Next season, Wichita State's basketball team will need scorers and a point guard.
If coach Gregg Marshall's projections are correct, the Shockers filled those needs and more during the first two days of the November signing period. WSU landed a center, two forwards and a guard.
Marshall is counting on forward Cleanthony Early, a sophomore at Sullivan (N.Y.) Community College, to make an immediate transition from NJCAA Division III basketball to NCAA Division I.
"This is an outstanding group," Marshall said. "In several instances, with these young men, we got our first choice. The guy that should come in here and do great things early on — and light it up — is Cleanthony Early."
Early (6-foot-8, 220 pounds) was the NJCAA Division III player of the year in 2011. This season, he scored 35 and 38 points in Sullivan's first two games. The Shockers will lose five seniors from the 2011-12 team, players who will most likely represent the bulk of their scoring punch.
"He can score in every way," Marshall said. "By shooting it, driving it, in transition, in the post and off the glass. And is quite an underrated defensive presence, as well."
Early calls himself a small forward, although his game doesn't seem limited to the perimeter.
"I feel like I'm an all-around player," he said. "I can bump with the big men. I can defend the bigs."
If Early, from Middletown, N.Y., is the immediate help, point guard Fred Van Vleet (5-11, 175) represents a critical player for four years. He can bring stability to a position that has frustrated Marshall with its turnover. Next season, Van Vleet will add depth by joining Demetric Williams and Malcolm Armstead (both of whom will be seniors in 2012-13) at point guard.
"We got a coach's dream," Marshall said. "He had an unbelievable AAU season. He was out there pressing the buttons and running the show."
Van Vleet, a senior at Rockford (Ill.) Auburn High, committed in July after raising his profile at summer tournaments. He is ranked the No 26 point guard in the class of 2012 by Scout.com. He averaged 18.6 points and 7.5 assists as a junior.
"Very mature," Marshall said. "Tough. He plays beyond his years."
WSU added to its front-court depth with two high school seniors.
Forward Derail Green attends Houston Klein Forest, the same high school WSU's Toure Murry attended. Green (6-7, 190 pounds) averaged 12.9 points and 6.3 rebounds as a junior. His reputation is that of an excellent outside shooter.
"He can handle it and pass it like a guard," Marshall said. "He's a guy who is going to be matchup nightmare with his ability to stretch the defense and his ability to put the ball on the floor."
Center Henry Uwadiae, a lefty from Nigeria, completed the group when his letter of intent arrived Thursday. Uwadiae (6-10, 210) plays for Tyson Waterman, a former player for Marshall at Winthrop, at Evelyn Mack Academy in Charlotte, N.C.
Uwadiae (oo-WA-dee-ay) began playing basketball about two years ago, Waterman said. His shot-blocking potential is tantalizing, but his offensive skills need work.
"He can really run, and should develop into an outstanding post player," Marshall said. "I feel like he's not ready right now, but the way he runs, with his length and his reach, and the way he plays above the rim already — the sky is the limit."
WSU coaches aren't relaxing. The signing period continues through Wednesday. Dayton (Ohio) Dunbar forward Teddy Hawkins is scheduled to visit WSU this weekend and attend Sunday's game against Charleston Southern.
"We're not done," Marshall said.
Hawkins, according to the Dayton Daily News, is also considering DePaul, Dayton, Auburn and Creighton. He recently visited DePaul and told the Daily News that school is his favorite ahead of Dayton.
WSU has five seniors on its roster and two scholarships are committed to Ron Baker and Malcolm Armstead, both of whom are paying their own way this season. Baker, from Scott City, is expected to redshirt. Armstead, a transfer from Oregon, is not eligible this season.
One scholarship is likely to open with the expected departure of freshman Ede Eghraveba, from Rosedale, N.Y. Eghraveba did not play in Tuesday's exhibition game and is not practicing. After the game, Marshall said Eghraveba is deciding on his future plans.
Murry remains sidelined — WSU senior Toure Murry is still recovering from bruised ribs suffered on Oct. 27. He did not play in Tuesday's exhibition game and Marshall is unsure if he will play Sunday in the opener.
"He was shooting around on the side (Wednesday)," Marshall said. "I'd like to have him for Sunday, but we're not going to jeopardize his season."