It’s easy to forget Jaime Echenique played the final two-thirds of last basketball season with a debilitating foot injury, because the 6-foot-11 center from Colombia didn’t miss a game for Wichita State after partially tearing his plantar fascia in the Shockers’ final nonconference game.
After gutting through the pain for nearly four months, the offseason was welcomed by Echenique, who finally had time to let the injury naturally heal.
Through summer workouts and the first two weeks of official practices, Echenique is happy to report that he is dealing with no pain in his foot and finally feels fully healthy. WSU plays its lone exhibition game in three weeks, then opens the regular season on Nov. 5 at home against Omaha.
“It’s feeling great,” Echenique said of his foot. “I’ve been having good runs in practice. My conditioning is way better because I can work on it because there is no more pain. So I’m working every day so I can give all that I can for my team for my last year.”
That’s great news for the Shockers, because they were at their absolute best with Echenique on the floor. According to StatHouse, WSU outscored opponents by 155 points in Echenique’s 686 minutes, by far the best mark on the team, despite Echenique only playing 17.9 minutes per game in his junior campaign.
Echenique being on the floor typically led to good things happening for the Shockers last season. His averages of 9.2 points, 6.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks aren’t gaudy, but his per-minute numbers for rebounds and blocks ranked in the top 50 in the country, per KenPom.
“Fans can expect a lot of things from me,” Echenique said. “I want to keep going like the Jaime that you all saw before the injuries. That’s the one I want going every night really hard and really passionate. That’s the kind of Jaime I want to put on the court.”
The center position figures to be a strength for the Shockers with Echenique, junior Asbjorn Midtgaard and sophomores Morris Udeze and Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler all returning.
So coach Gregg Marshall might not ask Echenique to play many more minutes than he did last season because WSU is likely to rely on a three-player rotation again at center. But if Echenique is better conditioned for those minutes, then he could make an even larger difference.
That’s why at the start of the summer, WSU strength and conditioning coach Kerry Rosenboom said it was his “No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 goal” for Echenique to improve his stamina.
Both agreed the offseason plan has been a success. Echenique said it was frustrating playing while injured last season, but said going through the adversity made him stronger. That led to him being more committed to running since returning from the injury this summer.
“Now we do three hours of practice and I feel like I can keep going easily,” Echenique said.