The biggest off-season story in the MVC remains unfinished. Indiana State is still waiting on a ruling on Jake Kelly’s eligibility. He is a transfer from Iowa who has asked the NCAA to make him eligible this season (Kelly’s mother died in 2008 and his father lives in Terre Haute). If he plays, Indiana State likely gets a major boost from an honorable mention All-Big 10 selection. Playing in a high-profile conference doesn’t automatically mean a player will shine in the MVC. We’ve seen them play well (Kyle Wilson at WSU) and play little (Carlton Reed, UNI). Kelly, from all appearances, would make a good backcourt even better.
Player departures at Creighton, Drake and Evansville provided the other top news of the spring and summer. The MVC survived without coaching changes for the second time since the 1987-88 season.
With help from beat writers around the conference, here is a summer look at the MVC schools.
Bradley - The Braves are in Brazil on a five-game tour. Guard Andrew Warren is not playing due to a broken foot. He won’t practice until September. Warren missed last season because of the right foot and had another surgery in May.
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Creighton - The Jays endured a rough spring. Backup center Kenton Walker departed after his sophomore season and after showing improvement in the last half of the season. Backup guard Cavel Witter left with one year of eligibility remaining. Witter is back, working out with the team and waiting on a decision from coach Dana Altman and teammates regarding his spot on the roster. It will be a surprise if Witter isn’t a Bluejay. According to the Omaha World-Herald, Iowan Will Artino, a center, has orally committed.
Drake - Reserve guard Josh Young transferred to Dayton. Guard Frank Wiseler, who redshirted last season, played for the Luxembourg National team this summer. Undoubtedly that is a fine honor, but I’m not sure what it means in basketball terms - the population of Luxembourg is around 500,000. That puts the country in the AV-CTL’s Division I. I think.
Evansville - Guard Kaylon Williams transferred after a fine freshman season, a bad deal for the Aces. Coach Marty Simmons knew he was losing three seniors. Losing Williams as well is a problem. He is transferring to Kirkwood (Iowa) Community College. C.J. Erickson also transferred after his freshman season. Guard Kavon Lacey is rehabbing a knee injury. The Aces will have eight new players, which as WSU and MSU can attest is a difficult mix.
Illinois State - The injury watch is on in Normal. Forward Bobby Hill is rehabbing and still not able to play pickup games. Guard Lloyd Phillips had knee surgery in May and should be ready to go soon. The Redbird schedule does not seem likely to quiet complaints from ISU fans.
Indiana State - Add Kelly to a backcourt with Harry Marshall and Rashad Reed and the Sycamores look much tougher. MVC fans should read “When March Went Mad” by Seth Davis. It is about the 1979 season, focusing on Bird and Magic (editors shot down his original idea of focusing on Carl Nicks and Jay Vincent).
Missouri State - The Bears open the season with five home games and will again play for the Arkansas state championship. They lost recruit Lane Adams, a guard from Oklahoma, to the Royals. Adams, an outfielder, signed after KC took him in the 13th round. They promised him a September call-up if he could beat Jose Guillen in a foot race.
Northern Iowa - Coach Ben Jacobson turned last season’s NCAA bid into a nice raise. A Wisconsin quarterback says he wants to hoop for the Panthers.
Southern Illinois - Coach Chris Lowery (an enthusiastic Tweeter, by the way) went to New Zealand to help coach in the Under-19 World Championships. Former Saluki player and assistant Tony Young (one of my favorites to watch) is moving to Saint Louis, where he will try to stop the flow of talent that often heads to Carbondale. The Billikens and Salukis meet on Dec. 5.
Wichita State - The first quiet summer of coach Gregg Marshall’s three-year tenure and I am sure he is loving it. A.J. Hawkins and Reggie Chamberlain left the team in the spring and were replaced by high school recruits. Most of the team was in town most of the summer, lifting and playing. Center Ehimen Orupke, from Three Rivers Community College, played in an elite camp on Saturday at WSU with other invited types. It seems safe to list Orupke as a WSU commitment. That’s what he told me earlier this summer. I’ve never been given any indication from him or anyone who knows him that he has any doubts about signing with WSU in November. I watched a few minutes on Saturday. He is still developing on offense and he probably won’t live up to expectations (of those who expect him to be some combination of Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaq) immediately on that end of the floor. He is big and athletic and seems to be better with the ball than last summer. He tossed in a short jump hook that would be a nice weapon if he can do it consistently. He also missed a dunk and shot a couple airballs. His shot-blocking, as you’ve no doubt heard, catches the eye (did you know no Shocker has led the MVC in blocks since Antoine Carr in 1982?). His inexperience and lack of polish will slow him down at times as he gets used to college basketball. WSU coaches will get three years to work with him and the finished product could be darn impressive. The best aspect of this long-running story is that WSU is so solid with big men that it doesn’t need Orupke to be a savior in 2010-2011. He can develop at his own pace. If he blocks four shots, grabs five rebounds and fouls out in 13 minutes, it’s not a big deal.