Wichita State freshman point guard Fred VanVleet knows injury time differs from vacation time. Coach Gregg Marshall doesn’t write a spot for a refresher course into his daily practice schedule.
VanVleet returned to practice Tuesday after missing several practices with a sprained right ankle. He watched or rode a stationary bike and treated the time like a class. He needed to learn.
“He didn’t stop practice when I got back to teach me what I should have already been paying attention to,” VanVleet said.
VanVleet sat out Shocker Madness and last week’s scrimmage with South Dakota State. He wants to be healthy for the start of the season. WSU plays Pittsburg State in an exhibition on Monday. Its opener is Saturday against North Carolina Central, followed by a trip to Virginia Commonwealth three days later.
“That was big, having a couple rest days,” he said.
It isn’t easy for a freshman to keep pace. VanVleet believes he made the best of his bad situation. Watching gave him a different perspective. Marshall’s directions became more clear when decoupled from an immediate need to dribble, run, pass and defend.
“You see things, kind of, in the bigger picture,” VanVleet said. “When you’re out there on the court, there’s so much going on. When you’re sitting on the side, you get to slow it down and it makes a lot more sense.”
Playing point guard is tough for almost every freshman. WSU’s offensive system is probably more challenging than most. The Shockers will often call three plays ahead during a timeout or break in action. Marshall will give the guard the plays and then the player tells his teammates. Marshall believes that system makes his team harder to scout and combats crowd noise that can make communication difficult.
The point guard is responsible for all the moving parts.
“At the end of the day, if you’re running the wrong play, it’s on you running the show,” VanVleet said. “I feel like I’m adjusting to that part well. It’s just having to do it when the bright lights are out there.”
Scheduling or bust — The men’s basketball BracketBusters series is a divisive issue with fans, coaches and administrators.
Some think it’s a waste to devote a late-February weekend to playing an undetermined opponent of sometimes-questionable quality. Others think the exposure on ESPN’s networks and matchups such as Wichita State’s games with George Mason and VCU make it worthwhile.
The future is murky, especially since the Colonial Athletic Association no longer participates. That removes one of the event’s top conferences. Missouri Valley Conference commissioner Doug Elgin said MVC schools are contractually obligated through the 2016 season to continue.
“We’ve had some frank discussions about the event, not only the participating conferences, but along with ESPN,” he said. “We have lost some key teams from the event. Butler and VCU, to name two, have left and are no longer in BracketBusters conferences.”
Moving the date has been discussed. A switch to November or December might conflict with ESPN’s college football schedule. Elgin said conferences like a weekend in January or earlier February to avoid disrupting conference races late in the season. However, an earlier date may change the weekend’s ability to put teams on display for the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
WSU athletic director Eric Sexton likes BracketBusters’ goals of helping schools with power ratings (RPI) and television time. His ideal for the event is that it helps the Shockers build a strong schedule. He is open to reconfiguring the event, always with that goal in mind.
“We want to make sure it’s still relevant, and I think it will be,” he said.
The MVC’s four-season challenge series with the Mountain West Conference ends this season. It will not take place in 2013-14, but Elgin said the conferences are discussing a return for 2014-15 and beyond.
The Mountain West’s membership changed dramatically since the series started. Schools such as Utah, BYU and San Diego State moved on. Nevada, Fresno State, Utah State and San Jose State are in or on their way. UNLV, New Mexico, Colorado State, Air Force and Wyoming remain from its original membership.
One knee injury away — The Austin Toros of the NBDL made former Shocker Toure Murry the No. 15 pick in Friday’s draft.
Murry is back in the United States after briefly playing with teams in Turkey and Israel. The Toros are affiliated with the NBA’s San Antonio Spurs.
Murry is one of several familiar names drafted. The Iowa Energy took Creighton’s Kenny Lawson and the Canton Charge took Northern Iowa’s Jordan Eglseder.
Think spring — WSU announced its baseball schedule on Friday with one familiar name absent.
However, Nebraska isn’t going the way of Arkansas and Oklahoma, two traditional rivals no longer in the rotation. The Huskers and Shockers couldn’t fit a game in this season. The series resumes in 2014 at Eck Stadium. WSU won last season’s game in Lincoln, 13-2.
“They’re great to work with,” WSU assistant coach Brent Kemnitz, who handles scheduling, said, “We want to play them. They want to play us.”
• WSU also released its 2013 softball schedule last week. The Shockers open the home season against NCAA runner-up Oklahoma on March 6. They start the season in the Mardi Gras Classic in Monroe, La. on Feb. 8. WSU will face NCAA champion Alabama on Feb. 16 in the Florida Gulf Coast Spring Tournament. MVC play begins March 16 against Indiana State at Wilkins Stadium.