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Stutz serves more than the middle of the Shocker lane WSU’s Stutz proves value as teammate as well as center

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, March 12, 2012, at 11:44 p.m.
  • Updated Tuesday, March 27, 2012, at 4:41 p.m.

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Shockers vs. VCU, what happens?


VCU vs. Wichita State

When: 6:15 p.m. Thursday

Where: Rose Garden Arena, Portland, Ore.

Records: VCU 28-6, WSU 27-5

Radio: KNSS, 1330-AM

TV: KWCH, Ch. 12

Big and bigger

WSU center Garrett Stutz moved himself into select company with his 2011-12 season. How his performance compares to top Shocker centers:

•  Stutz did his best work in MVC games, averaging 16.6 points, 9.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks while making 57 percent of shots and 87.5 percent of his free throws. He finished second in MVC Player of the Year voting to Creighton forward Doug McDermott and totaled 11 double-doubles, most by a Shocker since Steve Grayer also had 11 in 1988-89.

•  Paul Miller earned MVC Player of the Year and honorable mention AP All-America honors in 2006 by leading the Shockers to the Valley title and the NCAA Tournament. He averaged 13.1 points and 6.6 rebounds.

•  Sasha Radunovich averaged 14.1 points and 7.2 rebounds and made 12 three-pointers as a junior in 1987-88. He earned All-MVC honors. When Radunovich graduated, Grayer moved to center and enjoyed an All-MVC season in 1989, averaging 14 points and 8.3 rebounds.

•  Cliff Levingston led the MVC in rebounding as a junior while playing center after manning a forward spot early in his career. He averaged 13.9 points and 10.2 rebounds in 1981-82.

•  Bob Elmore led the MVC in rebounding three straight seasons, topping out at 15.8 in 1976-77. Elmore also averaged 13.8 points and blocked 2.5 shots as a senior to earn All-MVC honors.

•  Terry Benton, from East High, set the Shocker standard by averaging 16.8 rebounds during the 1970-71 season on his way to team MVP and All-MVC selection. He averaged 16.3 points and recorded seven 20-rebound games, including a WSU record 29 vs. North Texas State.

•  Nate Bowman averaged 12.8 points and earned second-team All-MVC honors in 1963-64.

•  Gene Wiley was coach Ralph Miller’s first intimidating big man and in 1961-62 he averaged 13.0 points and 10.6 rebounds to earn All-MVC honors. Wiley also recorded four triple-doubles that season - points, rebounds and blocked shots.

•  Bob Hodgson averaged 17.5 points and 11.5 rebounds in 1955-56, finishing his career with second-team All-MVC honors.

TOURNAMENT TV

Thursday’s Games

On KWCH, Ch. 12

Colorado St. vs. Murray St., 11:15 a.m.

BYU-Iona winner vs. Marquette, 1:45 p.m.

VCU vs. Wichita St., 6:15

New Mexico St. vs. Indiana, 8:45

On TBS, Ch. 29

Davidson vs. Louisville, 12:40 p.m.

Long Beach St. vs. New Mexico, 3:10

MVSU-W. Kentucky winner vs. Kentucky, 5:50 p.m.

Connecticut vs. Iowa St., 8:10

On TNT, Ch. 30

Montana vs. Wisconsin, 1:10 p.m.

Harvard vs. Vanderbilt, 3:40

West Virginia vs. Gonzaga, 6:20

Loyola (Md.) vs. Ohio St., 8:50

On TruTV, Ch. 64

Southern Miss vs. Kansas St., 11:40 a.m.

N.C.-Asheville vs. Syracuse, 2:10 p.m.

South Dakota St. vs. Baylor, 6:27

Colorado vs. UNLV, 8:57

Friday’s Games

On KWCH, Ch. 12

Texas vs. Cincinnati, 11:15 a.m.

St. Bonaventure vs. Florida St., 1:45 p.m.

Lehigh vs. Duke, 6:15

Xavier vs. Notre Dame, 8:45

On TBS, Ch. 29

Alabama vs. Creighton, 12:40 p.m.

Lamar-Vermont winner vs. North Carolina, 3:10

Saint Louis vs. Memphis, 5:50

LIU vs. Michigan St., 8:20

On TNT, Ch. 30

Virginia vs. Florida, 1:10 p.m.

Norfolk St. vs. Missouri, 3:40

Ohio vs. Michigan, 6:20

S. Florida-California winner vs. Temple, 8:50

On TruTV, Ch. 64

N.C. State vs. San Diego St., 11:40 a.m.

Belmont vs. Georgetown, 2:10 p.m.

Purdue vs. Saint Mary’s (Calif.), 6:27

Detroit vs. Kansas, 8:57

Garrett Stutz and Ben Smith started their contest during Wichita State’s basketball trip to Brazil last summer. They’re basketball players, so you might think shooting contest, or dunking contest.

They’re college students, so you might think eating contest. Or napping contest.

