Wichita State Shockers

Blair has big shoes to fill for Shockers

Ramon Clemente and Gabe Blair talked about the comparisons at the end of last season. Everybody labeled Blair as the second coming of Clemente for Wichita State basketball.

That's a high-grade compliment. Clemente became one of the most popular players of recent vintage because fans loved the way he hustled his way to stats that out-sized his 6-foot-4 height.

It's also a comparison Clemente and Blair decided isn't totally accurate.

"He said we're two different players, so don't worry about that," Blair said. "I'm not Ramon Clemente, and I'm never going to be him. I feel like he would say he's not going to be me."

Blair, who sat out last season as a transfer, is giving WSU many of the same things Clemente did and more.

"He's Mr. Energy," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "He's all over the place, sometimes a little too much, but we're calming him down."

The differences are less important than the similarities. Blair (6-foot-8, 233 pounds) is taller than Clemente by four inches. Marshall considers him a better ball-handler and scorer. Marshall, and fans, are counting on Blair to give WSU the same burst of energy, rebounding and defense that Clemente provided.

"I've got to be a scorer inside and a rebounder," Blair said. "Just bring toughness and rebounding. I've got to pick it up a little more than everybody else in that area."

Blair gives Clemente an edge as a rebounder.

"I'm going to get every rebound I'm supposed to get, and I'm going to get half of what I'm not supposed to get," Blair said. "He's going to get them all."

Blair may be showing modesty. Against Pittsburgh on Monday, he grabbed eight rebounds in 23 minutes to lead WSU. Against Iowa, he led WSU with six and kept alive a crucial possession late in the game with an offensive board that led to a three-pointer.

"He's a big guy on the glass and brings energy and a lot of enthusiasm and passion," Marshall said. "We knew he was going to be a good player and it was just a matter of time."

Blair shows offensive potential beyond Clemente's capability. His quickness and unorthodox moves make him a threat to score and draw fouls. He exhibited a nice step-back jumper when he scored 11 points against Arkansas-Monticello. He scored nine against Pittsburgh and eight in Saturday's win at Cleveland State.

"I feel like I look to score more than him as far as driving and taking shots," Blair said.

Blair is averaging 6.8 points a game and shooting better than he did during two seasons at East Carolina. He is shooting 52 percent from the field and 72.7 from the line. At East Carolina, Blair averaged averaged 6.9 points and 7.7 rebounds as a sophomore. He made 44.1 percent of his shots and 65.1 percent of his free throws.

"I feel like I can shoot free throws, and it's just a matter of getting to the line and shooting them," Blair said. "That's the biggest thing — as long as you think you can do it, you can do it."