Wichita State lives by the theory that a good point guard can always find a way to help, even if he isn’t always playing point guard.
Tuesday’s win at Virginia Commonwealth again proved the worth of playing more than one guard who can serve as a primary ball-handler. Last season’s team did the same thing. On Wednesday, the first day of the signing period, WSU added to its list of point guards, ensuring future teams will possess that versatility.
WSU (2-0) opens play in the Cancun Challenge against Western Carolina (1-1) on Thursday at Koch Arena.
On Tuesday, WSU handled VCU’s feared pressure defense in Tuesday’s 53-51 win with Malcolm Armstead handling the ball most of the time. But he got help from Demetric Williams and Ron Baker for critical stretches in the second half. Williams is primarily a point guard who also plays off the ball. Baker is a shooting guard who learned to play the point this fall when injuries sidelined other guards. With those three, and freshman Fred VanVleet in small doses, handling the ball, WSU committed only four second-half turnovers.
“Multiple point guards,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “They went small and we kind of countered them with our small lineup at times. More good ball-handlers helps you.”
Last season, Joe Ragland played the main role of point guard. Williams helped. So did Toure Murry. Their skills gave WSU three starters who could run the break and run the offense. This season, Armstead gets help from Williams and VanVleet, with Baker an improved passer and leader after practicing as point guard.
When the Shockers didn’t give up turnovers, or the easy baskets turnovers often create, the Rams couldn’t put together scoring runs. WSU robbed VCU of its main source of power and momentum.
“First of all, they have very good ball-handlers and passers,” VCU coach Shaka Smart said. “Secondly, they play a lot of them at one time. Thirdly, we were half a half-step slow in some of our traps and some of our rotations.”
The Shockers are working on it. Wednesday, guards Rian Holland and D.J. Bowles announced their signings with WSU via their Twitter accounts. So did center Shaq Morris of Edmond (Okla.) Memorial. WSU also expects a signature from Chipola (Fla.) College forward Earl Watson.
WSU coaches cannot comment on recruits until they receive the signed letters of intent.
Holland, from South View (N.C.) and Bowles, from Oldsmar (Fla.) Christian fit WSU’s plan of using guards with a combination of skills. Holland (6-foot, 140 pounds) can handle the ball well enough to lead the offense and score enough to play off the ball. Bowles (6-2, 185) is a true point guard.
“Their style of play fit my game,” Bowles said. “I’m a point guard that can score and get my teammates involved.”
ESPN.com recruiting analyst Dave Telep calls Bowles a player well-suited to the Missouri Valley Conference. He sees Bowles teaming with VanVleet to give WSU good depth at point guard for the future.
“D.J. is really the consumate kind of setup guy,” Telep said. “He’s a guy who has the aptitude and the ability to run your team. He’s a rock-solid mid-major player, good decision-maker.”