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Cotton gets some time in Shockers’ point guard role

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, March 1, 2014, at 6:33 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, March 15, 2014, at 9:53 p.m.

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WHAT DO YOU THINK?

How does Wichita State fare at the MVC Tournament in St. Louis?


Take these four seconds as a lesson about what happens when the bottom falls out at point guard for No. 2 Wichita State.

There’s 14:17 remaining in Saturday’s 68-45 win over Missouri State.

First, shooting guard Ron Baker picks up his third foul. He’s going to the bench.

Everything’s OK, though, because Naismith Award finalist Fred VanVleet is still out there. And he’s one of the best point guards in the country.

Fast forward to 14:13, and VanVleet picks up his third foul. Now he’s going to the bench.

Time to panic? Time to scramble and abandon the offense for some convoluted form of motion basketball?

Hardly.

“Next man up,” VanVleet said. “We have plenty of players that can take care of the ball-handling responsibilities. We’re deep in that regard and lucky that we’ve got multiple guys that can make plays if they’re put in that spot.”

So while you’re looking for weaknesses in the Shockers’ 31-0 regular season, this might not be where to start.

Baker is the de facto point guard when VanVleet needs rest or gets in foul trouble. But when both he and VanVleet are out the ball first goes to 6-foot-2 junior Tekele Cotton, whose first action on Saturday with the ball in his hands and the two WSU stars sitting was to use a burst of speed to blow past his man near halfcourt and drive the lane for a layup and a foul he converted into a three-point play that gave the Shockers a 52-32 lead.

“I played a lot of point guard my first year here, so I have some experience in that situation,” Cotton said. “It’s not my first position, but I can fill that role if I need to. (WSU coach Gregg Marshall) wants us to push the ball whenever we’re in, so that’s the first thing on my mind, to push it any chance I get.”

Cotton isn’t the only one the Shockers can turn to in a pinch. Sophomore guard Evan Wessel can also handle the ball, as can senior guard Nick Wiggins.

“Fred and Ron get in foul trouble, you’ve got to pick them up and Tekele did a good job running the point,” Wessel said. “I can handle it, other people can handle it ... we all work on it every day in practice. I feel confident with the ball in my hands, but it’s not just me.”

The Shockers had the combination of Cotton, Wessel and Wiggins on the court from the 14:13 mark until 8:37 left, when VanVleet came back in for Wiggins. Baker replaced Wessel half a minute later.

And when the two did come back in, not a whole lot had changed. The Shockers were still up big — 56-35 — and had sustained whatever final burst of energy the Bears may have had to try and make it a game.

And just because VanVleet was sitting didn’t mean he wasn’t involved. Or looking for ways to help his team — he finished with a game-high seven assists.

“I get to see things differently when I’m on the bench,” VanVleet said. “I try to help them out whenever there’s a break and I’m seeing things for myself, things I might be able to do that can help the team when I get back in.”

Reach Tony Adame at 316-268-6284 or tadame@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @t_adame.

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