Wichita State is already enjoying a recruiting bump from the Final Four. Current Shocker Darius Carter and prep schooler Zach Brown, an oral commitment, are both on board in part thanks to the NCAA Tournament. Both chose WSU when schools in more prestigious conferences offered scholarships.
Proceeds from the July recruiting period will be determined during the November signing period.
“We’ll see,” coach Gregg Marshall said. “It’s not who you see. It’s who you sign.”
Eric Bossi, national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, expects the coaching staff to take full advantage of the Final Four. Marshall and his assistants long ago proved they can recruit wisely and tenaciously against high-profile schools — see current sophomore Fred VanVleet. Bossi expects them to use the Final Four credibility, while not wasting time on a recruit just to get on a list. While WSU is a recent test case, he hasn’t seen a big change in recruiting styles for Butler and VCU, its predecessors in emerging from a non-BCS conference to play in the Final Four.
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“(WSU coaches) know what works and they’re not going to change it,” he said. “It’s going so well there because they’ve figured out a plan and it works. It’s not like you see a lot of four- and five-star guys listing them, because they’re not going after those guys.”
The Shockers are continuing to go after the type of athlete that made them so successful. They are targeting big men from the class of 2014 to replace seniors Kadeem Coleby, Cleanthony Early and Chadrack Lufile. Omar Sherman, a 6-foot-8 forward from Dallas’ Prime Prep Academy, Rashard Kelly (6-6) of Massanutten Military Academy in Virginia and Isaiah Wilkins (6-8) from Greater Atlanta Christian are typical Marshall recruits, Bossi said.
“Kids that maybe not have been quite as serious about them before, are going to listen to them a little bit more,” Bossi said. “Maybe, like with (Kelly) from the D.C. area, they’ve got a little more pop now with what they’ve done.”
Brown, a 6-7 forward from South Kent (Conn.) School, is a good start toward filling the four scholarships available.
“In the last year, he has taken a huge step,” Bossi said. “He's very explosive around the baseline. He looks like all those guys they've been running out there.”
The addition of assistant coach Steve Forbes is a perfect fit in Bossi’s mind. Forbes, former head coach at Northwest Florida State College, replaced K.T. Turner this summer. Turner joined Larry Brown’s staff at SMU.
“You couldn’t possibly have gotten a better replacement than Steve Forbes,” Bossi said. “He does a good job connecting with people, no matter where they’re from.”
Catching on — Catcher is the most unique position on a baseball field. The man behind the plate is involved in every play, takes a beating, ruins his knees and works closely with coaches and pitchers.
And they expect him to hit, as well.
So it shouldn’t be surprising that catchers like to hang out with catchers. WSU assistant coach Brian Walker, a former catcher at Arkansas and in the minor leagues, helped convince Shawnee Mission East senior Gunnar Troutwine to make an oral commitment recently. Walker’s expertise, fueled by his four years in the Los Angeles Angels organization, is a big selling point.
“He’s been pretty outstanding since we started talking,” Troutwine said. “Growing up, I’ve never really had a catching coach. I had to teach myself.”
Karl Carswell, director of the KC Barnstormers, expects Troutwine to get good defensive instruction from Walker, in part because of his experience in a catcher-friendly organization. The Angels are managed by former catcher Mike Scioscia, and Carlswell said his leadership filters throughout the minor leagues. Walker’s explanation of WSU’s plan for catchers impressed Carlswell because it gives the player a lot of information on pitchers and calling a game. He wants Troutwine to learn the game, not perform as a robot under the control of a coach.
“The amount of direction he’s going to get is going to be far and away above what most college catchers get,” Carlswell said. “I’m really excited for Gunnar on that. He’ll be a third-year professional catcher as far as knowledge when he gets done.”
Troutwine (6-2, 210 pounds) said he also considered Kansas and Kansas State. While he also plays outfielder and the corner infield positions, he loves catching.
“He's a great target to throw for,” Carlswell said. “He makes a lot of pitches look like strikes. He's the field general you want as a catcher and he's only to get better.”
Carswell has followed WSU for years, watching Kansas City-area players such as Jim Audley and Pat Magness. While he loved what coach Gene Stephenson did, he recognizes some positive changes in recruiting under new coach Todd Butler. He sees WSU coaches expanding their recruiting area and being more aggressive with offering scholarships earlier in a player’s career.
“It's going to be phenomenal at how much energy is being injected into the program,” Carlswell said. “They're starting to get a quality a player they haven't had in recent year. When they like a kid, they’re making an offer.”
In person — Manhattan outfielder Bret Fehr, a lefty, did not get very far into the summer before Butler made his move. He watched Fehr play in tournaments in Lawrence and Wichita and offered a scholarship. Fehr also gave WSU an oral commitment recently.
“He said he had a plan mapped out for me already,” Fehr said. “I hadn’t heard that from any other coach.”
Fehr (6-2, 185) hit leadoff for Manhattan and batted around .385 with four doubles, four triples and two home runs. WSU made its offer before many schools contacted him, he said. Hutchinson Community College was interested and he talked with coaches at Kansas State.
With Troutwine and Fehr, WSU has six oral commitments from the class of 2014. Valor Christian (Colo.) pitcher Matt Whalen, Rockhurst (Mo.) shortstop Trey Vickers, Andale-Garden Plain pitcher Tyler Jones and Edmond (Okla.) Deer Creek shortstop Jordan Boyer also plan to sign with WSU in November.