Wichita State senior Chadrack Lufile and associate head coach Chris Jans huddled in a dark office on Wednesday afternoon, watching clips of basketball practice on a computer screen.
Lufile, a 6-foot-9 senior, asked a coach for extra homework, a sign that a player’s improvement from his first to his second season isn’t limited to the court.
“This was the first time I went to coach’s office and said, ‘I want to be better. I want to see what I do in practice and what to work on,’” he said. “It’s like being a professional artist, you’re working every day to get that drawing to its best, as detailed as you can. I’m trying to get my game as detailed and polished as I can.”
Lufile, a transfer from Coffeyville Community College, played a bit part in last season’s Final Four success. If he can sustain his good work in October practices, he may grow into a bigger contributor. The Shockers need solid minutes from him after losing centers Carl Hall and Ehimen Orukpe.
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“Chadrack has certainly made the jump that we expected,” Jans said. “His understanding of the system allows the game to slow down for him. He’s got himself in incredible shape. Thus far, he’s shown signs that he is ready to take the next step and be a productive player.”
If you happened to be in Koch Arena earlier this fall when Lufile played pickup against a recruit, you saw a hint of what he might bring this season. On one possession, he shot-faked from the wing and dribbled by the visitor to dunk.
OK, few players do that in a real game. What he did next is applicable to a Wednesday night against Evansville.
Numerous times, he beat the defender into the lane and established good position to set up for a short hook shot. Lufile understands scoring isn’t going to be his main job. He doesn’t want opposing coaches to skip him when they prepare a scouting report.
A year’s experience in WSU’s system helps. His movements on the court are becoming more instinctive and getting to the right place is no longer a thoughtful process. That frees him to concentrate on improving shooting and ball-handling skills.
“I can work on my game more without having to think about the plays,” Lufile said. “I’ve got to finish better. I’m getting better on my moves.”
As always, the coaches want more defense. Lufile, despite good size and speed, didn’t provide much deterrent to scorers last season. He is not a naturally aggressive defender and that needs to change. Defending, rebounding, setting screens are his primary jobs.
“Now that he understands where he’s supposed to be, we want him to do it with more aggression,” Jans said. “Use that body, use that athleticism that he he has to cause some havoc around the basket and not just be a spectator.”
Next on the list — With its reputation enhanced by the Final Four, WSU is back in the brackets for quality holiday men’s basketball tournaments. The Shockers will play in Honolulu’s Diamond Head Classic in 2014 and the Maui Invitational in 2017.
It doesn’t get much better than Maui, a traditional November stop for elite teams and comes with lots of ESPN exposure. WSU became the first Missouri Valley Conference member to play in the tournament in 2010, when it lost to Connecticut (the memory of the officiating still irritates coach Gregg Marshall) before defeating host Chaminade and Virginia.
The Battle 4 Atlantis, though, is putting the heat on Maui. The Bahamas-based tournament, also played in late November, started in 2011 and attracts top-quality fields. Last season, it included Louisville, Duke, Memphis, Missouri and Northern Iowa. This November, Kansas, Xavier, Tennessee and Villanova are in the field.
The Shockers, who aren’t signed up for a tournament in 2015 or 2016, want in. Senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright is making sure tournament director Lea Miller knows.
“I believe it will ultimately be the best event,” he said. “This was her brainchild.”
The competition is fantastic. What makes Atlantis more enticing is the prize money, paid to the school’s athletic scholarship fund. In 2012, the tournament handed out $150,000 to each, plus $200,000 to the champion, according to the Associated Press.
Keep talking — Shane Dennis will return as color analyst for Shocker baseball. Dennis, a former WSU pitcher who worked for former coach Gene Stephenson as director of operations, lost his job when Stephenson was fired and replaced by Todd Butler in June. He now works in sales for Entercom Comunications, which owns five Wichita radio stations. He will host a talk show on KFH (1240-AM, 98.7-FM) from 5-7 p.m. weekdays.
“(Butler) encouraged me to keep doing the radio,” Dennis said. “He gave me his blessing.”
Meet halfway — Kansas City’s Kauffman Stadium is 201 miles from Wichita and 124 miles from Columbia, Mo. Meeting approximately halfway saves both teams travel and makes a mid-week game more sensible.
Although the 2014 schedules aren’t official, the schools are scheduled to meet at Kauffman Stadium on April 22, sources at both schools confirmed. It will be their first meeting since the 2004 NCAA regional in Arkansas.
WSU and Missouri last met in a regular-season baseball game in 2001, the conclusion of a series that started in 1998.
Doctor is in — WSU athletes formerly had to hike from Koch Arena to Grace Wilkie Hall on campus to talk with Dr. Greg Buell, who works with people on the mental side of sports. If you’ve heard an athlete talk about focusing on the process, instead of results, chances are that thought came from Buell.
Talking with Buell is more convenient now. He retired from the academic and counseling side after 38 years at WSU. He works for the athletic department and opened his office in the Koch Arena weight room last week. His presence in the building allows him to see athletes in different settings and more often.
“I’ve noticed kids are bumping into (me) on a regular basis as they do their regular workouts and so forth,” he said. “It’s good for the kids and it’s good for (me).”
Buell’s top priority is implementing “Habitudes,” a student leadership and character development program.
“Technology is here, so they’re attached to a gadget 24-7,” Buell said. “Habitudes meets them where they are in terms of film clips, art, music. A fun way to introspect and reflect on personal choices and figuring out how to act right and think right.”
Worth noting — Marshall and women’s basketball coach Jody Adams will speak at the Tip-Off Luncheon on Nov. 1 at Koch Arena. Tickets to the luncheon are $25. For $60, fans can purchase tickets to three luncheons, also Jan. 7 and Feb. 21.