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 – Not included

New York Post – No. 26 to Utah

Detroit News – No. 18 to Phoenix

Orange County Register – No. 26 to Miami – No. 35 to Utah

Sports Illustrated – No. 26 to Miami – Not included – No. 26 to Miami – 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 “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 – No. 26 to Miami – No. 20 to Toronto

Huffington Post – No. 21 to Oklahoma City – 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.

Wichita State recruiting warehouse

Read More »

Hoosier rival, Wichita State?

Jake Odum made Indiana State games meaningful the past four seasons.

Jake Odum made Indiana State games meaningful the past four seasons.

Indiana State joined the Missouri Valley Conference in 1976. At no point since has it been regarded as Wichita State’s No. 1 rival. Most years, it probably didn’t register in the top five, except for a few baseball seasons during the 1980s.

While it is too early to consider Indiana State an MVC rival on the order of Tulsa or Creighton, the MVC’s All-Sports standings highlight the fact that the Sycamores might be the closest thing to a well-rounded challenger that exists. WSU easily won the All-Sports award and Indiana State finished second, its best finish. While I would consider Missouri State, because of its success in many sports and proximity, the logical choice to heat up the rivalry with WSU, the Bears need to do some work to grow more relevant than the Sycamores.

Surprising, I know. It might be hard for Shocker fans to muster up hard feelings for the Sycamores, based on the tepid history between the schools and location. There might not be any better choices in the near future.

Consider that Indiana State finished second in MVC men’s basketball and tied with WSU for the women’s title. Indiana State’s baseball team earned another NCAA at-large bid (to go with one in 2012) and finished ahead of the Shockers two of the past three seasons. In track and field, Indiana State replaced Northern Iowa as WSU’s biggest challenge in MVC meets.

The rivalry will grow or wither on the strength of men’s basketball, where WSU needs a school to push it in the manner Creighton did for so many years. With its recent success, Indiana State generates some buzz when it’s on the schedule. If coach Greg Lansing can keep his team near the top of the Valley, the rivalry might grow into something.

That Indiana State is mentioned in this discussion is a credit to its administration. It is the smallest (enrollment 11,494) of the MVC’s six public schools and Terre Haute’s population of 59,000 is the second-smallest among MVC cities. Indiana State doesn’t appear to be rolling in dough compared to its MVC rivals.




MVC Tournament review

Scores: Illinois State 6, WSU 0; WSU 8, Evansville 6; WSU 2, Southern Illinois 1 (12); Illinois State 6, WSU 1

Key stats: Illinois State pitchers Dan Savas, Brock Stewart and Jeremy Rhoades held WSU to one run and eight hits in 18 innings, striking out 23. The week followed the pattern of most weekend series – the Shockers had one big offensive game in them, played one close game and struggled to score. 3B Chase Simpson provided WSU’s biggest offensive game in the win over Evansville, going 4 for 5 and driving in three runs. Dayne Parker went 3 for 5 and beat the Aces with a two-run home run in the ninth, eliminating the top seed. 1B Casey Gillaspie struggled in the rare opportunities teams pitched to him, a death knell for the struggling offense. He went 2 for 14 and didn’t drive in a run, walking six times. Reliever Ray Ashford didn’t allow a hit or a run in 3 2/3 innings. Foster Vielock ended his WSU career with one of his best outings, shutting out SIU for 4 1/3 innings, the longest of his career.

