Where others might see a weakness, Tekele Cotton sees a strength.
What others might see as a vulnerable spot for No. 4 Wichita State, Cotton sees an opportunity to be special.
The post spot in the Shocker lineup, seemingly up for grabs game to game, has brought out the best in the three players that have rotated in — seniors Chadrack Lufile and Kadeem Coleby, and junior Darius Carter.
In Saturday’s 81-67 win over Evansville, it was Coleby making his first start since Dec. 14 against Tennessee. The other four starters — Cotton, Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker and Cleanthony Early — have been the same for all 23 games.
"We’ve got three 5-men that can come in and give us the spark we need," Cotton said after the win over the Aces. "That’s what’s special about it, to me, because any one of those guys can be the one that gives us the spark we need. (Coleby) was big for us tonight.”
WSU coach Gregg Marshall said Coleby got the start for a couple or reasons — partly because Lufile has been struggling and partly to give Coleby a spark. Coleby, a transfer from Louisiana-Lafayette, responded with one of his best games in months.
“(Lufile) had not been playing well ... it’s just a thing that we tried to get Kadeem going,” Marshall said. “They’re all gonna get a shot. I thought Kadeem played pretty well.”
Coleby scored four points and grabbed six rebounds against Evansville in 16 minutes. It was his highest rebound total since grabbing eight against Tennessee State on Nov. 16. He also blocked a shot and was aggressive around the rim on defense as the Shockers (23-0, 10-0 Missouri Valley) rallied from a 15-point first-half deficit.
Lufile also played 16 minutes, scoring two points with five rebounds and two blocks. Carter played 11 minutes and scored nine points.
“You have to take advantage of your minutes, don’t focus on when you play or who starts,” Coleby said. “You just try to take advantage of your opportunities when they come.”
Marshall’s move to start Coleby and give him a boost seems to work. His numbers do go up when he’s in the starting lineup — 5.6 points and 3.2 rebounds in starts, 3.0 points and 2.7 rebounds overall.
He also gets more of a chance to get in the groove defensively.
“I feel like blocking shots, getting in that rhythm, isn’t a lot different than when a shooter gets hot,” Coleby said. “You feel like you can block every shot, like you can get to every shot.”
Headed into the biggest week of the season so far — back-to-back games at Indiana State and Northern Iowa — a lot of who will start in that fifth spot will be determined in practice, something they all understand.
“A lot of who starts depends on the week you’re having,” Coleby said. “How are you rebounding? Are you being aggressive going after the ball? That’s what (the coaches) are looking for.”
And when one starts and the others don’t, egos don’t get bruised.
“Everybody on the team knows their role, nobody gets up or down when a position gets taken,” Cotton said. “When one of them steps up, or anybody steps up, the other people encourage them to do what we have to in order to win. We’re all about winning, we’re not about the individual.”