Middle blocker Jada Witham needed to be convinced she could play volleyball at Wichita State.
Not just a little. A lot. At times, Wichita State coach Chris Lamb still needs to let her know.
"I came in and sat and watched a practice... and I said, 'I honestly don't think I'm good enough to play here,' " Witham said. "When I first came in, I was scared to death of the middles."
That was the spring of 2008, when Witham played for the home-school Wichita Warriors and planned on college at Friends University. Lamb saw her at a tournament late in her senior year and recognized potential. He just had to make her believe.
"It's a paradox; it's the good news and the bad news all at the same time," Lamb said. "The bad news being she needs to believe it. The good news is, it's kind of refreshing ... when players put it all in your hands. But at the end of the day, she needs to believe she is good enough."
Witham convinced Lamb with steady progress as a redshirt in 2008 and as a rarely used freshman in 2009. Now a sophomore, she is pushing for playing time as a middle blocker. Lamb likes his talent in the middle, starting with All-Missouri Valley Conference senior Sarah McGee. After McGee, the middles are young and Witham has a chance to play.
"She can do this," Lamb said. "She's made herself more than relevant in this discussion."
The departure of five seniors opened up spots for many Shockers. Witham knew the Shockers needed her to perform after middles Stephanie Tokarz and Katie Niggemeyer graduated.
"This season I told myself 'It's on,' " she said. "I want this more than anything. You've got to get in there and fight for your position."
Witham (6-foot-3) is stronger, quicker and more savvy after two years of practice. She hits harder and puts herself in the right place more often.
"Definitely stronger — it looked like the wind could knock her over when she got her," senior outside hitter Lindsey Eckenrode said. "When she got here, she would never be the first one to be in a drill. She never wanted to do anything wrong. Now she's the first one to get in and go."
Lamb wants her in the rotation because she uses the entire court to score.
"She's learned how to move (the ball) around the block," he said. "She's much more comfortable in a chaotic environment. When the balls start flying, she's not as confused as she used to be."
Notes — WSU will play a public scrimmage at 4 p.m. Saturday at Koch Arena. Lamb said the format has not been determined.... Oklahoma, WSU's opponent on Aug. 27 in Norman, is picked fourth in the Big 12 preseason poll. Miami (Fla.) is picked fourth in the ACC. The Shockers also play Texas-Arlington in Norman.