After emerging in the second half of last season, Asbjorn Midtgaard has continued to impress the Wichita State men’s basketball coaches this spring.
Speaking to local media Monday at his golf tournament fundraiser at Wichita Country Club, coach Gregg Marshall singled out Midtgaard, a junior-to-be, as a player who has made improvements in the two months since the Shockers saw their 22-15 season end in New York City in the semifinals of the National Invitation Tournament.
After falling out of the rotation and playing a total of 49 minutes in the first 15 games of the season, Midtgaard broke out in WSU’s Jan. 16 win over Central Florida when he came off the bench to score six points. In the final 22 games, Midtgaard averaged 5.4 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.1 blocks in 15.1 minutes and made 64.1% of his field goals.
Marshall thought Midtgaard, a 7-foot, 268-pound center, looked even better during an individual work-out he watched this spring.
“He took another step, I don’t know for what reason,” Marshall said. “But I noticed a different pep in his step if you will. He was a little more athletic, a little quicker, a little more explosive. It’s amazing if that is a mental thing and he flipped the switch.”
Marshall also confirmed that Midtgaard has a foot injury that will prevent him from participating in the start of team workouts that are expected to begin in mid-June when all of WSU’s incoming 2019 recruits are on campus. It’s another injury that has racked up to WSU’s center group, as Jaime Echenique (foot) and Morris Udeze (shoulder) are nursing injuries that will also hold them out in June.
The eight returning players and all but one of the recruits are scheduled to be in Wichita on June 3 for individual workouts. That means sophomore-to-be Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler will be the lone healthy center for the start of workouts.
Like every year, Marshall is reserving judgment on his incoming recruits until they arrive in June and start competing with the returning players. He did say he was ecstatic to land “first choices” in guard Grant Sherfield and junior-college forward Trey Wade this spring to join a 2019 class of guard Noah Fernandes, guard Tyson Etienne and forward DeAntoni Gordon.
“Hopefully we’re evaluating properly because when you get your first choice, normally that needs to work out and I think this group will work out,” Marshall said. “It’s always fun to have new guys coming into the program and see how quickly we can integrate them into our program so they’ll be productive players. That’s why the summer is key.”
Marshall said the coaching staff had identified a need (a power forward to replace graduating senior Markis McDuffie) and a weakness (ball handling and creating) and loaded up in both areas.
With only sophomores-to-be Jamarius Burton and Erik Stevenson returning at the guard position for WSU, the opportunity to play right away for the trio of freshmen will be there. How they acclimate this summer will be the first step for them to earn that playing time.
“The guards, all of them can handle it, all of them can shoot it and all of them are competitors,” Marshall said. “Hopefully they come in and have it right away. But you’ve seen it this past year that sometimes these freshmen they come in and have it right away, other times it takes a quarter of the way through the season or halfway through the season and sometimes it’s maybe into their second season like Asbjorn.
“We need those guys to come in and play right away because they’re talented and it’s a position where we had a need this past year at the point.”
Even though this recruiting class is being hailed as a unanimous top-40 class, Marshall held off on comparing it to other recent recruiting hauls the Shockers have had in his tenure.
“Recruiting services and what not, I don’t put much stock into those,” Marshall said. “That’s why you pay assistant coaches to go out and evaluate and look at them with your own eyes. We try not to get caught up with who’s recruiting them. We want guys that can help us win and that are coachable and are willing to sacrifice to a degree, play both ends, share the basketball and then guys that want to be part of something special. Hopefully they can help us win the majority of our games and then everybody gets the credit.”
Marshall camp — The Gregg Marshall Shocker Basketball camps are now open for registration. Marshall, current players and his coaching staff will lead a variety of sessions this June geared to helping boys and girls of all ages and ability levels improve their basketball knowledge and skills.
There will be two sessions of day camps for ages 7-18 available. Session 1 runs June 3-6 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., while Session 2 runs June 17-20 from 1-5:15 p.m. A shooting camp, for ages 7-18, is scheduled for June 15 from 9-11:45 a.m. A high-intensity camp, designed for high school and junior-college players serious about improving their game, is scheduled for June 15 from 1-4 p.m.
Campers may register online through GoShockers.com or by calling the basketball office at 316-978-3252.
Easterling tabbed as successor to WSU men’s golf — A former player is set to take over the WSU men’s golf program after longtime coach Grier Jones officially retired after this spring season. Judd Easterling was announced as the next coach on Monday.
“We are very excited to have Judd as our head men’s golf coach,” WSU athletic director Darron Boatright said in a statement. “He was not only an outstanding player at Wichita State, but he has done a tremendous job working with our young men over the last three seasons as an assistant coach. I’m confident he will continue to lead the program in a first-class fashion and continue the legacy that Grier Jones has built for the last 24 years.”
Adams signs two-year extension — WSU women’s basketball coach Keitha Adams agreed to a two-year contract extension through 2024, WSU announced last week. Adams is 26-35 in her first two seasons at WSU.
“We are committed to Coach Adams and her continued leadership of our women’s basketball program,” Boatright said. “Her passion and excitement for Wichita State is contagious. We look forward to helping make her vision for this program a reality.”