your own. You’ve got to manage your time. Dealing with playing time. Everybody, at one point in time, was a star player. Come to the NBA, and you’ve got to sacrifice. You never know when you’re to play, and that’s a tough thing. It’s definitely tough, but at the end of the day you’ve got to look at your ego and look in the mirror and understand why you’re not playing. There’s are a lot of dudes that paid their dues. A 10-year veteran in the NBA goes a long way.

What makes the Spurs (Murry’s pick before the series) the NBA’s best team?

The NBA is a lot of one-on-one basketball. With the Spurs, everybody has a chance. Everybody is a threat. That’s the way basketball is played, if you want to win.  That’s how championships are won. They pass the ball so well. They play together. They trust one another.

What was your “Welcome to the NBA” moment?

It was definitely when I played against the Heat. Dwyane Wade looked at me and he automatically went straight to the block. I tried to get around him and I ended up getting a foul. Another moment was when Dwyane Wade posted me up and he got an and-one. I was there with the team that won the Finals last year. So many guys that you’ve been watching all your life.  To be actually on the court with them. And also, San Antonio. You’re playing against Tony Parker and chasing him around. That’s a welcome to the NBA life. They scored on me, but at the same time I had my moments when I played with them and stood out. I felt like I belonged, and “Welcome to the NBA.”

Describe your proudest moments.

My first time scoring, it was in a preseason game (against Toronto), scored my first bucket in the first two minutes I was in the game and it was a pretty nice play. If you score 15 points in an NBA game (in the season finale against Toronto), that’s big time. It was at the end of the season, and we won, so I kind of felt proud about that.

Do those kind of moments propel you into the off-season?

It gives you confidence that, hey, you belong on this stage and you belong in this league. It gives you insight on what you need to work on. Me playing well, it creates a resume. Scoring 15 points and nine points in the last two games, it gives me another shot to stay in the NBA. It also gave other teams a shot, they’re able to look at me when I’m out there playing well. Any time you’re out there, you have to perform. I feel like I performed at a high level.

Knicks fans seemed to adopt you as something of a favorite. What was your experience with the fans?

I really enjoyed New York and the whole culture. They’re really passionate about basketball. I felt like they really embraced me because I played well and, also, I was the underdog. Everybody likes the underdog.

Which veterans helped you figure out the NBA?

Kenyon Martin was a big help to me. Carmelo (Anthony), he always was in my corner. Every time, I got out there, he was a big and he was always cheering for me. It showed when I played. Those guys know how hard I worked. And Metta World Peace, he also was in corner. He’s a great guy. He really knows this league in and out. He was one of the first guys that came up to me, asking me where I was from and telling me I’ve got a nice game.

You had a good relationship with former coach Mike Woodson. Were you disappointed when the Knicks fired him?

He gave me my shot and my first job. It was tough. I wish him the best. He taught me a lot. At the end of the day, I know how this business goes.

When Wichita State and Syracuse were both undefeated, did you and Carmelo banter back and forth?

Definitely. We talked about it every day. I told him from Day One about Wichita State. I was definitely representing. I trash-talked, but we both got bumped from the NCAA Tournament.

Do you have a favorite restaurant in New York?

CATCH. They have sushi. They have steak. I ate sushi really often. I like it. It’s kind of new for me.

Is there an NBA player who strikes you as underrated?

I really like Kyle Lowry’s game. He really showed his talent. He was the kind of guy, he was always good, but he took a step this year and became great.

Describe the experience of playing in Madison Square Garden.

It’s big time. It’s kind of like a Broadway show. All the lights. All the celebrities in the crowd. It’s kind of surreal. (Spike Lee) and I had some conversations, he told me I needed to learn from one of the great point guards in Walt Frazier (a former Knicks star and broadcaster) and get some insight from him.

 

 

Cleanthony Early and the NBA Draft

Former Shocker Cleanthony Early is making the rounds at NBA workouts.

Former Shocker Cleanthony Early is making the rounds at NBA workouts.

We are 16 days from the NBA Draft and it appears certain Cleanthony Early will end a Wichita State drought that stretches to 1987 and likely end one dating 1985. Henry Carr (1987, 7th round, Clippers) is the most recent Shocker drafted. Xavier McDaniel (1985, Seattle) is the last Shocker to go in the first round.

Where Early stands in mock drafts:

The Sporting News: NBA execs ask some weird questions.

 

Boston Herald: Ainge wonders if Early can move from power forward to small forward

NESN: Early knows why he goes to workouts – to prove he is the best.

48 Minutes of Hell: Early’s age may cap his upside.

Deseret News: Early fits Utah’s needs.

Valley of the Suns: What position does Early play?

 

Gregg Marshall know his numbers

Stopped by the Wichita State basketball offices today to answer the two pressing questions. I departed, as a I feared, not knowing much more than when I entered. To recap:

  • Coach Gregg Marshall assured me he knows how to count to 13, as in the number of scholarships allowed by the NCAA. With the addition of center Rauno Nurger, WSU is obligated to 14 players. That can’t be the case when school starts in the fall, and Marshall, as he always has, said the scholarship situation will work out by the time it needs to. That leaves many options – academics, prep school, injury, homesickness, lovesickness – to pare down the roster. For now, no decision has been made.
  • I offered to break a tie or sift through assistant coach resumes. Marshall politely declined. The search continues and he remains impossible to rush. He wants to have someone hired by practices in July.