The plan was always for there to be six, but it relied on so many contingencies involving the decisions of 17- and 18-year-olds that it could hardly be considered a plan at all.
Wichita State basketball entered Wednesday’s National Signing Day with four oral pledges, but the coaching staff refused to accept them as certainties until the fax machine fired up. The Shockers were also awaiting word from a lanky wing from Louisville, who had named them as one of his finalists.
By the time Alex Lomax announced he would reveal his college destination Wednesday evening, Wichita State’s plan had almost come to fruition. Erik Stevenson, Jaime Echenique, Isaiah Poor Bear Chandler, and Morris Udeze all signed their national letters of intent early in the day, then Chance Moore picked the Shockers and signed as well.
The stage was set for Lomax, a four-star point guard from Memphis, and he relished being the sixth and final piece to Wichita State’s 2018 recruiting class — now dubbed the “Sensational Six.”
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“I’m very excited to be going to a great program and we have some great talent coming in,” Lomax said by phone after committing to Wichita State. “It was great to be that final piece to the puzzle.”
Even without Lomax, recruiting analysts were calling the class the best in Gregg Marshall’s time at Wichita State. With Lomax, Wichita State’s class skyrocketed to No. 23 in the country in Rivals’ rankings.
Marshall also pointed out that plan had an even higher degree of difficulty considering he lost two assistant coaches and added a new one in the thick of the spring recruiting period. Marshall cannot comment specifically on Lomax until he signs his letter of intent, which Lomax says he will do next Wednesday.
“My staff has worked tirelessly this fall and this summer and last spring to put this class together,” Marshall said. “We lost two guys and I thought (assistants Isaac Brown, Kyle Lindsted, and Donnie Jones) rallied and did a great job of putting together this class. We were thrilled.”
Recruiting analysts are calling Lomax’s commitment Marshall’s most significant recruiting victory. He had recruited four-stars before in Fred Van Vleet, Markis McDuffie, and Landry Shamet, but never had he pulled one from a recruiting hotbed that was also in a conference rival’s backyard.
Wichita State was late in offering Lomax, as Marshall didn’t extend a scholarship offer until July. But the Shockers were able to make up ground by making Lomax their top priority, an effort that involved the entire staff but was headed by Lindsted.
“The fact that Wichita State came in and beat Memphis for a Memphis kid that Memphis made its No. 1 priority all summer is a testament to where the Wichita State program is right now,” said CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish, who resides in Memphis.
Lomax said the appeal of staying in his hometown or playing in a larger conference like the SEC was tempting, but ultimately he wanted to go to the program where he could win the most.
“I love to win and they have a winning program,” Lomax said. “They have a great atmosphere and I just felt like it was the best place for me in the long-term.”
The recruiting class already has a handful of three-star players like Stevenson, Udeze, Chandler and Moore, who are candidates to join the growing list of under-recruited players to go to Wichita State and become important contributors to a winning team.
The only thing this class was missing was a point guard. And that’s where Lomax fits in.
Lomax is the two-time Mr. Basketball winner in Tennessee and has led Memphis East to back-to-back state championships. Memphis East has been picked by multiple outlets as the No. 1 high school basketball team this season and Lomax will be the team’s point guard and leader.
“Alex is a natural point guard who flourishes when surrounded by other talented players — proof being how he’s a two-time Mr. Basketball winner who has won back-to-back state titles,” Parrish said. “He’s tough. Strong defensively. He’ll be a perfect fit with Gregg Marshall.”
“It gives them that leader to build around,” said Eric Bossi, a Rivals analyst. “Lomax is one of those guys who isn’t the quickest and he doesn’t jump through the roof and he doesn’t have the prettiest stats, but bottom-line his teams win. His teammates will run through a wall for him. When it’s time to make a big shot, he’s going to hit it. He just has a way about him of elevating the play of the guys around him.”
If that sounds like Van Vleet, it’s because the former Shocker is a player Lomax strives to be like.
“He was a great player and that’s why he’s in the NBA now,” Lomax said. “I want to try to do the same thing he did and become a great player too. I want to try to win a national title.”
Dreams of a national championship were supposed to be reserved for this season. This recruiting class, led by Lomax, offers hope for the future.
“I’m a winner, first,” Lomax said. “I’m a tough defender, too. I know (Marshall) wants to make sure you’re locked in and you play angry. I love that because that’s my style. It fits me perfectly.”