Wichita State has sent five former players to the NBA since 2013.
That, as coach Gregg Marshall says, proves you can get there from here. It hasn’t changed the starting point.
“This is a stage now where you’re going to get evaluated and you’re going to be seen,” he said. “It’s up to you to have the ability — strength, size, athleticism, talent, skill. By going to the NCAA Tournament … you get an opportunity to play on that stage, as well.”
Wednesday’s start of the signing period finds the Shockers recruiting much as they always do — outside the five-star range, looking in all areas and finding talent that higher-profile programs often ignore. Hutchinson Community College guard Samajae Haynes-Jones, a 6-foot guard, will sign with WSU on Wednesday afternoon.
On Tuesday night, Denmark center Asbjorn Midtgaard gave WSU a non-binding commitment. Midtgaard (6-foot-11, 264 pounds) visited WSU and TCU last season. Midtgaard, who is considered in the class of 2017 according to several publications, averages 10 points and 9.2 rebounds in five games for the Horsholm 79ers.
You won’t find Haynes-Jones, who played at East High, prominently displayed in the databases of national recruiting services. Midtgaard received some notice during the summer, but his college search isn’t attracting national attention. While the Shockers dipped into the top 100 for Fred VanVleet, Landry Shamet and Markis McDuffie, the Ron Baker-style search for talent that works for WSU, regardless of recruiting hype, continues.
“We still try to find guys that fit what we do and want to be part of something special,” Marshall said.
Haynes-Jones averaged 11.7 points and 2.1 assists in No. 6 Hutchinson’s first three games and is 8 of 13 from three-point range entering Tuesday’s game. As a freshman, he averaged 15.4 points, 3.4 rebounds and 2.4 assists. He earned second-team All-Jayhawk Conference honors and helped the Blue Dragons to a second-place finish in the NJCAA Tournament. At East, he earned All-State honors in 2015 and helped the Aces win the Class 6A title.
He fits the Shocker trademark for toughness and grit, even if he is small for a combo guard.
“When we play pickup games, he doesn’t call any fouls,” Hutchinson coach Steve Eck said when Haynes-Jones committed in September. “He reminds me of a Steve Woodberry (South High and Kansas), who was also a slim guy. He doesn’t back down. He bangs first.”
Opening up — The Shockers open the regular season on Friday against South Carolina State, picked second in the MEAC. On Sunday, they play Big West favorite Long Beach State in a game connected with the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament, which takes place later in November in the Bahamas.
Marshall said WSU scheduled South Carolina State first. Long Beach State came on as a late addition in mid-June.
“In the 11th hour we were persuaded to play them for the Battle 4 Atlantis people, as a favor to them,” Marshall said. “It’s just kind of wedged in there.”
The WSU women were already contracted to play Creighton on Sunday afternoon, putting the men’s game at 7 p.m.
The quick turnaround isn’t ideal, although it does mimic tournament conditions later in the season. One of the challenges for the Shockers will be to refocus for Sunday after the emotions of Friday’s opener.
“You’d like to be able to play and practice after breaking down film and have a little more time to prepare,” Marshall said.
Long Beach State is in a tougher spot than WSU. It opens at home on Friday against Cal State Los Angeles. The trip to Koch Arena is the start of an ambitious schedule that coach Dan Monson annually plays.
The 49ers play at North Carolina on Tuesday, at Louisville on Nov. 17, at UCLA on Nov. 20 and at Washington on Nov. 22. On Nov. 29, they play at Kansas.
WSU will pay South Carolina State $90,000 for the game. Long Beach State receives $85,000.
Starting fresh — Marshall said he is still evaluating starters for Friday, especially in the front court.
Sophomore guard Landry Shamet, Marshall said, is one likely starter after he contributed 12 points and seven assists (with one turnover) in Saturday’s 73-67 exhibition win over NCAA Division II Augusta (Ga.). Junior Conner Frankamp is the probable choice at point guard, Marshall said.
“Last week or so, he’s shown a little bit more leadership and it’s been very apparent that he’s thought about it, all the conversations that we’ve had trying to entice him to do that,” Marshall said. “We’re glad he’s taken that upon himself, and hopefully it will keep getting better.”
Freshman dish — Freshman guard Austin Reaves played 12 minutes against Augusta and handed out three assists.
“He looks very comfortable out there,” Marshall said. “He’s a pretty good post passer. Defensively, he’s not really impacted the game a whole lot defensively, yet. I’m not sure he ever will. He’s not the quickest guy out there, but he’s got good length and he knows where to be.”