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Commentary Bob Lutz: Lufile is making a name for himself

  • Published Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013, at 11:16 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013, at 8:43 a.m.

From here on, it’s Chadrack Lufile.

Not C.J.

Lufile, Wichita State’s blossoming 6-foot-9, 265-pound center, was named after a character from the Bible. His father is a minister and the other Lufile boys are named Meshack, Abednego and Elijah, Hebrew names from the Book of Samuel.

Their Biblical brother is actually Shadrack — with an S — but we’ll address that difference later.

For now, let’s all call this kid Chadrack because it’s such a great name and because it fits him so well. Initials just do not do him justice. He just looks like a Chadrack.

“People call me C.J. because they have trouble pronouncing my name,” said Lufile, who continued his breakthrough season Saturday night with 14 points and seven rebounds in the Shockers’ 71-58 win over Oral Roberts at Koch Arena. “But Chadrack is my name and I live up to it and praise God for every situation because God knows I’ve been working so hard on my game.”

And it shows.

Last season, nobody bothered to check much into Lufile’s first name because he was used so sparingly. He played in 30 games, but never for long. His averages of 1.6 points and 1.8 rebounds rightly indicate his spot at the end of Wichita State’s bench.

But Lufile is easily the most-improved Shocker player and in his past five games he has 42 points and 33 rebounds. In WSU’s two most recent games, against Saint Louis and ORU, he is averaging 13 points and 7.5 rebounds.

He went into this season facing stern competition for playing time at center from newcomers Kadeem Coleby and Darius Carter and has cleared the way for about 18 minutes per game.

“Last season was just motivation for me to get better this year,” Lufile said. “Everything negative that happens is something that I take as a positive so that I can get better for this team and also for me.”

The Shockers (9-0) had another lackluster first half Saturday night and trailed ORU by eight at intermission.

But it was Lufile and senior forward Cleanthony Early who jump-started Wichita State in this one, scoring 12 of the team’s first 14 second-half points. It took the Shockers less than four minutes to take the lead and they didn’t let it slip away.

For Lufile, his improvement has been a matter of confidence. He never quite felt he belonged last season so he failed to take advantage of the limited opportunies he was given.

“Now I am much more confidence and it comes from my coach (Gregg Marshall) being confident in me,” Lufile said. “He looks at me now and sees an option. He just wants me to rebound the ball, play hard and handle my business. And this team has that brotherhood together. We’re playing Shocker basketball.”

Lufile is one of the most popular Shockers with teammates, which is evident every time he plays. When he does something good, they rush to him with pats on the back and some extra fist on those fist bumps.

“He’s our energy,” sophomore guard Fred VanVleet said. “He’s a jokester, just a really funny guy, man. We love him to death because he’s such a character and we’re loving his energy right now.”

It wasn’t just about points and rebounds for Lufile on Saturday, either. He was switched from the paint to defend ORU’s Shawn Glover for much of the second half.

Marshall wanted a bigger body contesting the 6-7 Glover, who had 14 first-half points on 6-of-12 shooting. In the second half, though, Glover was held to eight points and made just 3 of 10.

Scoring and rebounding is dandy, but if you start defending like that, Marshall hands out gold stars and increased playing time.

Marshall wouldn’t bite when asked how he thought the battle for playing time at center would work out or who he thought might have an edge.

“I don’t think that’s fair because that’s why we have practice,” Marshall said. “We want guys to show what they can do in practice.”

Oral Roberts coach Scott Sutton thought the Golden Eagles might have an edge inside after watching tape of the Shockers. Instead, Wichita State’s big guys won in a TKO.

Lufile, Coleby and Carter combined for 31 points and 18 rebounds in 54 minutes.

“I told Chadrack after the game that I wished we had him because he’d make us a whole lot better,” Sutton said. “Their bigs really manhandled ours. He’s just a tough player. Tough and strong.”

“Chadrack” is a tough, strong name. And it’s the one Lufile prefers, no matter how much easier “C.J.” rolls off the tongue.

Marshall referred to Lufile as “C.J.” a few times after Saturday’s game. But he indicated later that he was willing to go with “Chadrack.”

So did VanVleet, who also gets caught up in the “C.J.” thing.

“I do agree that ‘Chadrack’ is a great name,” VanVleet said. “And he’s been doing a great job for us.”

Reach Bob Lutz at 316-268-6597 or blutz@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @boblutz.

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