Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall is holding onto Joe Ragland's National Invitation Tournament championship ring.
Consider it in a safe place until Marshall is confident Ragland is taking care of his academic responsibilities. Ragland sat out Shocker Madness — and missed the NIT ring ceremony — because he skipped class.
"I want to wait until I see some tangible evidence that he got the message," Marshall said. "He's improved and he's gone to class since. He's a kid that needs to go to class every day and do well."
WSU plays Emporia State tonight in its lone exhibition game. The Shockers will be without senior guard Toure Murry, who is sidelined because of bruised ribs.
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Ragland said he received Marshall's message. As a senior and a point guard, the responsibility of leadership falls more heavily on him than his teammates.
"I felt like I let my guys down," he said. "When they need me, I've got to be there. That was definitely a blow for me, and an eye-opener. I wasn't fully focusing and taking care of my business like I should be. Now I try to make sure I'm on everything, try not to blow anything off."
When he proves that to Marshall, he will receive his ring.
"We've got a little agreement," Ragland said. "It's something me and him came up with to keep me on the right track. It's definitely a goal, not to let my teammates down anymore."
Marshall has simple goals for tonight — he wants the Shockers to execute and play hard. WSU scrimmaged Texas-Arlington on Oct. 30 and tonight is the next step toward the opener against Charleston Southern on Nov. 13.
"We're preparing for what's to come," Ragland said. "See if we're working hard enough and if it's close enough to perfection."
WSU's newcomers will get their first taste of playing in front of the Koch Arena crowd. The returners can try to explain the situation, but their words won't cure all the jitters.
"You can tell them to try not to rush things, try to stay calm," senior Ben Smith said. "But they've got to experience it themselves. I remember my anxiety — I was real nervous. I had never played in front of that big of a crowd."
Murry has not practiced since Oct. 27. He landed on his back during WSU's public scrimmage, partially collapsing his lung and bruising ribs. Murry said the bruised ribs remain a problem. He wants to play in the season opener on Nov. 13 against Charleston Southern.
"I'm making progress every day," he said.
The Hornets return two players off last season's roster. Taylor Euler started five games and averaged 5.3 points. Travis Dykman started two games and averaged 1.6 points.
New coach Shaun Vandiver added eight transfers. Forward Troy Pierce, from Emporia, averaged 1.6 points and 1.8 rebounds at Charleston Southern. Forward Antonio DiMaria played in 26 games for Utah and averaged 1.1 points.
Worth noting _ Emporia State is picked eighth in the MIAA preseason poll of media members. The Hornets open the season against Friends on Nov. 15. They play at Missouri State on Nov. 19. . . Vandiver, a former assistant coach at Boise State, was the 1989 Big Eight Newcomer of the Year at Colorado and played for Hutchinson Community College's 1988 NJCAA champions.