Wichita State basketball player Zach Brown proved he could help the Shockers as a “Three-and-D” player as a freshman. He made 42.3 percent of his three-pointers (11 of 26) and grew into a trusted defender off the bench late in the season.
This spring, Shocker coach Gregg Marshall wants Brown, a 6-foot-7 forward, to add more to his offensive game. Replacing Tekele Cotton’s defensive prowess starts with Brown expanding his scoring moves.
“For him to become that defensive stopper, he’s got to become better offensively,” Marshall said. “That will allow him to stay on the floor, so he can get that defensive prowess into the game.”
Brown will spend the summer and fall working on his ballhandling and rebounding. He took 56 shots last season, 26 from three-point range. To earn more minutes, he must be able to drive and take care of the ball.
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“Don’t waste your athleticism by being a 6-6, 220-pound standaround shooter,” Marshall said. “I don’t know that there’s anything defensively, other than focus and desire (for improvement) … I think he’s already capable physically.”
Brown will be an important piece of WSU’s guards and wings packages in 2015-16. Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet make that group strong. The development of Brown and the addition of Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp and three freshmen guards will help determine how WSU sends out Baker and VanVleet as seniors.
▪ Marshall expects Frankamp to give WSU an offensive boost, as expected from a player who set the City League scoring record with 2,295 points at North. Frankamp is scheduled to become eligible on Dec. 12, the day WSU plays Utah at Intrust Bank Arena.
Which means it’s roughly eight months before VanVleet can run the pick and roll, drive into the lane and look at Baker on one wing and Frankamp on the other as options for three-point shots. That is a scene WSU coaches will sharpen during practices and exploit at every opportunity.
Frankamp, Marshall said, performed well during practices after he joined the team in January. He fit in and showed the shooting accuracy that made him a top-50 recruit in high school. Marshall sees him as a player who can play both guard spots.
“He was great,” Marshall said. “There were days when he was hard to stop. He can fill it up.”
Frankamp’s mission before December is to become more like Cotton on defense.
“What I’ve told him to do this spring is, ‘Obviously you’re a different player than Tekele Cotton,’” Marshall said. “‘He has strengths that you don’t. You have obvious strengths that he doesn’t. Without losing your strengths, try to emulate and become better at his strengths, so that now we have an even more complete player.’”
▪ Marshall is on the recruiting road with one scholarship to give, with Frankamp a walk-on until further notice. While adding a big man to replace Darius Carter seems a pressing need, Marshall isn’t locked in to that plan.
New Mexico Junior College forward Cullen Russo visited WSU last weekend and jucorecruiting.com reports that the Shockers are interested in Lee (Texas) College’s Ahmed Mohamed, a 6-foot-9 forward. Jeff Borzello of ESPN.com reports that WSU is interested in Willy Kouassi, a 6-10 center who will transfer from Kennesaw State and is eligible immediately.
“We’re looking for the right addition,” Marshall said. “We’ve got one scholarship, and we’re looking to have the best team we can next year and into the future.”
Marshall has returning big men Shaq Morris, Rauno Nurger, Rashard Kelly and Bush Wamukota to work with this summer, as well as incoming freshman Eric Hamilton. While he can expect them to improve after their first season of college basketball, he isn’t sure if he can afford to not address that position with a recruit.
“That’s a great question,” he said. “And one that I wish I had the answer to, because it would help me make my decision on who we bring in. But I don’t have a crystal ball. Generally, guys get better the longer they stay in the program.”
Over the wall — Tuesday’s baseball game against Oklahoma at Eck Stadium will mark the 10-year anniversary of one of WSU’s most famous plays.
On April 26, 2005, outfielder Matt Brown dove over the right-field wall to catch a foul ball, landing on his back and popping up with the ball in his glove to show the umpires. The catch earned him a trip to the ESPY Awards show and a spot atop ESPN’s top plays.
He will throw out the first pitch on Tuesday and sign autographs.
Watch with the Shockers — WSU’s women’s golf team will learn its destination for the NCAA Tournament on Monday. Fans can join the team to watch the selection show at 5:45 p.m. in the Champions Club in Koch Arena. The show begins at 6 p.m. on The Golf Channel.
WSU clinched its second straight NCAA appearance with a 13-shot victory in the Missouri Valley Conference Championships on Tuesday. Last spring, the Shockers finished 22nd in the 24-team NCAA Central Regional field in Stillwater, Okla.
Regionals begin May 7. Sites are South Bend, Ind.; San Antonio; St. George, Utah; and Raleigh, N.C.