With four starters and eight of the top nine scorers back, chemistry seems to be a natural for the Wichita State men’s basketball team.
For the most part, it is. Everybody knows everybody and the newcomers seem eager to fit in. But every season is different, and the Shockers are going through the normal adjustments in their first week of practice.
“The team chemistry is struggling a little bit,” senior forward J.T. Durley said. “It’s a different way we’re playing, and we’ve got different lineups right now. It’s just like the fifth practice, so we’re going to find out the team chemistry very soon.”
While point guard Clevin Hannah is the lone significant departure from last season’s team, coach Gregg Marshall is plugging in five new scholarship players — three newcomers and redshirt freshmen Tyler Richardson and Jerome Hamilton. The three newcomers — guard Joe Ragland, forward Ben Smith and center Ehimen Orukpe — are junior college transfers. Even the new guys are not new to college basketball.
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“This year, even the guys that are new have played beyond high school,” Marshall said. “They’ve been coached in junior college. They’ve had some better competition than most high school programs. Our guys are picking it up pretty well.”
The Shockers are picking up the defense more quickly than the offense. Marshall said early practices are marked by players shooting too quickly and driving into places where they can be surrounded by defenders.
“Defense is way ahead of the offense,” he said. “A lot of guys are trying to do too much too quickly. That could be because they’re trying to impress coaches.”
The Shockers are trying to play faster on offense, and with a new point guard. So even with seven players with starting experience back, some things feel new. As Ragland and sophomore Demetric Williams get more experience running the team, pieces will fit together more smoothly.
“We’ve got a new point guard, and they’re the person that initiates the offense,” forward Gabe Blair said. “That’s going to take a little bit longer.”
Ellis willing to redshirt — WSU is loaded with big men, perhaps overloaded. Senior forward Aaron Ellis has discussed redshirting this season with Marshall.
The final decision won’t be made until the season draws closer, and could depend on an injury or how other players develop.
“I think it’s possible,” Ellis said. “When the season comes, if that’s something (Marshall) feels is in my best interest and something I still want to do, then that’s what we’ll do. We’ve talked about it a lot.”
Ellis sees an advantage in spending the season working on his shooting and other offensive skills. He started 30 games last season and averaged 3.5 points and 2.9 rebounds.
Keep us on the road — Marshall wasn’t pleased to hear reports that the NCAA might limit summer recruiting.
According to ESPN.com, conference commissioners voted 31-0 in favor of ending the July recruiting period. During two 10-day slots, coaches travel across the country to summer tournaments to watch recruits.
“When are we going to recruit?” Marshall said. “They took April away. Now they’re thinking about taking July away. When are we going to recruit? During the season?”