Wichita State point guard Jamillah Bonner hates quiet. She sees it as her job to fill empty spaces with chatter.
“Watch her in warmups; she’ll wear you out,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “She’s a giver of energy.”
Adams likes that about Bonner. Last season’s team, NCAA Tournament bid and all, lacked outgoing, fist-pumping, vocal leaders. Bonner happily takes that role.
“I talk every moment,” Bonner said. “If we’re stretching, and it’s quiet and I feel like it’s too quiet, I’m going to speak up — ‘Let’s go.’ We need intensity while we’re stretching, while we’re sitting down, while we’re in a meeting.”
Bonner’s job is much more than No. 1 talker, however. She and Alex Harden will play point guard for the Shockers as they try to defend their Missouri Valley Conference title. On the court, she also gives WSU a new look with her speed and ability to penetrate and score. Bonner, 5-foot-8, averaged 16.7 points for Butler Community College last season. At Southeast, she earned All-City League honors twice and second-team All-Class 6A honors as a senior.
Bonner and Harden are both former track stars and the idea of both of them pushing defenses and stressing ball-handlers is a key part of the upcoming season. Harden, a 5-11 junior, is in better position to run the team because of her experience.
“When you have two point guards, and both of them rebound the ball very well, that starts your transition,” Adams said. “Whichever one rebounds the ball, I don’t care which, brings the ball up. At this point, Alex understands our system. She knows how to steady everyone. Right now, Jamillah is playing on her toes, fast, fast, fast.”
Bonner averaged 8.2 rebounds as a sophomore at Butler and Adams expects her to be an excellent rebounding guard. In addition to her energy chasing the ball, she is gifted with the ability to repeat her jumps quickly.
“She just doesn’t take possessions off,” Adams said. “It’s her natural fight and desire.”
Adams is OK trying to slow Bonner down at times. That is better than trying to get her to play hard. That is never an issue. The adjustment from junior college, however, remains a challenge.
“There is no easy part,” Bonner said. “Juco is more like high school. DI is high-tempo, non-stop. You’ve got to be ready for every play.”
Happy to be here — Zach Brown spent the summer in Wichita, took geology and communication classes and worked out with his future teammates on the Wichita State men’s basketball team. He liked it so much, he decided to come back for the rest of the school year.
Brown, who orally committed to WSU in May, attended South Kent (Conn.) School early this fall before transferring to Sunrise Christian Academy, in Bel Aire, last week. He spent last year at South Kent, after attending high school in Houston for his first three years. He plays for Sunrise’s post-graduate team, which is new this season.
“This was all very quick,” Brown said. “I just felt like this would be a better opportunity for me. South Kent is an excellent school. But I felt being closer to Wichita State and having this opportunity to better myself out here … we felt this would be the best thing for me to be here.”
Brown, a 6-foot-7 forward, got caught up in the Final Four emotion this summer.
“Everywhere we went … the guys signing autographs and taking pictures, the guys are local celebrities,” he said.
After a summer living and working with the Shockers, Brown’s adjustment to college basketball is on the fast track. Scrimmaging against players four years older than him showed the amount of work ahead.
“The guys’ body type, they’re already grown men,” he said. “The game is faster and there’s a lot more space being taken up on the floor. You can’t create a shot as easily as a you can in high school. You’ve got to play as a team and have a high-level of basketball I.Q. to compete.”
Brown plans to sign a letter of intent in November. Sunrise opens its season with a scrimmage against Hutchison Community College at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Sunrise.
The madness begins — ESPNU will show the nation around 30 minutes of Shocker basketball on Oct. 18 during Shocker Madness. ESPN’s Len Elmore will come to Koch Arena to host the WSU portion of ESPNU’s Midnight Madness.
WSU associate athletic director John Brewer said the coverage should run between 9-10 p.m. ESPNU will show the Final Four ring ceremony, dunk contest, scrimmage and an interview with coach Gregg Marshall.
ESPNU will also visit Duke, Florida Gulf Coast, Kentucky, Memphis, New Mexico, Oklahoma State, Syracuse and Connecticut.
The evening isn’t all about the men’s team. WSU’s volleyball team plays Bradley at 6 p.m.
WSU’s women’s basketball team will take the court after the volleyball match. After unveiling its NCAA Tournament banner, the women’s team will scrimmage.
Worth noting — Tennessee women’s basketball coach Holly Warlick will speak at WSU’s “Color Me Pink” dinner at 6 p.m. Oct. 24 at Koch Arena. Admission to the dinner is $50, and includes two tickets to a Shocker game … WSU’s men’s basketball team will hold a clinic on Saturday from 1 p.m.-3:30 p.m. for $25. Fans can watch practice and tour the locker rooms. For information, call 316-978-3252.