The few thousand Wichita State fans who came to Koch Arena on Saturday received their first glimpse of the men’s basketball team in the Black & Yellow scrimmage.
For every Chance Moore three and Rod Brown alley-oop, there was a play that made WSU coach Gregg Marshall look like he wanted to come out of his court-side seat and halt the scrimmage. Ultimately, it was a debut Marshall said he could “live with.”
Teams were divided up evenly and the afternoon ended on a Jamarius Burton game-winner in the closing seconds to pull out a 26-25 win for the Black team. Moore led the Yellow team with 13 points, while West Virginia transfer Teddy Allen led the Black team with 12.
Here are some takeaways from Saturday’s scrimmage:
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1. Some jitters are gone
WSU is transitioning nine new players, eight of whom are new to the Division I level.
While they didn’t receive the full experience of a sold-out Koch Arena on Saturday, they did go through some of the things they will on an official game day.
“There were several guys who had never played in front of that many people,” Marshall said. “It helps with just the fact that they were able to come out of the tunnel, be introduced, play in front of those people.”
WSU senior Markis McDuffie said he could notice the nerves of some of the freshmen. Not surprisingly, the freshmen combined for 4 of 14 shooting.
“They were definitely nervous, the same way I was nervous when I first got out there,” McDuffie said. “It’s been a lot of ups and downs. They’re still trying to get used to this college basketball atmosphere and learning the right way to play basketball. Every day we’re working super hard and what you guys saw (Saturday) is all the stuff we’ve been working on every single day going hard.”
2. A new-look offense
Last season’s Shockers produced the best offense in the Gregg Marshall era, thanks to shooters like Landry Shamet and Conner Frankamp.
“I’m still trying to find which guy is going to be Landry Shamet and which guy is going to be Conner Frankamp,” Marshall said on Saturday. “We gave up some things defensively at times with that group, but those two guys could really put the ball in the basket. I’m not sure we have that guy this year, so we’re going to have to be a little better defensively and a little better on the glass.”
Senior Samajae Haynes-Jones ran the show for the Black team, at one point showing a glimpse of what could be a familiar scene this season: He took a high ball screen, broke down his defender, attacked a back-pedaling big man and pulled up at the free-throw line for an open jump shot.
“That’s something I work on every day in individuals,” Haynes-Jones said. “Breaking down and getting in the paint and then hitting that little mid-range jump shot.”
Moore flashed his scoring ability, hitting three straight three-pointers at one point. Dexter Dennis showcased an impressive mid-range game. Morris Udeze grabbed two offensive rebounds. Asbjorn Midtgaard struggled catching the ball but did come up with seven rebounds.
But perhaps the most impressive play came with Jamarius Burton, a 6-foot-4 freshman from North Carolina.
The Black team tried to get into a set, but a dribble hand-off was blown up. Burton got the ball on a reset with his team trailing by one point with the clock inside 10 seconds. He took his defender off the dribble to his left, used his sturdy frame to create separation and kissed a running 6-footer off the glass over the out-stretched hands of Udeze for the game-winner.
“That was an amazing play,” McDuffie said. “We’re going to need that in games. There are going to be games where we can’t run a set and there’s not going to be enough time on the clock and we’re going to need a quick basket. He came up big.”
3. No Teddy Allen update
WSU is in the process of a hardship waiver to the NCAA to allow West Virginia sophomore transfer Teddy Allen be immediately eligible to play this season.
According to Marshall on Saturday, there’s no update on the waiver request.
“Hopefully the NCAA will see fit that he moved back to be closer to his roots in Boys Town (Nebraska),” Marshall said.
McDuffie was more vocal on the matter.
“He’s going to be one of the vital pieces on this team if he plays,” McDuffie said. “Hopefully, we’re praying he can play. I’ve seen a lot of guys getting cleared on the Internet, so if he doesn’t get cleared I don’t think that’s fair. Hopefully he does because he’s going to help us a lot.”
Allen’s nickname — “Teddy Buckets” — was backed up on Saturday. He bullied his way inside for offensive rebound putbacks, then flashed the most when he grabbed a defensive rebound, dribbled coast-to-coast and finished around 6-foot-11 Jaime Echenique in transition.
“He’s wired to score,” Marshall said. “Every time he cuts hard to the basket and comes off a screen and puts his head down, he really wants to put the ball in the basket. This team could use that.”
4. Young and dumb
Wichita State had two players who sat out Saturday’s scrimmage: junior point guard Ricky Torres and freshman post Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler.
Torres has been dealing with a knee injury not believed to be serious and has missed the last four practices as a precaution. Poor Bear-Chandler, on the other hand, was a surprise absence.
“You know you have a really young and inexperienced team when on their day off (Thursday) for a photo shoot with the big board and afterward they’re horsing around and somehow a kid gets a concussion,” Marshall said. “You know you have an inexperienced, young, and sometimes dumb team when you do stuff like that. But that’s just the way it is.”
5. Making well-rounded players
Fans are sure to be excited about the performances of Moore and Allen, who combined for 25 points.
But the coaches evaluate their overall play, and while Moore and Allen showed off their offensive repertoire, they both struggled to stay locked in on defense.
“When you look at a box score as a fan, you see this person scored x amount of points,” Marshall said. “But it doesn’t show how many they gave up.
“That’s my job to try to make them as complete of players as possible. These guys that can score, we’ve got to make them defend and rebound and run the floor and execute better. That’s the staff’s expectations with Teddy and Chance.”