Chadrack Lufile came to Wichita State with every reason to be behind his teammates in stamina. He is a big guy — 6-foot-9, 255 pounds — and spent June at home completing on-line classwork while the rest of the Shockers practiced.
Lufile, a center from Coffeyville Community College, then impressed coaches by running and running and running some more in his first practice last week. To get at the reason, you need to understand his background. Lufile (loo-FEEL) didn’t start playing basketball until his junior year in high school in Canada. As a youngster he played soccer, so running is ingrained.
“I’ve always been really in shape, because I used to play soccer,” he said. “I just stayed in shape. Whenever I play pickup ball, I make sure I run up and down, hustle for plays, just to get my stamina, my cardio up. A lot of big men don’t really have that.”
Lufile, from Burloak, Ontario, also played quarterback (American rules) in football. In high school, he outgrew soccer and injuries scared him off football. He took a non-traditional route — by American standards — to basketball prominence. He played in the YMCA and in pickup games before landing on his school team at Assumption High.
“I was just kind of finding myself,” he said. “I wasn’t really a person that was into making a sport my profession and going to school on scholarship. Back home, it’s kind of different. We’re not the United States, where we’re brought up that you need to get a scholarship. I just ran into basketball and was kind of good at it. When I got better and better, people started seeing potential in me and guiding me to the right places.”
The right place is now WSU, where Lufile should fill a vital role in the frontcourt. He is a center with good agility who can score around the basket and make mid-range jump shots. Teamed with seniors Ehimen Orukpe and Carl Hall, Lufile gives the Shockers three big bodies.
“If everyone does their little pieces, we’re going to be great,” Lufile said. “I’m all about winning. At the same time, I want to be a pro so I want to learn every aspect of the game.”
Orange out — Cowley College pitcher Drew Palmer thought he locked in his future when he signed with Oklahoma State in November. He loved the idea of playing in the Big 12 and Cowboys coach Frank Anderson enjoys a fine reputation for developing pitchers.
Then OSU fired Anderson and Palmer’s plans changed in mid-June. Anderson signed too many players, meaning new coach Josh Holliday needed to cut recruits loose. Even after a friend got the call, Palmer considered himself safe. Then Palmer got the same news.
“It was a pretty stressful and a wild time,” he said. “I didn’t know they had over-signed people until three days before it happened. That was a shock.”
Palmer rebounded nicely. The day after OSU dumped him, he talked to Shocker pitching coach Brent Kemnitz. The next day, he visited Eck Stadium and decided to sign on. He said several other schools called, with Missouri the one he considered most strongly.
“Brent is probably one of the best in the country at getting guys to the next level,” Palmer said. “He has a tremendous staff each year.”
Palmer, a lefty from Arkansas City, went 8-3 with a 3.62 ERA as a sophomore at Cowley. He struck out 55 and walked 15. As a freshman, he recorded four saves and an ERA of 3.10.
He said he throws a fastball and a cutter, a changeup, a curve and is working on his slider. Palmer is not pitching this summer.
“I wanted to make sure I went in as healthy as I could,” he said.
Moving on — Shortstop Cody Bobbit, another recent addition to the Shocker roster, isn’t a finished product after one season at Heartland (Ill.) Community College.
Heartland coach Nate Metzger says Bobbit’s athletic tools would fit in at any of the nation’s best programs. WSU will need to refine his baseball instincts. Bobbit will be a sophomore at WSU this season and will not play fall ball after undergoing shoulder surgery in late June.
“There’s a big difference between good athletes and a guy who’s a good baseball player,” Metzger said. “He has the baseball player in him. He has to continue to develop and be that guy. He didn’t play as well for us as his tools would indicate.”
Bobbit hit .348 with four home runs and stole 32 bases in 33 attempts for Heartland. WSU coaches saw him during the NJCAA Division II World Series in Enid, Okla. Bobbit was named to the all-tournament team after Heartland finished third.
Bobbit hit leadoff for Heartland and compiled an on-base percentage of .454, walking 35 times and striking out 32. If he can carry that plate discipline to the next level, he could fill a similar role for the Shockers. Focusing on baseball will likely help, Metzger said. In high school, Bobbit played quarterback well enough to earn an offer from Harvard.
“The football thing provides a level of toughness that sometimes is lacking in today’s player,” Metzger said. “It will be interesting to see how the transition goes. He is a guy that certainly has a lot of tools.”
Sexton recognized — Former Shocker football player Linwood Sexton was one of 13 people who recieved the Pioneer Award at the John McLendon Minority Athletics Administrators Hall of Fame reception in Dallas.
Sexton, a running back, was the first African-American to be named All-Missouri Valley Conference three times, earning that honor from 1945-47. He was also the first to earn degree in education at an MVC school. Sexton led the Shockers in total offense in 1946 (1,056 yards) and 1947 (1,104) as a passer and runner. The 1947 team played in the Raisin Bowl. He is the father of WSU athletic director Eric Sexton.
Among the others honored were former Georgetown basketball coach John Thompson and former SMU football player Jerry LeVias, the first African-American scholarship football player in the Southwest Conference.