Record: WSU 31-28

  • I consider next season the “real” first season for coach Todd Butler. This roster was dominated by players recruited by former coach Gene Stephenson. Eight seniors will depart, as will several junior draft picks and others. The roster will look dramatically different in 2015 and there will not be many players with heavy NCAA Division I experience. WSU has at least 19 players signed (although the June draft may alter plans) and more could be on the way (again, depending on the draft). A high school outfielder is planning a visit next week. Don’t forget, outfielder Mikel Mucha is expected to return from a broken leg and outfielder Michael Burns redshirted as a freshman. Both figure into plans next season.
  • Here are some recruiting stories to refresh your memory on some of the newcomers. Lots of juco pitchers. Rynard and Williams are two hard-throwing additions. A two-way player from Arizona and a former Razorback. The fall class went heavy on pitching.
  • WSU was picked first in the preseason MVC poll. What happened? Injuries and suspensions kept the team from developing a consistent lineup. Several of the hitters who performed well in 2013 either dropped off or failed to improve in 2014, contributing to an offense that struggled. A tougher schedule and tougher MVC helped knock down those preseason expectations. WSU’s strength of schedule jumped from No. 125 in 2013 to No. 45 this season. The MVC jumped from No. 15 in the RPI to No. 6. With eight seniors and 12 juniors, WSU should have been able to handle some of those challenges. Together, they kept the Shockers from gaining traction despite outstanding starting pitching and a memorable offensive season from Gillaspie.
  • While the 2014 Shockers didn’t win big, they did produce several landmark performances. Gillaspie appears certain to become WSU’s fifth first-round position player. Starter A.J. Ladwig compiled a 1.54 ERA, sixth-lowest for a single-season at WSU and second among starters. Reliever Aaron LaBrie finished his career as one of WSU’s most reliable and durable relievers. Starter Cale Elam will go down in the history books excelling as a closer and a starter in ways no other Shocker did.
  • Dallas Baptist proved an excellent addition to the MVC, as expected. With Creighton’s departure, the Patriots became more than a luxury. In a perfect world, the MVC would add another baseball team. One bad weekend or bad weather can wreck things too easily. Add in the home/road imbalance in a seven-weekend schedule and it’s not ideal. Twenty-one games is too few to determine a champion.
  • I was skeptical of the MVC’s move to smaller stadiums at Illinois State and Indiana State the past two seasons. Both places ran the tournament smoothly, not surprisingly, but that doesn’t change my point that the MVC isn’t maximizing its look for baseball by moving from TD Ameritrade Park in 2011 to Terre Haute in 2014. The smaller facilities in the MVC are more-than-adequate, but there are clearly two parks in the conference (WSU and Missouri State) that are a cut above. Isn’t that what a conference should desire for its championship?
  • Indiana State deserves a lot of credit for improving Warn Field and putting outstanding effort into the tournament. The school provided many extra touches that showed a real enthusiasm for hosting. Indiana State didn’t have to play personalized walk-up songs for players or bring in a video-board or recruit an army of volunteers to help fans and athletes. It did, and it’s a shame the Sycamores went out quickly to rob the tournament of much of its atmosphere.
  • The upside to moving the tournament around is that other schools will improve their facilities. Ultimately, what benefits other schools helps WSU. Every school outside of Evansville has put significant resources into its campus ballpark in recent seasons and that should make the MVC stronger. Stephenson believed schools other than WSU and MSU would hold the tournament once. After losing money, they would decline in the future. It will return to Eck Stadium in 2015 and we’ll see how it goes from there.

Weekend review: Wichita State at Illinois State

Scores: WSU 2, Illinois State 0; WSU 2, Illinois State 1; WSU 15, Illinois State 5

Key stats: WSU pitching controlled the series, taking advantage of a Redbirds team in a miserable slump. Even without senior Cale Elam starting (he pitched two scoreless innings in relief) WSU compiled a 2.16 ERA, struck out 21 and walked seven. The Redbirds walked 20, 12 in Saturday’s finale. WSU scored both its runs Friday after a leadoff walk, one on a wild pitch. WSU 1B Casey Gillaspie walked seven times, went 4 for 6, scored four runs and homered. SS Dayne Parker drove in two runs and scored three. Garrett Bayliff drove in four runs. Illinois State’s Paul DeJong and Mike Hollenbeck, the No. 3 and No. 4 hitters, combined to go 2 for 20.

