Malcolm Armstead made sacrifices to not play basketball at Wichita State last season.
He paid his own way to school, because the Shockers didn’t have a scholarship for him. He worked to help pay bills. He practiced. He watched. He waited.
And, he says, he enjoyed it.
“It wasn’t difficult, because it teaches you patience,” he said. “I had to wait my turn. Now it’s my turn to play. You’ve got to look at the positives.”
The biggest positive this summer is that Armstead, who transferred to WSU from Oregon, is eligible to play after sitting out 2011-12 and he appears to be an important piece of the roster.
The Shockers won the Missouri Valley Conference title last season, in large part, because of an abundance of players with point-guard skills. With Joe Ragland and Toure Murry gone, Armstead (6-foot) is expected to help fill the roles of passer, scorer and defender.
“He’s a pure point guard,” WSU forward Carl Hall said. “He can pass the ball. He fits the ball in spaces you don’t think people can get past. Great court vision.”
Armstead started 52 games in two seasons at Oregon, averaging 10.3 points in 2009-10 and 8.6 in 2010-11 before transferring. He will play his final season of eligibility at WSU.
The Shockers lost nine scholarship seniors the past two seasons, making Armstead one of the most experienced players, even though he has yet to wear a WSU uniform. Four newcomers are on campus now, and Armstead is trying to help their transition. He hosts watch parties for the NBA playoffs.
“In the weight room, they might need a little assistance, a little motivation,” he said. “I’ve been through this a year now. I know what to expect. Just making this team be a brotherhood. If you want something special, it has to be more than just playing with them on the court.”
Armstead’s reputation is that of an annoying defender. He set Oregon’s record for steals with 89 as a junior. WSU coach Gregg Marshall wants Armstead to continue to be aggressive, while improving his defensive fundamentals.
“He’s got really strong hands defensively,” Marshall said. “His strength is stealing the basketball. What I want him to do is steal it, from time to time on the ball, but be a great on-the-ball defender by keeping people in front. That’s at the core of our defense.”
In WSU’s defense, players get steals by keeping their man contained away from the basket. Marshall doesn’t want his defenders giving up position to dribblers.
“You can’t reach every play,” Armstead said. “Before, I would gamble a lot to get a lot of steals. If you play solid defense, good defense, then the offensive player … they will give you the ball, or take a bad shot.”
Armstead is built more like a fullback than a point guard. That power helps him when he can bully dribblers or when he drives in the lane.
However, his weight can be a detriment if he doesn’t maintain good conditioning. Armstead says he weighs around 200 pounds, perhaps five pounds above where he wants to be this season.
“He’s got to keep his body right, keep his body cut up,” Marshall said. “He’s a big, strong, sturdy young man.”