Wichita State’s two redshirt freshmen approach this season with identical goals. How they look when they arrive at those goals, however, is quite different.
Both Shaq Morris and Ria’n Holland want to improve their skills and learn the college game while saving a season of eligibility for when more playing time exists. While Morris wants to slim down and improve his conditioning, Holland wants to gain weight. Both took WSU coach Gregg Marshall’s offer to redshirt last week and can concentrate on getting better for a career that will extend through the 2017-18 season.
Sophomore guard Ron Baker redshirted in 2012-13 and is glad he chose that route, difficult as it is to practice with no reward in front of fans. All of the redshirt’s work is done in practice. In Baker’s mind, the redshirt season is a time to work on fundamental skills, watch and learn. It paid off for him when he stepped into the starting lineup last season.
“Treat this redshirt year as your biggest year here,” Baker said. “You make a long stride, I feel like, during your redshirt year.”
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No. 16 WSU (3-0) plays Tennessee State (0-3) at noon Saturday at Koch Arena, and Morris and Holland will get another chance to watch, learn and think about how they will handle playing time in the future. While the decision to sit this season didn’t come easily, both said they realize the wisdom of the move.
“Next year I plan on showing everybody what I can do,” Morris said. “I’m just glad I’ve got a chance to get better.”
Marshall doesn’t force players to redshirt. He is happy these two made the choice and is happy to think about their potential as 23-year-olds. By that time, he wants Morris, a 6-foot-7 center from Edmond, Okla., to play long stretches at peak intensity and improve his defense so he can guard quicker players at power forward.
He wants Holland, a 5-10 guard from Hope Mills, N.C., to improve his ball-handling so he can play point.
No need to waste a year for a few minutes in a few games. Both are good scorers who can use this time to tune other parts of their game.
“Ria’n needs to get a little stronger, work on his ball-handling and become a guy we can use at the point,” Marshall said. “He thinks he’s the biggest guy in the room. He’s tenacious.”
Morris’ outgoing personality won’t take a redshirt season. Marshall said he will use him as a host for recruits. Morris came to WSU weighing 282 pounds and dropped to 270 this fall. He would like to play 10-15 pounds lighter.
“He learns to go as hard as he possibly can for as long as he possibly without any dropoff in terms of his energy, effort, enthusiasm, passion,” Marshall said.
After deciding to redshirt, Morris said he visited strength and conditioning coach Kerry Rosenboom and told him he wanted to work harder. How he follows through on the pledge will help determine his future. Hamstring and knee injuries and a concussion slowed his progress last summer.
“I just want to be the best that I can be, because I don’t believe I’ve been using my talents to the best of my abilities,” Morris said. “I’m ready to chisel my body and be in the best shape of my life.”
Morris is blessed with good post moves, athletic ability and a soft touch. He knows he can score. He also knows the rest of his game must improve.
“I watched film on my defense and I’ve seen that I’m kind of sluggish,” he said. “My defense is still high school pace and I haven’t developed that yet. Defense and rebounding — I’m trying to be a beast.”
Holland is pounding down protein shakes — vanilla is his favorite — and power bars in an attempt to add pounds. He weighs 154, up about 11 pounds since June, and wants to play at 165.
“I can gain some weight in the weight room, get bigger, and I’ll be ready to go,” he said. “When I’m not working out, I eat power bars. I like to eat.”