Ehimen Orukpe returns. Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall thinks it's permanent this time.
"We felt all along this was something that would happen," Marshall said. "He's a pretty loyal kid."
Orukpe's three-year association with WSU tested all kinds of loyalty. He originally signed with WSU in the spring of 2007. However, he was unable to leave Nigeria for more than a year. When he did arrive in the United States, the NCAA refused to make him eligible. Orukpe, a 7-foot center, redshirted last season at Three Rivers Community College.
Through it all, both sides stuck to their word. Orukpe, who spent one summer in Wichita, always maintained he would stick with WSU. Wednesday, a lot of work by the coaching, academic and compliance staffs paid off.
"I really wasn't elated like I thought I would be," Marshall said. "It's been such a long process, it's almost like 'whew' maybe finally he'll get here."
Orukpe, from Lagos, Nigeria, will have three seasons of eligibility at WSU. He averaged six points, five rebounds and seven blocks in Three Rivers' first two games.
Three Rivers coach Gene Bess said tendinitis in his knee and rust are holding back Orukpe.
"He's got an NBA body," Bess said. "His skill level is still minimal. He's going to have to work through some of that stuff."
Marshall realizes Orukpe's shooting, passing and ball-handling talents need help. Defensively, his athletic ability figures to make him a factor quickly.
"He's all of 7-feet, 250 pounds of raw athleticism," Marshall said. "Hopefully, we can develop him offensively."
Hannah decision soon — Marshall said he expects to know guard Clevin Hannah's fate today or Friday.
Hannah, a senior, sat out Saturday's exhibition game because WSU discovered he was not certified as an amateur with the NCAA during the 2008-09 season, his first at WSU.
Marshall again described the issue as a "paperwork" problem neglected by the athletic department.
"We're hoping for the best," Marshall said. "There could possibly be several games missed, but no more than that."
Beginning in 2007, the NCAA required all Division I and Division II athletes be certified as amateurs. WSU failed to complete that process for Hannah, as well as baseball player Taylor Gilmore.
"He's like me, he's helpless," Marshall said. "We have to go through the process with the NCAA and see how that turns out."
The Shockers open the season on Sunday, Hannah's birthday, against Fairleigh Dickinson. Marshall said he is preparing with and without Hannah, who is able to practice. Toure Murry started at point guard in Saturday's exhibition in place of Hannah. Freshman Demetric Williams, junior Graham Hatch and sophomore David Kyles are also working at point guard.
"We've got to get those other guys ready anyway," Marshall said.
Blair out — Junior forward Gabe Blair missed practice for a third straight day because of the flu. Blair, a transfer who sat out last season, played 19 minutes in Saturday's exhibition game.
"He needs to be in practice," Marshall said. "Hopefully, we'll have Gabe back by 3 p.m. on Sunday."
Blair's absence could leave WSU short on inside players. Sophomore Mason Felter, a walk-on, is academically ineligible for the first semester and freshman Jerome Hamilton will redshirt. That leaves J.T. Durley, Garrett Stutz and Aaron Ellis as WSU's inside players.