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Shocker basketball hopes size is back

  • Published Saturday, April 28, 2012, at 11:44 p.m.

Cue the Canadian flags in the Wichita State student section. Perhaps basketball fans will learn the words to “O Canada.”

“I hope we don’t have to drop the puck,” Shocker coach Gregg Marshall said.

Now that all the Canada references are out of the way, let’s get to basketball. Marshall added two junior-college recruits to his team this spring, both from Canada. Wing Nick Wiggins (6-foot-6, 190 pounds) grew up in Toronto. Center Chadrack Lufile (6-9, 260) is from Burlington, Ontario.

Their additions, along with the return of forward Carl Hall, allow Marshall to take a first look at the 2012-13 Shockers. Hall, the Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year, received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA on Friday.

“We’re going to be a team that has good size again,” Marshall said. “We’re going to be a team that should be able to defend. We’ve got to make sure we can score. Nick Wiggins is a guy that can score.”

Wiggins averaged 17.3 points and made 40 percent of his three-pointers as a sophomore at Wabash Valley (Ill.) College. He was named to the 12-man NJCAA Division I All-Tournament team. Lufile seconds Marshall’s assessment of Wiggins’ game. The two were teammates at an earlier junior-college stop.

“He is a really athletic power guard,” Lufile said. “He can from anywhere.”

Lufile averaged 11.6 points and 8.4 rebounds for Coffeyville Community College and earned second-team All-Jayhawk Conference and All-Region VI honors.

Marshall considers Lufile a post player, meaning WSU, at least on paper, again can consider size an asset. Ehimen Orukpe (6-11) is a defensive force. Hall (6-8) averaged 8.4 points and 5.0 rebounds in his first season at WSU. Lufile said his goal is to follow in Hall’s footsteps as the Valley’s top newcomer.

“I can do those things,” he said. “I want to make things big for me and the team.”

While Lufile is big, Marshall and Coffeyville coach Jay Herkelman consider him agile enough that he is not the locked into the lane. Lufile uses a jump hook to score often, and isn’t afraid to shoot from 15 feet.

“(Lufile) can really run,” Marshall said. “He can really move defensively. He can rebound.”

Lufile wants to improve his conditioning. He also knows free throws are an issue. He made 43.2 percent (63 of 146) at Coffeyville.

“It was my first college season, and I was off a little,” he said. “I think I can get better.”

Lufile didn’t get serious about the sport until his junior year in high school. Before that, he considered his games to be soccer and Canadian football, where he played quarterback and receiver. He knew Wiggins by reputation in those days. Then they met as freshmen at Vincennes (Ind.) University. Both left Vincennes for other junior colleges, but they remain good friends.

“We’ve always had a thing about playing together in Division I basketball,” Lufile said. “It’s funny how things happen.”

Adding them up — Marshall is finished recruiting for next season. That doesn’t mean the roster is set.

With six returners, seven recruits and scholarships for Ron Baker and Malcolm Armstead (both walk-ons in 2011-12), WSU is at 15 scholarships. That is two more than the 13 allowed.

Marshall said the scholarship situation will become clear soon, perhaps by the end of the school year.

“We’ve got a couple things pending,” he said. “We certainly haven’t resolved anything.”

What the MVC missed — If the MVC had welcomed Dallas Baptist as an affiliate member in baseball, the Patriots would lead the conference with a No. 35 power rating (RPI), five spots ahead of Missouri State entering the weekend.

The MVC would have five schools in the top 65 of the RPI. That would be more than the Big 12 (which has three in top 50 and six in the top 100) or Conference USA (three in the top 30 and five in the top 90) and equal to the Big Ten.

That would be a good thing for MVC baseball, just as WSU coach Gene Stephenson said. However, with schools such as Illinois State uncertain about travel and adding such a threat, the Valley sent mixed signals to Dallas Baptist. The Patriots, with no guarantee of an invitation from the MVC, joined the Western Athletic Conference to fit with three other Texas schools.

This season, Dallas Baptist is playing seven of the eight MVC schools in an agreement intended to serve as a prelude to affiliate membership. The Shockers won’t play DBU next season, but Stephenson would like to in the future.

“They are an outstanding program, and I want it said that Wichita State was the strongest voice of all wanting to get them in the league,” he said. “I thought it would help our league tremendously.”

Ready to run — Stephenson is also done recruiting, at least until the draft rearranges his roster in early June. Shortstop Tanner Dearman signed with WSU last week. Stephenson sees him as a player who might work as a leadoff hitter.

“Hopefully, he’ll be a throwback player,” Stephenson said. “Meaning, he’ll be a guy who plays hard every day, gets on base, creates opportunities when he does get on base.”

Dearman, who hits left-handed, started at shortstop for Anadarko (Okla.) for four seasons and hit leadoff for three. In Anadarko’s first 28 games, he hit .437 with a.524 on-base percentage and a .667 slugging percentage. He has 25 steals in 28 attempts.

“He’s not a very big guy (5-8),” Stephenson said. “As he gets stronger, he will be developing into a really good hitter and an excellent baserunner and an excellent defender.”

First choice — WSU’s men’s golf team will enjoy home-state advantage when the Valley championship begins Monday in Hutchinson.

Not that the Shockers need it.

WSU is the unanimous favorite to win the title at Prairie Dunes Country Club. The Shockers won the past four and 10 in the past 15 seasons. MVC coaches gave them all nine first-place votes and 81 points. Missouri State’s 72 points make the Bears the top challenger.

Teams play 36 holes Monday and 18 on Tuesday. The winner earns an automatic bid to an NCAA Regional.

WSU is No. 37 nationally in golfstat.com’s head-to-head rankings. Missouri State is No. 143.

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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