Playing on the Wichita State scout team provides perks from a basketball perspective. In practice, the walk-ons are usually the ones playing free and easy while the coaches scrutinize the starters.
Nothing, however, is better than contributing in a game. WSU sophomore Mason Felter, forced into the rotation by injury, is doing that.
"You never know when you're going to have to step in and give some good time," Felter said. "It was kind of nerve-racking for the Evansville game. I knew I was going to get some time. Once that passed, I don't really think about it that much."
With forward Gabe Blair in and out of the rotation with a bruised left thigh, Felter is needed. He doesn't play a lot, but it's more than his usual brief appearance in mop-up time. He played seven minutes against Evansville and Bradley, all in the first half. He scored his first points as a Shocker with a short jumper and grabbed two rebounds against Evansville in a 76-70 overtime win.
"I try to make sure our motion (offense) stays good," he said. "Get the ball moving, set screens, work to get other people open. Do all the little things."
Felter, a 6-foot-7 forward from Bishop Carroll, didn't need a special pep talk from coach Gregg Marshall when his role increased. He's been on the team long enough — redshirting last season — to know WSU needed him when Blair couldn't go last week.
"He's a pretty tough kid," Marshall said. "He's been waiting a long time for his opportunity."
When Blair isn't practicing, Felter spends time with the scout team and the top five. Working with the scout team helps him understand the other team. He needs more time with the starters to get comfortable with WSU's plan.
"You never want to wish anything bad on a teammate," Felter said. "But at the same time, it's a golden opportunity for me to prove myself."
Maybe the next 20 — The Missouri Valley Conference basketball honors roll out this week.
The hoopla starts Monday when the MVC announces its top 20 conference tournament moments and the all-tournament team, both celebrating 20 years in St. Louis.
That will be a quiet time for WSU, which is the only MVC team to never make the final since it moved to St. Louis in 1991.
All-MVC honors, including Player of the Year, are announced Tuesday. Specialty teams (top reserves and most improved) come out Wednesday. On Thursday, the scholar-athletes and coach of the year are announced.
WSU hasn't had an All-MVC pick (first or second team) since center Paul Miller in 2006. Guard Clevin Hannah is the best bet this season.
After Saturday's regular-season finale, Hannah averaged 12.2 points (tied for 16th in the MVC), 4.9 assists (second in the MVC), 1.3 steals (seventh) and ranked second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3). He led the MVC in free-throw percentage (.904) and ranked second from three-point range (.431).
In MVC games, Hannah averaged 13.2 points (tied for ninth) and 4.7 assists (leading the MVC).
G for glass — The progress of Shocker sophomore Garrett Stutz comes in bursts of production. He scored in double figures in four straight games early in the season, and then went quiet.
He is back on another upswing, fueled by two factors that make big men so valuable. Stutz, after scoring 12 points in Wednesday's loss at Bradley and 10 Saturday against Southern Illinois, reached double figures four times during a six-game stretch.
During those six games, he made 30 of 36 free throws, more than any other Shocker, despite playing fewer minutes than most of the starters. The next most-productive player at the line was guard Toure Murry, who made 15 of 23.
Stutz also did a lot of damage on the offensive boards. That is where his physical improvement is most noticeable. His jumps for a tip-in or rebound are much quicker than last season, and he no longer needs to gather himself and bring the ball down to his waist as often.
He grabbed four offensive rebounds on his way to scoring 15 points against Evansville. Against Bradley, he had three offensive rebounds.