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Salt Lake notes: WSU’s Armstead draws all kinds of attention

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, March 22, 2013, at 7:38 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, August 25, 2013, at 9:02 a.m.

— Wichita State guard Malcolm Armstead brought his bag of trick shots to the NCAA Tournament. Off the glass. With the left hand. Three-pointers off the dribble to catch the defender off guard.

Coach Gregg Marshall trusts them all.

“I told Malcolm, ‘I trust your shot maybe more than you do,’ ” Marshall said. “When you’re open, you’ve got to shoot it. If they’re going to go under ball screens, you’ve got to shoot. He’s really in a nice rhythm now, and he’s not just scoring. He’s creating for others.”

If good guard play leads to tournament success, the Shockers are in good shape with Armstead. He opened the NCAAs by scoring 22 points and handing out five assists (one turnover) in Thursday’s 73-55 win over Pittsburgh. In the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament title game, he scored a career-high 28 points and had five assists.

Gonzaga coach Mark Few knows who runs things for the Shockers. Guard Gary Bell is likely to get the defensive assignment.

“We will have a lot of our guys on Malcolm Armstead,” Few said. “It’s not somebody we can guard full-time with one guy. He’s shooting it well from the three-point line and he’s an excellent finisher for his size down there in the lane. He’s a handful and coming in on a roll.”

Armstead, a 6-foot senior, considers himself a passer first and a scorer second. He has eight turnovers in the past seven games, eliminating many of the mistakes that held him back earlier in the season.

“Just being patient and not forcing the issue,” he said. “My teammates do a lot of things to where I don’t have the ball as much. Anytime they can help me down the stretch or throughout the game, that makes it easier.”

Keep on talking — Marshall calls Armstead one of the most interesting players he’s coached, both for his game and his personality.

Armstead is a talker on the court. Late in a non-conference blowout, he told an opponent not to dribble the ball so high, a helpful hint after Armstead picked his pocket earlier in the game.

“I finally said, ‘Malcolm, I’m trying to get your attention and you’re talking to this other kid,’ ” Marshall said. “ ‘What are you telling him?’ ”

Armstead said he was trying to help out a younger player.

“The game was already over with, and I was about to come out of the game,” Armstead said. “I just told him good guards don’t dribble the ball that high. They’ll take it every time.”

Marshall also remembers Armstead giving up playing time to freshman Fred VanVleet earlier this season.

“I looked at Malcolm and I said, ‘Are you ready to go in?’ ” Marshall said. “He said, ‘No, let Fred stay in. He’s got a good run going.’ (Armstead) never stops talking. He’s very, very positive. I’m a little more conservative and nervous.”

A precursor? — Marshall cherishes the opportunity to play Gonzaga in the NCAA Tournament. He hopes in the future to play more teams like Gonzaga in the regular season.

"They’re so good and they deserve all of the accolades and all of the praise they receive,’’ Marshall said. "We’re trying to get to that point. We’re trying to be the ones who say to Gonzaga, ’Hey, next time you come to Wichita, play the Shockers. Not Kansas State.’

“But that’s the cachet they have. They’re able to get the game against Kansas State and we can’t. So maybe a win (Saturday) can help us do those things.’’

Gonzaga and Kansas State are playing a regular-season game on Dec. 21 at Intrust Bank Arena. Last season, K-State played West Virginia at Intrust and the school’s athletic officials have expressed a desire in playing a game every other season in Wichita, but so far not against Wichita State.

Maple flavor — Saturday’s third-round game will have a heavy Canadian flavor. Each team has two players from Canada — Nick Wiggins and Chadrack Lufile of WSU and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos.

Even in a country the size of Canada, players are familiar with one another of them because there have been so few in the American college game. At least until recently, a trend that is playing out in the NCAA Tournament, where approximately 30 Canadians are competing this week.

The top recruit of many scouting services is Nick Wiggins’ brother, Andrew, another Canadian who has been a teammate of Pangos.

"He’s my roommate on the national team, and I played against him in high school," Pangos said. "I never played against Nick, I was too young for that. I definitely know the family really well, so for me it will be bragging rights, definitely."

The NBA success of Steve Nash and the broader availability of basketball in Canada has led to a growth in popularity. Nick Wiggins said it has becoming the country’s second-most enjoyed sport, behind hockey.

"It’s definitely grown," Wiggins said. "A lot of good players, a lot of great players are coming out of Canada and basketball has really picked up over the last five or six years. It’s kids actually believing they can make it out of Canada."

Maple flavor — Saturday’s third-round game will have a heavy Canadian flavor. Each team has two players from Canada — Nick Wiggins and Chadrack Lufile of WSU and Gonzaga’s Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos.

Even in a country the size of Canada, players are familiar with one another of them because there have been so few in the American college game. At least until recently, a trend that is playing out in the NCAA Tournament, where approximately 30 Canadians are competing this week.

The top recruit of many scouting services is Nick Wiggins’ brother, Andrew, another Canadian who has been a teammate of Pangos.

"He’s my roommate on the national team, and I played against him in high school," Olynyk said. "I never played against Nick, I was too young for that. I definitely know the family really well, so for me it will be bragging rights, definitely."

The NBA success of Steve Nash and the broader availability of basketball in Canada has led to a growth in popularity. Nick Wiggins said it has becoming the country’s second-most enjoyed sport, behind hockey.

"It’s definitely grown," Wiggins said. "A lot of good players, a lot of great players are coming out of Canada and basketball has really picked up over the last five or six years. It’s kids actually believing they can make it out of Canada."

Worth noting — WSU is 9-10 in NCAA Tournament games. It has never faced a West Coast Conference team in the tournament.… Gonzaga is making its 15th straight NCAA appearance and 16th overall. It is 18-15 in NCAA games.… The Shockers are 1-6 against teams ranked No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. They defeated Cincinnati 65-64 during the 1962-63 season.

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