Wichita State senior Gabe Blair didn't like sitting by coaches during Wednesday's exhibition game against Newman. From that perspective, however, he noticed the same things they did.
The Shockers need to eliminate unnecessary mistakes in tonight's season-opener against Texas Southern at Koch Arena. Not only is tonight important because it's the first game, it serves as WSU's tune-up before playing Connecticut in the Maui Invitational on Monday.
"It was obvious that turnovers and passing and catching was something we need to focus on more," Blair said. "Little things make championship teams, and coaches tell us we want to be a championship team. We've got to pay attention."
Blair, who missed the 80-62 win over NCAA Division II Newman with a fractured vertebrae, said he will play tonight.
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"I'm 100 percent," he said.
Blair's performance in practice backs up that assessment. The Shockers can survive without Blair against the weaker opponents, but need him to play well when they travel to Hawaii.
"He looks great," assistant coach Chris Jans said. "He's energetic, athletic, quick to the ball."
The coaches spent recent practices hammering home the importance of those little things. The Shockers committed 19 turnovers against Newman.
"It's tough to win basketball games when you do that — that's 19 or 20 shots that we didn't even shoot," senior forward Aaron Ellis said.
WSU played 10 players 10 or more minutes against Newman, which contributed to the uneven play. Practices are also littered by too many mistakes.
"It's become somewhat of an epidemic," Jans said. "We've really stressed valuing the basketball and making good decisions. We're trying to curb throwing it to the other team."
Many of the problems stem from players trying to do too much and rushing. That can lead to bad shots and turnovers.
"We're trying to hit home runs instead of singles," Jans said. "The goal of any offense is to get a good shot. You have to trust the offense and trust your teammates."
Drake defeated Texas Southern 60-46 on Saturday. The Tigers are without Southwestern Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year Travele Jones, who averaged 13.7 points and 5.9 rebounds last season. Jones, a senior forward, is sidelined by NCAA issues.
Texas Southern improved from 7-25 in 2009 to 17-16 last season. Coach Tony Harvey, a former assistant at Missouri, brought in transfers Kevin Galloway and Harrison Smith to give the Tigers another boost. Galloway, a 6-foot-7 guard, played 10 minutes a game during the 2008-09 season at Kentucky. He started his college career at Southern Cal in 2006-07 before transferring to the College of Southern Idaho. He did not play last season. Smith, a 6-foot-2 guard, played in 35 games over three seasons at Texas before transferring.