Wichita State Shockers

Transfers help restock Valley basketball rosters

The Missouri Valley Conference's resurgence started in 1999, when Missouri State advanced to the Sweet 16 with a center who transferred from Miami (Ohio).

Three seasons later, Southern Illinois started its dominant run with two NCAA Tournament wins made possible by a center who transferred from Virginia Tech. In 2006, Division I transfers helped Wichita State and Bradley play Sweet 16 games.

If the MVC is to rebound after two average seasons, Division I transfer are again going to do a lot of the work. WSU, Missouri State, Drake, Southern Illinois, Indiana State and Evansville all have transfers from four-year schools playing important roles.

* At WSU, junior forward Gabe Blair leads the Shockers in rebounding with an average of 6.4 a game. He scores 7.6 points, all as a reserve.

He transferred to WSU from East Carolina. Coach Gregg Marshall recruited Blair as coach at Winthrop and didn't get him. That relationship paid off down the road.

"Winning was the main part of my decision," Blair said. "Coach Marshall, we had some talks, and I believed what he was telling me and I felt I could be a part of making his team better."

* SIU guard Tony Freeman transferred from Iowa with one season to play. That isn't keeping him from being a leader.

"When he plays, he always gives us a chance," SIU coach Chris Lowery said. "He's a shot maker. He brought a great amount of leadership, and our guys look for him."

Lowery prepared the team for Freeman's lone season by establishing his importance last season during practice. Everybody knew he would step in immediately this season.

"He torched our young guys every day last year," Lowery said. "It was good for him to get confidence, and good for them to know he can play."

* Indiana State guard Jake Kelly, another transfer from Iowa, received all the preseason attention in Terre Haute. He averages 9.7 points.

Dwayne Lathan, a transfer from Louisiana Tech, showed up with less fanfare. He leads Indiana State with an average of 14.3 points and 5.6 rebounds.

* Drake desperately need a scorer to take pressure off senior guard Josh Young. Coach Mark Phelps found that player in point guard Ryan Wedel, from Minneapolis, Kan., a transfer from Arkansas State.

Wedel, a junior, averages 12.9 points, 1.6 steals and is shooting 44 percent from three-point range.

"He really knows how to play the game," Phelps said.

* Missouri State is the Valley's surprise team. The Bears are no longer painful to watch on offense, thanks to guard Adam Leonard.

Leonard, a transfer from Eastern Kentucky, averages 13.4 points, and is shooting 49.1 percent from three-point range. Center Caleb Patterson, a transfer from Colorado, averages 7.4 points as a reserve.

Leonard "is a guy that can make shots and he's not afraid to take big shots," MSU coach Cuonzo Martin said.

* Evansville forward Bryan Bouchie averages 8.9 points and 3.5 rebounds as a reserve. He transferred from Valparaiso.

Big crowds — WSU ranked eighth nationally in volleyball attendance with an average of 2,892 fans a match.

That average ranks second in program history, behind 2008's average of 3,177 fans. The total attendance of 37,594 fans also ranks second behind 44,478 in 2008.

Worth noting — Evansville guard Kavon Lacey will miss around four weeks after undergoing surgery on his left knee on Tuesday. WSU plays Evansville on Feb. 9.... Injuries caused Bradley to change redshirt plans. Freshman guard Jake Eastman will play this season. He is needed after the Braves lost freshman Dyricus Simms-Edward for three to six weeks with a stress reaction in his left foot. Senior guard Dodie Dunson is out of the season after breaking two bones in his left arm last month.