Stutz and Smith squared off to see who could be the best teammate. If Smith saw Stutz encouraging a guy who missed a few shots, Smith tried to top it. If Stutz observed Smith working hard during a tough day in the weight room, he tried to set an even better example.

They kept track of the standings informally. On Sunday, Smith smiled and declared the winner.

“He is,” Smith said. “He’s the winner. He does things so many players don’t do.”

Stutz, a senior center from Kansas City, Mo., values service over self, as WSU athletic director Eric Sexton describes his behavior. Stutz makes helping others part of his routine for the simple reason it makes him feel good. That is why Shocker coach Gregg Marshall describes him as the best teammate.

“Jesus came to serve,” Stutz said. “I’m a man of faith.”

Wichita State had just clinched the Missouri Valley Conference title at Illinois State, and manager Ryan Hillard was leaving the locker room, overloaded with two bulky equipment bags. Stutz offered to help, something Hillard confirms he does regularly.

On trips, Stutz serves sandwiches on the team bus, a job he said he took over after a bad loss when everybody else moped. Now, coaches, teammates, administrators and fans who travel with the Shockers receive their post-game meal from a 7-footer who might play in the NBA.

Last week, 30 cases of nutritional shakes arrived, so it was Stutz who sat in a chair and filled the weight-room refrigerator.

“He doesn’t come off like a senior,” Sexton said. “He has great senior leadership, but he is willing to roll up his sleeves and do what underclassmen ought to do, or underclassmen do in other programs, like unload the planes and hand out sandwiches. He is always giving of himself.”

Strength and conditioning coordinator Kerry Rosenboom doesn’t travel with the Shockers by choice, although that doesn’t diminish his importance to the team. When WSU won the NIT last season, Stutz brought him a piece of the net cut down in Madison Square Garden. When the Shockers cut down the nets in Koch Arena to celebrate their MVC title this season, Stutz pulled Rosenboom out of the crowd and insisted he climb the ladder and take part.

“There’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you,” Rosenboom said.

Stutz doesn’t think he is doing anything extraordinary.

“If I can help somebody, I’m going to do it,” he said.

Stutz also leads in more traditional ways. He is the player who makes sure teammates get to breakfast on time. He is the voice in practice who knows what coaches want. He is the voice in the locker room who can help a slumping teammate get through a tough stretch.

“He sincerely cares about his teammates, not just as players, but as people,” Marshall said. “The quality of person he is transcends into the kind of teammate he is. He’s got a big heart.”

Even the Shocker newcomers fall under Stutz’s protective wingspan.

“I’ve never seen Garrett angry at anybody,” said Joe Mitchell, a junior transfer who is redshirting this season. “He is always encouraging me to get better, go hard, don’t quit, fight through adversity when coaches are yelling at us. It’s very important to know that you’re not alone. Sometimes it seems like you’re the only one getting yelled at. That’s not really the case, and he’s got your back.”

That role of tackling dummy for coaches to bang on verbally is one Stutz embraces. He endured four seasons of practices and film sessions and heard every manner of insult, tease and test from Marshall. He learned to focus on the message, not how the message is delivered. When he describes leading by example, that job is first on his mind.

“Take the brunt of the blow from the coaches,” he said. “I’d rather have them come at me than come at a teammate. When they’re mad and they’re upset, they come at me and I’m fine with that.”

Stutz doesn’t need to say a word to set a good example. He earned All-District VI honors from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and All-Missouri Valley Conference honors after averaging 13.5 points and 8.0 rebounds. He was also named to the MVC’s Most-Improved Team for a second time, an indication of where he came from earlier in his career. This season, playing more minutes, he turned into the centerpiece of WSU’s offense and a key reason observers will move the Shockers along in their brackets this week. Stutz progressed by putting in the hours on the court, in the weight room and in class for four years. Marshall has maintained for four years that Stutz possessed NBA talent, and opposing coaches joined that chorus this season.

He is soft-spoken, but his voices carries on the practice floor and in the locker room. When he speaks, teammates know his words matter because of what he invests in the team.

“He shows how things should be done,” freshman Evan Wessel said. “I’m looking at a senior who does all the right stuff, not just basketball. Taking care of grades. Being a good person.”

That part of Stutz’s legacy is secure. He added to it by helping WSU win the MVC and return to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2006. Thursday’s game against Virginia Commonwealth is his next opportunity.

Shockers 18th, 19th — Wichita State is No. 18 in the Associated Press poll, its first spot in the final ranking of the season since 1983.

The Shockers (27-5) dropped two spots in the poll despite not playing last week. They dropped three spots in the USA Today/ESPN poll voted on by coaches, falling to No. 19.

WSU opens play in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday against VCU (28-6) in Portland, Ore. Rams coach Shaka Smart voted WSU No. 14 his poll. Northern Iowa coach Ben Jacobson voted WSU No. 10.

Check Paul Suellentrop’s Shocker blog at blogs.kansas.com/shockwaves. Reach him at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com.

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