Eric Hamilton can’t be considered a returner, even though his experiences in the ways of Wichita State basketball are deeper than the other Shocker newcomers. Hamilton considers himself one of the newcomers, largely because he considers himself a different person and player than last summer.
“Everything for me is better,” Hamilton said. “Coach (Greg) Heiar told me yesterday that ‘Nothing about you is the same.’ My work ethic is way better. My athleticism is off the charts compared to last year. Conditioning is better. Shooting is better. Ball-handling has definitely improved the most.”
All but one of the Shocker newcomers are on campus and practicing in small groups this week. Forward Markis McDuffie, from St. Anthony (N.J.), is expected to arrive Saturday after attending his twin sister’s graduation. For most, the adjustment to college classes and basketball is draining.
Hamilton got a head start last summer when he enrolled at WSU and worked with the team before deciding to attend Sunrise Christian Academy to give himself time to mature. On Thursday morning, senior Anton Grady, a transfer from Cleveland State who is eligible immediately, and Hamilton worked out with big-man groups. Freshmen Landry Shamet and Tyrone Taylor worked out with guards with coach Gregg Marshall and assistants Heiar and Isaac Brown watching and instructing.
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“Intense,” Grady said. “I like it a lot.”
That is standard practice for Marshall.
“We’re teaching them how we work, teach them what’s expected,” Marshall said. “Go to class. Whether it’s in the weight room, whether it’s in individual workout or timed mile, give it your best.”
Hamilton, a power forward from Duluth, Ga., is thrilled with his year at Sunrise. He said he grew an inch to 6-foot-9 and put on 24 pounds to grow to 229. He credits Sunrise coaches Kyle Lindsted and Luke Barnwell with pushing him to improve all aspects of his game. A year ago, the mental demands of a practice flummoxed him and the physical demands of playing against talents such as former Shocker Darius Carter frustrated him.
“I think Sunrise saved my life,” Hamilton said. “Last year, I wasn’t ready. Now I know for a fact that I can compete with anybody on this team. That’s my daily approach.”
Size and athletic ability always worked in Hamilton’s favor. He struggled most with executing WSU’s system and playing hard for an entire practice last summer. It helps that Sunrise runs an offense similar to WSU’s, speeding up Hamilton’s recognition and understanding. If his improvement continues, he can add depth to WSU’s front court. The departure of Carter, who averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds, leaves the Shockers short on veterans in the post.
“What he’s telling me is that he has it locked down mentally,” Marshall said. “He has to just focus. He loses concentration, doesn’t look people in the eye when they’re talking to him. He’s getting better with that, and that’s going to really help him.”
Hamilton calls this process becoming an every-day guy, a description he picked up from Heiar.
“Investing in myself,” Hamilton said. “An every-day guy is someone who treats every day as if it’s his last. He works hard and you know exactly what you’re going to get from this person. Clocks in early. Clocks out late. Last summer, I wasn’t an every-day guy. I didn’t know what was going on.”
Most of the newcomers arrived last weekend and they are adjusting to classes, weights, pickup games and 40-minute practice sessions.
One of Shamet’s first moves was to buy a daily planner and write in assignments and appointments. He didn’t need one in high school.
“Your teachers would remind you of stuff and you had your mom at home,” he said. “Now it’s on me.”
Shamet, from Park Hill (Mo.), is taking a theater class and a psychology class.
“Why not start off with two A’s in my first two classes?” he said. “I’ve got all this time over the summer.”
Shamet said he is already taking advantage of WSU’s practice gym. He can get any time for solo practice with his key fob and it is usually easy to find a teammate to work with or a manager to rebound. In Kansas City, he had to find an open gym.
“I worked hard back at home, but there’s so much access you have,” he said. “Gym. Weight room. They make it really easy for us to have the opportunity to get better.”
Taylor, from Grandview, Mo., is also experiencing the time management challenges of a new student.
“I’ve been getting everything done, but it’s hard for me to find that sleep time,” he said. “It’s a matter of me getting some good rest after I complete all these tasks.”
Taylor works with Shamet and Conner Frankamp in individual drills and he appreciates that competition.
“It’s definitely got me more focused,” he said. “In my mind, if I see Conner or Landry make a shot, I want to make a shot. I feel like I’ve gotten better just in these last three days.”
Hold that plane — WSU’s plans for an exhibition tour are on hold, Marshall said.
“Up in the air,” he said. “We may not do anything. We may wait a year.”
NCAA rules allow schools to take a foreign trip once every four years. The Shockers last took an exhibition trip in 2011, playing five games in 10 days.
On his way — Visa problems are delaying the return of Wamukota from Kenya.
“I don’t think it’s anything serious,” Marshall said. “He’s had to delay his flight a couple times. He hopes to be back this weekend.”
Conner Frankamp (6-foot-1), guard, North — Frankamp, the City League’s career scoring leader, transferred to WSU from Kansas last fall. He averaged 2.5 points as a freshman at Kansas. He scored 2,295 points at North and averaged 31.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.5 rebounds as a senior. He practiced with WSU starting in January and becomes eligible on Dec. 12.
Eric Hamilton (6-9), forward, Sunrise Christian Academy — Averaged around 14 points and seven rebounds for Sunrise, which went 20-6.
Markis McDuffie (6-8), forward, St. Anthony (N.J.) — Averaged 14.4 points, according to NJ.com, for a team that went 28-2 and finished second in the New Jersey Non-Public B tournament. ESPN.com ranks him No. 95 nationally. Earned second-team All-State and second-team All-Non-Public honors from NJ.com.
Landry Shamet (6-4), guard, Park Hill (Mo.) — Averaged around 18 points, six rebounds and three assists for the Trojans, who went 20-6. He is ranked No. 88 nationally by Rivals.com and a four-star prospect. He is one of five finalists for the DiRenna Award, given to the top player in the Kansas City area, and one of 20 players named All-Class 5 by the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association.
Tyrone Taylor (6-4), guard, Hargrave Military Academy — Averaged around 20 points for Hargrave, which went 38-6. Rivals.com ranks him a three-star recruit. He is from Grandview (Mo.), where earned All-Class 4 honors in Missouri in 2013-14 and was one of five finalists for the DiRenna Award.
Anton Grady (6-8), center, Cleveland State — Grady, a senior transfer, was All-Horizon League last season, averaging 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds for the Vikings. He was also named to the Horizon League’s All-Defensive team. He made 48.8 percent of his shots and 64.5 percent of his free throws. He joined the Shockers in May and is eligible immediately as a graduate transfer.