With Wichita State guard Demetric Williams, we see that success in college basketball rarely comes in a straight line.
Williams improved throughout his freshman season, ending with a strong run in the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament. He appeared ready to challenge for the starting point guard job. Clevin Hannah, the man to replace, said Williams could be a stronger, faster version of himself.
"I knew losing Clev was a big key," Williams said. "When you lose a good point guard like that, there's always questions about who's going to step in that role. I put a lot of pressure on myself that I had to make the right plays right away instead of letting it come to me and just play."
So Williams' path took a detour. By trying too hard, he struggled from the start this season. He committed five turnovers in the opener against Texas Southern and four against Chaminade. At times, coach Gregg Marshall couldn't trust him to dribble against pressure defense. His playing time declined. He sat out games against Nicholls State and Alabama A&M for a combination of basketball and off-the-court reasons.
"It was just some stuff with coach that we talked about, some personal stuff," he said. "It gets your mind right, sitting down and watching and observing what's going on. When you get out there, you want to not do the same mistakes that everybody else is doing. It helps."
In MVC play, Williams is back on the right path. He scored 10 points in last week's win over Drake. In four MVC games, he handed out seven assists with three turnovers and made 8 of 13 shots.
"His priority is, run our team, and give us a chance to win," Marshall said. "What I mean by that is, don't turn the ball over and get us in some semblance of an offense."
When Williams does that, he adds more depth to a Shocker team already deeper than most. Williams can play both guard spots. He can use his quickness and size to play good defense — Marshall used him to help cool off Drake's Rayvonte Rice in the second half. He is a good shooter who can also drive to the basket.
"I'm just not putting a whole lot of pressure on myself," Williams said. "Play defense and let the offense come to me, just ease my way into the game."
Ready to run — WSU starts its defense of the MVC indoor track and field titles this week in the Herm Wilson Classic at the Heskett Center.
Field events begin at 5 p.m. Wednesday. The meet resumes at 10:30 a.m. Thursday for its final day. Oral Roberts, Sam Houston State and Emporia State will join WSU.
The Shocker women won the MVC title in 2010 with a star system, and many of those athletes return. The WSU men won their first indoor title with a deep team.
"This year, our women are going a little more toward an overall team," assistant coach John Wise said. "We kind of come at you from all over the place in the men's — we were so deep we were redshirting some guys."
The strength of the women's team starts with its distance runners. WSU added Aliphine Tuliamuk, a transfer from Iowa State, this semester. She finished 13th in the NCAA cross country championship, three spots ahead of WSU senior Tonya Nero. Nero won the mile and the 5,000 meters at the MVC indoor last February.
Tuliamuk, a sophomore from Kenya, came to WSU in part because of its nursing program, Wise said.
"She found us," he said. "Our women's distance runners should really rack up points. We legitimately have two of the top 10 10-kilometer girls in the nation."
WSU also returns junior sprinter Audacia Moore. She won the 200, finished second in the 60-meter dash and fourth in the triple jump at the MVC indoor meet.
The Shocker men are strong in the hurdles, multi-events and sprints. Tyler Simmons leads a good group of jumpers. He won the long jump at 25 feet, 6 1/4 inches to set a school record at the MVC meet. Todd KcKown won the 60 hurdles and finished second in the 200.
The men's distance group has been a weak spot. This semster's arrival of freshman Mathew Komen, also from Kenya, should help.
"That's definitely an area we're trying to improve," Wise said.
Worth noting — WSU will wear its yellow jerseys for tonight's game against Missouri State. Fans are encouraged to wear yellow for the game, televised on ESPNU (Ch. 244).... Northern Iowa is 1-3 after Friday's loss at Indiana State. The Panthers are the first defending champ to fall that hard since WSU started 1-3 in 2006-07.