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Wichita State WSU notes: Post players beginning to attract attention

  • Published Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013, at 3:26 p.m.

Alabama paid Wichita State’s offense a rare compliment on Tuesday. At least twice, the Crimson Tide’s defense double-teamed the Shocker with the ball in the post.

It’s a start. And it is likely to increase as WSU enters Missouri Valley Conference play in January.

WSU’s inexperienced post players haven’t scared teams much up to this point and defenses felt comfortable guarding them with a single player. The emergence of junior Darius Carter in recent games may force a change. Carter, who is averaging 10.7 points over the past three games, scored nine points against Alabama, seven in the second half.

“The post men are starting to get more respect, which is good,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “This is the first time we’ve seem them (double) real aggressively.”

Carter, a 6-foot-7 transfer from Vincennes (Ind.), beat a double team early in the second half by calmly dribbling out and passing across the court to Fred VanVleet. He found Tekele Cotton, who scored on a drive to the basket. Late in the game, Cleanthony Early scored through a double team for a three-point play.

“They doubled Darius once and he did a great job of skipping to the weak side, getting a shot for Tekele,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “I don’t know that he’s ever seen that. He’ll see it in the Valley and it’s something we’ve worked on. He thought it through and he made the right play.”

Baker watched center Garrett Stutz as a redshirt in 2011-12 and Carl Hall the previous two seasons. When centers command a double team, it helps everybody.

“The thing we saw on film, is that we got a wide-open shot after they did it,” Baker said. “Our post men handled it pretty well.”

•  A reminder: Sunday’s game against North Carolina Central begins at 7 p.m. The Dec. 29 game against Davidson was moved to 2 p..m.

That game again — The publicity blitz for a Kansas-Wichita State game started on Monday with a column by Fox Sports Kansas City’s Sean Keeler and continued through the week with a Kansas City Star’s editorial writer agitating for a meeting. Talk radio and several national blogs and internet sites picked up the story.

Marshall said the column came from a 20-minute interview which covered several topics and he did not know it was going to focus on playing Kansas. In the column, Marshall repeated his stance that he would not play at Allen Fieldhouse for a guarantee.

“I had no idea the article was going to be about scheduling KU, and that’s really not something that’s that big a deal to me,” Marshall said. “If we play, we play. If we don’t, we don’t.”

Marshall said he suggested playing in Allen Fieldhouse, Sprint Center and Intrust Bank Arena to Kansas coach Bill Self more than a year ago at an event in Wichita where they and Kansas State coach Bruce Weber appeared.

“I pointed to Intrust Bank Arena and said we should play there,” Marshall said. “It doesn’t matter. It’s not going to happen.”

Rising Arizona — Former Shocker catcher Chris O’Brien will go to spring training with the Dodgers uncertain of his destination in their minor league system. He does know the Dodgers thought enough of him to send him to the Arizona Fall League, where teams place six of their top prospects to fill the rosters for a six-team league.

“You go in there not really understanding the level of competition,” O’Brien said. “In the first half, I struggled. Then I kind of figured the league out. I felt a lot better after that.”

O’Brien hit .213, walking 10 times and striking out 11, in 15 games for the Glendale Desert Dogs. He did finish on an upswing. He hit .265 with a .405 on-base percentage and a .441 slugging percentage in his final 10 games. He hit .318 over the final six games.

“It's a grind,” he said. “A little thing here and little thing there can throw you for a loop. Fix that one little thing and you're right back up. It's a roller coaster ride.”

O’Brien, who spent most of his three minor-league seasons at Class A-Advanced Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.), thinks he fixed his swing and his approach. He hit .195 in 64 games with the Quakes last summer, a drop from .252 in 2012.

“My biggest thing is getting back to what I do well,” he said. “I was trying to pull it too much. I’m more of a middle-of-the-field kind of guy.”

O’Brien, a finalist for the Johnny Bench Award in 2011, is proud of his improvement behind the plate. He played third base and catcher as a freshman and sophomore before his breakout junior season as full-time catcher. In 2011, he hit .410 with 10 home runs and earned Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and several All-American honors. The Dodgers drafted him in the 18th round in June 2011 and he signed that month.

“That's gotten to the point where that's one of the strongest points of my game,” he said. “I feel great defensively. I caught more in pro ball than I did growing up and in college.”

Think spring — The National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association named WSU catcher Tyler Baker and outfielder Garrett Bayliff to its preseason All-America third team.

Baker, a junior from Topeka, hit . 328 with 15 doubles and four home runs last season. Bayliff, a senior from Tuttle, Okla., hit .379 with nine doubles and 11 steals.

•  WSU is ranked No. 34 in Collegiate Baseball’s top 40 preseason ranking. While WSU is waiting on a contract for its game against Missouri at Kauffman Stadium to release its schedule, it will play No. 1 Cal State Fullerton, No. 18 Oklahoma State, No. 22 Arizona State and No. 29 Kansas State. MVC members Dallas Baptist, Illinois State and Missouri State received votes.

Canadian import — The Province newspaper of Vancouver named WSU volleyball signee Shimen Fayad the British Columbia Player of the Year.

Fayad, a 5-10 outside hitter, helped Lambrick Park Secondary to a provincial title and earned MVP honors. University coaches from British Columbia voted on the newspaper’s honor.

“When Shimen takes to the court, she demonstrates a combination of high-level technical ability, along with a combination of strength and power, and that kind of stuff makes the game exciting for fans,” Camosun College coach Chris Dahl told The Province. “I’m convinced that she has the physical attributes to excel on any court or field of play, but we’re clearly thrilled that she has a passion for the sport of volleyball.”

Fayad said she planned to attend school in Canada before her club team opened avenues in the United States. She also considered San Diego State and Northwestern.

“We went (to Wichita State) first, and after that I didn’t go on any other trips,” Fayad told the newspaper. “It just felt like home. The school. The girls. Everything just felt natural.”

Worth noting — WSU men’s players will hold a basketball clinic for children in first through sixth grades from 9-11:30 a.m. Saturday at Koch Arena. An autograph session follows. Cost is $40 before Wednesday and $50 on the day of the clinic. For information call 316-978-3252.… Bradley let fans vote on a start time for its Feb. 9 men’s basketball game against Evansville. Using Twitter, fans voted for 1 p.m., 3 p.m. or a write-in time. The fans chose 3 p.m.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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