Wichita State Shockers

Paul Suellentrop breaks down the Shockers

The early word on Wichita State is that the Shockers are scoring, scoring, scoring.

Maybe that's why the defense and rebounding feels a little shaky.

That's a different look for coach Gregg Marshall, who came to WSU in 2007 calling defense his top priority and admitting offense may bump along.

"We've got a lot of guys that can shoot it," he said. "We've got to be able to defend and rebound like a veteran team, and we're not there yet."

The offense is thriving because all of WSU's returners are skilled with the ball. Guards run the offense, and WSU's guards should be a strength.

Seniors Toure Murry, David Kyles and Joe Ragland and junior Demetric Williams will need to carry WSU while the newcomers adjust in the front court. All four had their ups and downs last season before playing well, as a unit, in the National Invitation Tournament. Toughened by playing teams such as Connecticut, Virginia Commonwealth, Virginia Tech and Alabama, the guards expect to lead.

"We faced a lot of different situations," Kyles said. "We learned more from the games we won and lost than I ever did my first two years. We learned everything, and we think we can do it this year."

The preseason, however, hasn't been smooth for that group. Murry missed more than a week of practice with sore ribs. Ragland, just two days after Marshall praised his leadership and called him a potential all-conference player at MVC media day, was benched from Shocker Madness for missing class.

Five of the top six scorers from last season's NIT champions return. Center Garrett Stutz made 75 percent of his shots and averaged 16 points in the NIT semifinal and final. Forward Ben Smith earned Missouri Valley Conference Sixth Man of the Year honors by making 50.3 percent of his shots and 38.6 percent of his three-pointers.

"More guys feel more comfortable on the offensive end than the defensive end," Stutz said. "But we're trying to fix that. One thing Coach Marshall's teams will always do is defend and rebound."

While the backcourt and wings will be populated with familiar faces, the big men are in flux. Gone are J.T. Durley, Gabe Blair and Aaron Ellis, experienced and strong players who keyed WSU's rebounding efforts.

Stutz must play more minutes and won't have the security of established substitutes. Forward Carl Hall will play a lot and is the designated rebounder and muscle man. He played the post in junior college and must adjust to playing more on the perimeter at WSU.

Forward James Anacreon, also a juco transfer, is a power forward in the MVC mold. He is comfortable shooting, moving and defending away from the basket. Freshman Jake White is a good shooter who can pull defenders away from the basket. He is not ready to battle more experienced forwards in the lane.

Junior center Ehimen Orukpe, who played in 19 games last season, is making big strides with his catching, passing and shooting. WSU would like to get 15 solid minutes in reserve of Stutz from Orukpe.