The writers and broadcasters who evaluate Wichita State’s men’s basketball team this summer won’t know what to make of guard Evan Wessel.
He started eight games. Few people outside Wichita watched those games. He missed the rest of the season with a broken pinky and didn’t play in the NCAA Tournament. When the national media caught up to the Shockers, Wessel watched from the bench.
Here’s some help: Wessel, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, started those eight games for a reason and he will again play an important role for the Shockers in 2013-14. He resumed practices in early May and his right finger is healed. He’s not a newcomer. Most won’t consider him a returning starter since he didn’t play after early December. Consider him something in between, an addition with two years of experience and three seasons of eligibility (his injury redshirt from last season is approved).
“It’s feeling great and I’m just trying to get in shape for next year and keep working with all the new guys,” Wessel said after a practice last week.
Wessel helped the Shockers to an 8-0 start by making a team-leading 48.5 percent (11 of 24) of his three-pointers to average 5.5 points. He handed out 15 assists with five turnovers. Those numbers indicate he was exactly the kind of player the Shockers missed during their 12-6 Missouri Valley Conference season. Another shooter, especially one who can pass, defend and gobble up loose balls, would have been handy during a stretch in which they went 29 of 102 (28.4 percent) from three-point range over a 3-2 stretch.
Sitting out with a broken pinky didn’t limit Wessel from conditioning. If the summer is about catching up, he doesn’t feel too far behind. He wants to use this time to expand his offensive game by scoring more on drives to the basket and short jumpers. In eight games, he took a mere nine two-point shots and one free throw.
“I’m improving my ball-handling and improving my quickness,” he said. “I feel like I pretty much kept right on pace and from this point on I can improve. I was able to use my left hand all through that time and I feel like I’ve improved a lot as far as ball-handling.”
Skype with Sasha —Former Wichita State women’s basketball player Haleigh Lankster signed a contract with Buducnost Podgorica, a professional team in Montenegro, a European country located on the Adriatic Sea.
As a bonus, she spent 30 minutes on Skype with team owner Sasha Radunovich, a former WSU men’s player. Her season starts in September and continues through May.
“Pretty amazing coincidence,” Lankster said. “They mentioned they had been trying to get a Wichita State student-athlete. This fit perfectly.”
Lankster, the MVC’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2012, spent last season as an assistant coach at her high school, Booker T. Washington in Tulsa. She wanted to play professionally, but didn’t find the right situation. She ended up adding another Oklahoma Class 6A title to her resume, one as a coach to match the one she won as a senior. All along, she continued to work out and play pickup basketball and in a women’s league.
“It made me want to work harder,” she said. “I stayed in shape year round.”
Radunovich, from Yugoslavia, played for WSU from 1985-89 and earned All-MVC honors in 1988.
Big numbers —Former WSU bowler Rocio Restrepo rolled the first 300 of the United States Bowling Congress Women’s Championships last week in Reno, Nev.
Restrepo, 25, rolled the 20th perfect game in tournament history. At WSU, she bowled for the 2007 and 2009 national champions.
Worth noting —WSU hired Kevin Montisano as its assistant men’s tennis coach. Montisano worked as WSU’s graduate assistant from 2011-12. He is from Haven and played at Hutchinson Community College. He replaces Matt Hogan, who is returning to his native country of Australia. Illinois State’s men’s basketball team will start a series with VCU this season, beginning at Richmond Redbirds assistant coach Rob Judson is leaving the program and will receive a $175,000 buyout, according to The Pantagraph. Judson served one season on coach Dan Muller’s staff as a holdover from the Tim Jankovich era. He was a finalist for the job that went to Muller. Bradley outfielder Mike Tauchman, the MVC Player of the Year, was named second-team All-American by Baseball America and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association. Missouri State pitcher Nick Petree earned third-team honors from both. Southern Illinois will break ground on the renovation of Abe Martin Field on June 25. The $4 million project will feature new stands, press box, artificial turf and lights.