At 7 feet tall and more than 270 pounds, Asbjorn Midtgaard is the biggest (literally and figuratively) question mark returning on the Wichita State men's basketball team for the 2018-19 season.
On one hand, Midtgaard is the only returning post player on WSU's roster. But on the other, the Danish big man's Division I experience equates to just nine games and 49 minutes, in which Midtgaard produced 11 points and 17 rebounds.
That's not a large enough sample size to judge if Midtgaard is prepared to assume the starting center position for Gregg Marshall this winter.
But this summer Midtgaard says he's not concerned about the details of his upcoming expanded role.
"My No. 1 concern is just going out there and playing my part," Midtgaard said. "I'm not going to do anything fancy. I'm just going to go in there and try to make sure we get the 'W.' "
Maybe the best scouting report on Midtgaard comes from the players who have played with him the most - last year's seniors.
Midtgaard said he was forced to grow up fast going against Shaquille Morris, Rauno Nurger, Darral Willis and Rashard Kelly every day in practice. He took his lumps early, but those graduated seniors all came away impressed.
“I tell people all the time his junior year he’s going to dominate,” Kelly said last season. “Just because of who he battles against every day in practice. Going against (Morris and Nurger) as a freshman every day, day in and day out, he has no choice but to get better. By the time he’s our age, he should be dominating.”
Some questioned if Midtgaard received enough playing time to justify burning a year of eligibility, but the big man himself says he is grateful WSU did not redshirt him.
"It's not just about playing time," Midtgaard said. "I got to go do all of the traveling with the team and sit on the bench and watch the games and be in the huddles, instead of staying home and watching it from TV. I got the feel of warming up with the guys, going through all of the preparations for the game. That was huge for me and I believe it's prepared me for this season."
Midtgaard is expected to compete for playing time with junior-college transfer Jaime Echenique, a 6-11 mobile center from Colombia, when Marshall decides to play a big lineup. Incoming freshman Morris Udeze (6-8) and Isaiah Poor Bear Chandler (6-8) could also see minutes at center in smaller lineups.
After a year of working with strength and conditioning coach Kerry Rosenboom, Midtgaard says he has stayed around the same weight but has added more muscle. He's in better shape and is feeling more explosive jumping.
Midtgaard is looking forward to displaying his new traits during the competition for playing time when official practices begin this fall.
"We're a new group and we're all still learning a lot, but I'm excited to see what we can do," Midtgaard said. "Everyone thinks we're not going to do as good as we usually do, but I really like this group. We're going to be good and I expect a lot from us."
It's unclear if Midtgaard is ready to play upwards of 20 minutes per game, but one thing is certain: WSU fans will be pulling for him.
"He's a great young man and I love him too," Marshall said last season. "He's easy to like and easy to pull for."