Wichita State Shockers

Shockers return from Brazil with memorable experiences

Wichita State basketball player Randall Vautravers bartered his way into a $20 Ronaldinho soccer jersey, proof the Shockers enjoyed Brazil in many ways.

"There were a bunch of vendors out there, and they try and sell them for $50," Vautravers said. "You just act like you're not interested and they'll go lower and lower."

The Shockers returned to Wichita today after going 3-2 on an 10-day exhibition tour of Brazil. WSU lost its first two games, to Palmerias Sports Club (81-76) and the Brazilian National team (87-61). It rebounded with an 80-39 win over Flamengo and two victories (103-61 and 96-91) over Tijuca, which added some talent between games.

Coach Gregg Marshall wanted his newcomers to benefit most from the 10 practices and five games. Against Flamengo, he sat his top returners and played reserves such as junior center Ehimen Orukpe and newcomers.

"It was really good in a lot of regards," Marshall said. "We subbed very freely. I can stand here today and say I was pleased with how the group performed. They know what this is all about. They know how physical and tough they've got to be."

Junior forward Carl Hall, a transfer from Northwest Florida State College, made a good impression. The Shockers, who lost three senior big men from 2010-11, need him to rebound and defend.

"He's a presence defensively, as far as shot-blocking," senior guard David Kyles said. "It's going to be a lot tougher for teams to score on us this year, especially with layups."

Orukpe, a 7-foot junior who played sparingly last season, also played precious minutes that he needs to develop. Marshall said he improved throughout the trip.

"He got better as the trip went on," Marshall said. "He's not Hakeem Olajuwon yet, and never will be, but he certainly played his best basketball, I thought, in the fifth game."

The Shockers learned plenty off the court, as well. A hike to the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro stood out as a highlight.

"That's what I was really excited to see," Vautravers said. "We climbed up that mountain to get up there instead of taking the train. It was really rewarding once we got to the top."

On Tuesday, the Shockers put on a basketball clinic at the Solar Meninos De Luz school in Rio. They worked for two hours with about 50 students.

"It was really bad, they live in the slums and there's a lot of drug dealers and prostitutes," WSU senior Ben Smith said. "But I could see that the kids were really trying to work and go to school. They were really happy to see us."