Toure Murry sometimes tries to create something out of nothing too often. Joe Ragland needs to do more creating when he is running the team.
Together, the best thing about Wichita State's combo at point guard is that both Murry and Ragland can get a lot better. The Shockers (9-2) begin Missouri Valley Conference play tonight against Evansville (6-4) with that position offering the most intrigue.
Murry and Ragland are playing well enough to win, yet not as well as they're capable. Add sophomore Demetric Williams to the picture, and coach Gregg Marshall is blessed with options.
"I think I've got three guys that can do it," he said. "All of them have different strengths. I would love for them to become more complete players individually."
Murry, a 6-foot-4 junior, is starting at point guard for the first time as a Shocker. He played it for short stretches as a backup to Clevin Hannah in previous seasons, while starting at shooting guard.
"It's a big adjustment," he said. "I'm just glad that we're winning and the guys are staying with me, telling me to stay confident."
It's a position Murry enjoys and one that he fits with an unselfish attitude. He can swallow up opposing guards with his defense. His rebounding allows him to start fastbreaks without waiting for an outlet pass. While he's not shooting well from three-point range, he makes up for it by driving and drawing fouls. In the past four games, Murry is 26 of 31 from the free-throw line.
"I like to make the extra pass, find the open man," Murry said. "Playing point guard, your decisions are going to get better just by continuing to play and know what you need to do and what not to do."
Murry averages 2.8 turnovers a game, slightly more than Hannah as a junior (2.6) and a senior (2.1). But his turnovers are increasing lately — five each against Alabama A&M and LSU and three against Tulsa. Marshall would like him to eliminate one or two bad decisions a game — especially late in the game or late in the shot clock — and bring that turnover rate down. His pass to Garrett Stutz for an open shot in the final seconds of the win over LSU is an example of the kind of patience Marshall wants him exhibit.
"He puts a lot of pressure on himself, by acting like he's got to be the one that has to make a play," Marshall said. "He's got to let it happen, let what the defense gives him be the play. Don't predetermine what you're going to do and force it."
Ragland, a 6-foot junior, averages less than a turnover a game. He correctly figured that taking care of the ball provided the quickest path to playing time. Now Marshall is ready to see him score.
"Sometimes he drives it and he looks like he's timid and a facilitator out there, as opposed to a guy who can be a threat," Marshall said. "I asked him the other day, 'When are you going to assert yourself? When are you going to stop playing in a passive and timid way?' He kind of looked at me like I had three eyes."
Marshall's question may have surprised Ragland, a transfer from North Platte (Neb.) Community College. He says he is listening and understands Marshall wants him to use his quickness to drive past defenders to score. Twice against LSU, he broke through the defense for layups. That is an asset he can provide more often for the Shockers.
" (Marshall) preaches to me to be more aggressive," Ragland said. "That's what I'm going to start doing, if that's what the team needs."
Early in the season, he said he wanted to avoid charging fouls. Passing the ball to shooters seemed a smarter move than going to the rim.
"At first, it's an adjustment," he said. "At this level, with the help-side defense, everybody is there. So you've got to make the right play. LSU really didn't take too many charges, so it was easier for me to get all the way there."
The Shockers are at their best when they fastbreak on offense. They can wear teams down with a fast tempo and take advantage of their depth. While many MVC teams will try to slow the pace, Marshall wants Murry and Ragland to get the Shockers easy baskets. Both are good in the open court at finding teammates or scoring.
"I hope we continue to push it and see what we get," Marshall said. "We're getting more scoring opportunities from our transition."