Wichita State’s men’s basketball team is wrapping up its summer court and class work with the same 13 scholarship players it started with. Earl Watson, a junior-college forward, has not been with the team and coach Gregg Marshall is not optimistic that he will qualify academically.
“It’s going be hard,” Marshall said. “There’s an academic class he’s got to finish up to have the number of hours to be admissible to school. The ball is in his court.”
Watson said he is planning on being a Shocker. He said he will learn next week if his work in his math class is satisfactory.
“I’m taking care of it right now,” he said.
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Should Watson not get eligible, the Shockers will be at the NCAA limit of 13 scholarship players. Watson, a 6-foot-7, 240-pound junior-to-be, averaged 9.5 points and 6.4 rebounds for Chipola (Fla.) College. Whether or not Watson arrives, the Shockers will face the 2013-14 season with a group of big men that lack the experience of recent rosters. There are no four-year Shockers such as J.T. Durley or Garrett Stutz, or even a player with three years of time in the uniform such as Ehimen Orukpe. WSU isn’t lacking size, with four players available for a post rotation in senior Kadeem Coleby (6-9), senior Chadrack Lufile (6-9), junior transfer Darius Carter (6-7) and 6-8 freshman Shaq Morris. Coleby, a transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette who redshirted last season, is the likely starter at center. He will get an early start on the season by playing six games in Lithuania as part of an Athletes in Action tour in mid-August. Senior Cleanthony Early, a returning starter, will take up most of the minutes at power forward. He sat out several practices with ankle and shoulder injuries this summer, none considered serious. Carter, an NJCAA All-American at Vincennes (Ind.) University, will also play that position.
Lufile is the only player in the post group with game experience at WSU. He played sparingly last season and used the summer to show Marshall he can help more in his final season. Lufile, who transferred from Coffeyville Community College, averaged 1.6 points and 1.8 rebounds in 30 games as a junior.
“(Chadrack) has shown some improvement, which you would expect his second year,” Marshall said. “He’s understanding how we want to play and being more productive.”
Lufile possesses the size and strength to help off the bench. Adjusting to Division I basketball and grabbing minutes from seniors Orukpe and Carl Hall proved difficult last season. Like many transfers, he often tried to play too fast and do too much and found himself out of position. He contributed most significantly in a win over Charleston Southern (eight points, 12 rebounds) and with 10 rebounds in a win over Northern Colorado.
“I had to prove to (Marshall) I would be able to play in his system,” Lufile said. “I had to show him every day that I am able do what he asked or still showing signs of progress throughout the summer.”
Lufile knows that defense and rebounding are his best paths to more playing time. The Shockers own plenty of scorers, even with the loss of Hall and guard Malcolm Armstead. On offense, Lufile must stick to his role as a screener and rebounder and score when the opportunity presents itself.
“My offensive game is getting polished a little bit more to be where I can be more of an option,” he said. “I’m not really worried about that. I’ve got to work on playing team defense and blocking out.”
The Shockers ended practices on Monday. The players finish summer classes this week and most will take a two-week break before returning to campus. Summer is often a time for players to work on their individual skills and the Shockers did a lot of fundamental training in small groups with coaches. Most of the work on offense and defense systems comes later.
“Coach is going to try to get those guys ahead of the curve, so when we get back in the fall we’ll be more ready to go,” sophomore guard Fred VanVleet said. “It’s always a big jump coming from a high school or a juco. No doubt in my mind they’ll pick it up.”
Marshall used July to prepare the team, especially the newcomers, for the pace and expectations to come when regular-season practices begin.
“It’s about how we want to defend and the intensity we want to defend with,” he said. “How we’re going to conduct practices, the energy and the tempo. Then we start teaching a little bit, so they get some type of mental framework of what they’ve got to do.”