This weekend will be a blur of basketball and travel for Emporia State, which plays three games in three days. That is fine with Wichita State, which isn’t really thinking much about Hornets, anyway.
The 16th-ranked Shockers take a big step up in competition late Monday night when they play Western Kentucky as part of ESPN’s Tip-Off Marathon. The Hilltoppers are coming off two NCAA Tournament appearances and they return four starters from a team that lost 64-57 to Kansas in last season’s tournament.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that game is where most of WSU’s thoughts are this weekend.
“We’ve got a very good Western Kentucky team on Monday night and very little time in between,” WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. “We’re looking at videotape of last year, but that’s all we’re going to get from Western Kentucky. The good news is that they’ve got a lot of returning players that we’ll be able to see their tendencies. That’s also the bad news — they’ve got a lot of good returning players.”
While Saturday’s game counts for the Shockers, it is an exhibition for the NCAA Division II Hornets, one of three they play against NCAA Division I teams. Emporia State started the weekend with an 81-76 win at UMKC on Friday afternoon in an exhibition. On Sunday, it opens the regular season back in Kansas City against Rockhurst (Mo.).
The Hornets will make $8,000 from WSU and coach Shaun Vandiver happily wedged the Shockers into his schedule. On Nov. 1, Emporia State lost at Oklahoma State 87-51 in an exhibition.
“The Shockers called and made an offer I couldn’t refuse,” he said. “You want to take the challenge as a team and see where you stack up. Those games will have great carryover when we're playing at Washburn or at Central Missouri State.”
Former Heights standout Terrence Moore, a high school teammate of WSU sophomore Evan Wessel, will start at guard for the Hornets. He scored 17 points in Friday’s win at UMKC. As a freshman, he started twice and played in 26 games, averaging 6.8 points. Vandiver wants him to take more of a leadership role this season.
“After this season, he’ll be a returning junior,” Vandiver said. “We need him to be more active, be more vocal. He spent last year and the summer working on the timing of his shot, a quicker release. He was in the gym, 200 shots a day. His shot has come so far.”
“I don’t know what that means,” Marshall said. “They both see themselves as being buried on the depth chart. The way they played today in practice — had they been playing that way all along, they wouldn’t be buried.”
Both newcomers considered the move for some time. Holland, a 6-foot guard from Hope Mills, N.C., is fighting for playing time behind experience returners such as Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton. In the post, Morris, a 6-7 center from Edmond, Okla., is behind seniors Kadeem Coleby and Chadrack Lufile, and junior Darius Carter.
“I knew the chance to redshirt was going to come up,” Morris said. “I thought about it and it’s the best thing to get me better. With (Lufile) and Kadeem leaving, that’s a lot of opportunity to get a lot of playing time, more than this year. This year, I’ll try to pick up little things from them and get better.”
Holland described it as a tough decision, one that ultimately made sense for his future at WSU.
“It’s an opportunity to get better, get the system down for next year,” he said. “Next year, I’ll be ready to go.”