Garrett Stutz's voice is always easy to pick out at Wichita State practices. Perhaps that's because he is 7-feet tall and his deep voice carries over the gym noise. Perhaps it's because what Stutz says usually makes sense.
He is one of those players who knows what a coach wants during practices and knows when teammates need a push. His words should be even more prominent this season.
"He's kind of a coach leader," guard David Kyles said.
Stutz will need to use all his senior savvy to help replace the five seniors who departed after the 2011 season. Stutz's talent and personality give him some unique leadership responsibilities. He is one of coach Gregg Marshall's favorites, as much for his solid off-court ways as his scoring and rebounding.
The Shockers leave today for Brazil for a series of exhibition games in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. It is WSU's first chance to see how it performs without the likes of J.T. Durley and Gabe Blair. Stutz speaks of the importance of leadership when asked how the Shockers will look different in 2011-12.
"We lost a lot of guys that were talking in the locker room and on the court," Stutz said. "I'm going to try to challenge some of my teammates to step up and fill those roles. We'll see how it turns out."
Stutz is comfortable being one of the talkers.
"We've got to have one main voice for the players," he said. "And then we've got to have the other seniors step up and back that main voice."
Stutz didn't practice during WSU's five-session July workouts because of a sprained left ankle. His summer, however, has been filled with basketball. He spent much of a June at Champions Academy, a basketball camp in Indianapolis. The players worked on basketball in the morning and conditioning in the afternoon. Some nights they played pickup games at Butler University.
"It was a great experience," Stutz said. "They developed an all-around game, from mindset to footwork, sight and vision."
Stutz said pros and college players participated. He buddied up with Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward, the former Butler star.
"We spent a lot of time just hanging out and talking," Stutz said.
Around the MVC — Drake heads to New Zealand and Australia for four games on Wednesday.
Coach Mark Phelps' biggest concern is a player who won't play on the trip. Center Seth VanDeest, a junior, tore the labrum in his right shoulder during a summer game. With recovery time estimated at 4-6 months, his season is in question.
"The focus will be on Seth's best interests," Phelps told the Des Moines Register. "If... we're talking about middle to late January, you have to seriously consider if that amount of time is worth burning a season for."
VanDeest averaged 8.8 points and 4.4 rebounds as a sophomore.
* Northern Iowa finishes its exhibition tour of Brazil today. The Panthers improved to 4-0 with a 95-37 win in Rio de Janeiro on Friday.
* Creighton leaves for the Bahamas on Thursday and plays the first of four games on Friday.
* Bradley will play Southeast Missouri State at Rennaissance Coliseum on Nov. 16. It will be Bradley's first game on campus against an NCAA Division I opponent since 1982.
Rennaissance Coliseum is 4,200-seat arena that opened last season. It is the home of Bradley's women's basketball and volleyball teams. Bradley will also play an exhibition game on campus.
The Braves moved games to the downtown Peoria Civic Center for the 1982-83 season.
Opening day — WSU's volleyball teams starts practice on Tuesday.
Its Volleyball 101 dinner is Aug. 20 at Koch Arena. Coach Chris Lamb and players will demonstrates rules and strategies. Cost is $30. For information call 978-5553.
WSU opens the season in the Wahine Invitational in Hawaii against Arizona on Aug. 26.