Records: WSU 29-26, 13-8 MVC; ISU 30-21, 10-11

  • In 2008, Wichita State won the regular-season title with future big-leaguers Andy Dirks and Conor Gillaspie starring. Despite excellent stats, neither won the Player of the Year award. Northern Iowa shortstop Brandon Douglas did, for the fourth-place Panthers. The Shockers didn’t win Pitcher of the Year, shutting them out of the MVC’s top individual awards for second straight season while winning the title. Gene Stephenson failed to win Coach of the Year for the millionth straight season. Gillaspie called the Valley a joke (arguing for Dirks as Player of the Year and Stephenson for Coach) and the Valley publicly reprimanded him. “It would be nice to get a little more respect,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a question who the best team is and who the best player is.”
  • This year, WSU and the Gillaspie family turns the tables a bit. It finished fourth and Casey Gillaspie (Conor’s brother) will win Player of the Year when voting is announced Monday. “The numbers dictate that he is probably the obvious choice,” Illinois State coach Mark Kingston said. There should be no suspense for either award. Gillaspie’s dominant offensive season separates him from any other position player. Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland will win Pitcher of the Year. Gillaspie will become the first Shocker since Chris O’Brien in 2011 to win the award named for former Shocker Joe Carter.
  • It will be interesting to see how WSU starter A.J. Ladwig is treated on Monday. His ERA is an MVC-leading 1.11 for all games and 1.11 in MVC games, second. Those are All-America numbers, but Ladwig’s 3-6 record may cost him. There are three All-MVC pitchers on the first team and Freeland is a lock. Elam and Illinois State’s Dan Savas are worthy candidates, in addition to Ladwig. The choices get tougher when voters (coaches) look at MVC-only stats. Evansville’s Cole Isom, for example, went 5-2 with a 2.76 ERA for the champion. Elam went 3-1 with a 2.55 ERA.
  • WSU’s lineup on Saturday is one that seemed likely in January. It took the whole season to get there, largely because suspensions and injuries kept it from happening until Saturday. Bayliff, a senior, led off and was followed by most of the experienced hitters – Parker, Gillaspie, Chase Simpson and Tyler Baker. Sophomores Tanner Dearman and Daniel Kihle spent most of the season leading off before slumps forced Butler to look elsewhere. Bayliff hit No. 2 and No. 3 most of the season. On Saturday, Bayliff went 3 for 4, which is enough of a trend for Butler to keep him there in the MVC Tournament. “I really like that position for him,” Butler said. “Bayliff is a patient hitter. You know what you’re going to get from him because of his effort and his toughness.” The move will give the offense a bonus if dropping Kihle lower in the order gets him more fastballs. He’s got extra-base power and speed, but rarely walks.
  • The fourth-seeded Shockers and fifth-seeded Redbirds meet again Tuesday in the tournament. These kind of rematches happen fairly often. Butler reminded the Shockers sweeping Illinois State will mean nothing on Tuesday. No. 1 pitcher Dan Savas threw three innings on Thursday. He won’t be limited on Tuesday. “We took care of business this weekend,” Gillaspie said. “They’re going to come out ready to play in the tournament. They’re going to be a little more fired up.”
  • Can the Shockers win the tournament? They did last season after finishing second and losing their opener. The big difference is the bullpen, which isn’t as deep as last season. The starting pitching is better at the top. This season’s team hits for a lower average, but with more power. Reliever Aaron LaBrie is throwing very well and Foster Vielock is rested after a good outing on Saturday. Ray Ashford and Drew Palmer seem to be the wild cards. WSU will need at least one of them to provide good innings and they’re capable and their MVC stats are better than their overall stats. The Shockers are in good shape if they stay in the winner’s bracket. I see bullpen depth as a problem should they lose.
  • It’s always hard to believe a team can put together a good week unless it’s done it in the regular season. WSU won four straight games to start the season and five in a row in mid-April, three against last-place Southern Illinois. That’s not much to go on and the Shockers will need to summon up consistency missing most of the season this week.  Top seed Evansville has four four-game win streaks. Second-seeded Indiana State won 12 straight early in the season and seven straight before losing Sunday to Bradley. Third-seeded Dallas Baptist enters the tournament winners of five in a row and also boast streaks of eight, six and five wins.
  • We spent most of the season bemoaning WSU’s offense and its inability to move runners, make productive outs and hit with runners in scoring position. WSU isn’t much different than most MVC teams. Over 21 Valley games, the Shockers ended up with the second-highest batting average (.269), highest slugging percentage (.406), most home runs (18) and walks (101), the second-highest on-base percentage (.378), and third-most runs (112). By the numbers, WSU owns one of the top two or three offenses in the Valley and all those frustrating games are at least partially a product of good pitching and BBCOR bats.
  • Missouri State is the last road team to win back-to-back tournaments, in 1996 and 1997 at Eck Stadium.
  • The regular-season was a disappointment for a team picked first and a roster loaded with experience. Injuries and suspensions played a role. Too many players took a step back from 2013 and too few improved. However, it’s worth pointing out that WSU played a schedule much tougher than 2013 (No. 53 vs. No. 125) and played in an MVC ranked No. 6 (up from No. 15). The Shockers finished two games out of first and one out of second.

Up next: vs. Illinois State, 8 a.m. Tuesday (MVC Tournament)