Wichita State Shockers

Connors State standout takes note of WSU’s track record with junior college players

Wichita State produced five All-Missouri Valley Conference players since coach Gregg Marshall arrived for the 2007-08 season. He recruited three from junior colleges.

The list of transfer success stories includes other players and Connors (Okla.) State College sophomore forward Willie Atwood knows the reputation. Transfers do well at Wichita State, a place where all three assistant coaches own extensive junior-college experience.

“They know how juco players are,” Atwood said. “They let them play. They won’t count you out. They will work with you.”

Transfers are in a hurry. They have two seasons to play and don’t want to wait. But they usually needs lots of coaching to adjust to a faster game, bigger players, more demands on and off the court and larger crowds. Shocker coaches enjoy a knack for getting production out of them, quickly.

Atwood, who says he has a scholarship offer from WSU, is one of the top unsigned talents around. He is considering schools such as Iowa, Creighton, Gonzaga, Arkansas and Arizona State. Kansas State coach Bruce Weber recently watched practice. Atwood planned to visit WSU for the Indiana State game before practice changed his schedule. He wants to visit Wichita before making a college decision in the spring.

WSU is high on his list, in large part due to Marshall’s reputation with transfers.

Clevin Hannah (2010), Joe Ragland (2012) and Cleanthony Early (2013) made All-MVC first team under Marshall. Carl Hall, who earned second-team All-MVC honors (2013), and Early are the past two MVC Newcomers of the Year. Ramon Clemente (2008), Hannah (2009), Hall (2012) and Early (2013) made the All-Newcomer team. Ben Smith was named Sixth Man of the Year (2011).

All juco transfers.

Add in NCAA Division I transfers Gabe Blair (All-Newcomer, 2010) and Malcolm Armstead (NCAA Tournament West Regional MVP, 2013) and the list of transfer success stories grows. Atwood said first-year WSU assistant Steve Forbes recruited him out of high school in Memphis and continued after he watched him last summer in a showcase camp for juco players.

“Most coaches don’t do good with juco guys,” Atwood said. “They have a history with it.”

Atwood, 6-foot-8, 220 pounds, averages 20.7 points and 9.2 rebounds. He shoots 58 percent from the field, missing all four of his three-pointers, and 78 percent from the line. When he watches the Shockers on TV, their defense stands out and he sees himself fitting that style of play.

“I’m a four-man with wing skills,” he said. “If a slower man tries to guard me, I can go around them.”

Off the line — WSU is an excellent defensive team. Apparently, it’s pretty good even when it isn’t allowed to wave a hand in a shooter’s face.

Entering Saturday’s game at Drake, WSU opponents were shooting 63.4 percent from the foul line, lowest in the MVC.

WSU keeps free throw statistics back to 1951-52. The lowest percentage registered by an opponent is 62.7, in 1951-52 and 1964-65. Opponents show below 65 percent 10 times, most recently in 1995-96 (64.5) and 1980-81 (63.2).

The book on Gene — Former WSU baseball coach Gene Stephenson put his story into words with author John Brown for “Wichita State Baseball Comes Back: Gene Stephenson and the Making of a Shocker Championship Tradition.”

Stephenson and Brown will hold book signings and discussions on Feb. 22 (2-4 p.m.) at the Wichita-Sedgwick County Historical Museum and March 1 (10 a.m.-noon) at The Bookshelf in McPherson.

The 144-page book details the history of Stephenson starting a program from nothing in 1977 and building a national power. Stephenson wrote the introduction and former Shocker star Joe Carter wrote the foreword.