Xavier McDaniel. Elvin Hayes. Tom McMillen. The opportunity existed for a big man clinic and Wichita State senior Chadrack Lufile grabbed precious minutes with the stars.
He sought out the gentlemen wearing red ribbons and gold medals, signifying membership in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. Last month, in Kansas City at a reception for the inductees, Lufile picked the brains of the X-Man, the Big E and a member of the 1972 Olympic team.
“I tried to talk to all those guys, just to get some information,” Lufile said. “I didn’t even want to eat. I just wanted to talk to them, because that’s how much I love the game and I feel like they have a lot of wisdom and a lot of things to tell me.”
In a season-long search for consistency in the post, Lufile is taking the lead with a series of solid and physical efforts. In his past four games, he is averaging 7 points and 6.5 rebounds while making 11 of 16 shots. On Sunday at Saint Louis, he turned in one of his best efforts as a Shocker with 12 points and eight rebounds, bouncing back from a scoreless night against BYU.
No. 11 Wichita State (8-0) plays Oral Roberts (5-3) on Saturday night at Koch Arena and will try to match the program’s mark for its best start.
WSU coach Gregg Marshall sees Lufile (6-foot-9, 266 pounds) playing with more physical force, chasing rebounds and defending the basket.
“He used his body,” Marshall said. “He doesn’t like to put that big body on people, for whatever reason. And that’s what he’s got to do. In doing that, he’s rebounding better. He’s going to get it with two hands instead of one.”
The hall of famers would be proud. Lufile took a picture with McMillen, who played center for Maryland and in the NBA, and asked for tips on posting up. McMillen told him to use his body to get position. McDaniel, a former Wichita State star, and Hayes, an All-American at Houston, gave similar advice. They knew how to rebound, how to get position in the lane and how to use shot fakes. Lufile is trying to follow their path.
“Be physical before the shot,” Lufile said. “When you know the shot is about to be put in the air, be physical and get on your man because most of the time they’re not aware and alert to what’s going on. It’s basically just playing ahead of the play.”
Lufile is WSU’s most experienced big man. Senior Kadeem Coleby sat out last season after transferring to WSU. Junior Darius Carter is a newcomer. Lufile, while he played sparingly last season, has the advantage of a full season of practice and games.
“He’s doing what (he) can do,” WSU guard Ron Baker said. “He’s not coming out of his comfort zone as far as catching the ball in places where he can’t make a play. What’s he doing well … is rebounding, which is huge.”
Chatting up the hall of famers fits with Lufile’s outgoing personality. Marshall credits his positive attitude, even as a little-used reserve, with helping last season’s run to the Final Four. More playing time hasn’t changed anything. At halftime of Saturday’s game, Marshall said Lufile was one of the most vocal Shockers, encouraging and prompting his teammates to play better in the second half.
“He cares a lot about his success and the team’s success,” Marshall said. “He’s got a heart as big as anyone’s. When he’s that 10th, 11th man, he’s still rooting for the other guys as much or more as you can possibly imagine.”