Landry Shamet picked the game — Missouri State on Feb. 18. He wanted to play with the Wichita State seniors, the athletes who created the program he joined and the athletes he wanted to help win in the NCAA Tournament.
“If I was ready to go, I would have played,” he said. “I felt the entire time a sense of responsibility and unselfishness that I had to do it for those guys. I let them know that, ‘I want to do it for you guys. You’re a big reason why I came here.’ ”
Shamet’s left ankle lacks the same sense of teamwork.
He won’t play this season after undergoing surgery to repair a stress fracture in his left foot in November. While his decision has been obvious for almost two weeks, coach Gregg Marshall wanted the words to come from Shamet. He will seek a medical hardship after a freshman season that consisted of three games before the injury. His ankle remains weak after months of atrophy.
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“I’m still not even where I could even play,” he said. “My foot feels fine. It only gets sore once in awhile. My ankle, conditioning, being out of basketball for three months, it’s something you’re not going to jump back into in a week.”
Shamet, a guard from Kansas City, Mo., participates in shooting and ball-handling drills during most practices. He sits out, sometimes riding a stationary bike, when the Shockers scrimmage.
“I can’t cut and move and jump and land,” he said. “It just feels like a sprained ankle. I don’t do anything that’s up and down, live stuff.”
Shamet’s absence contributed to WSU’s November slump. He could have helped the Shockers by playing some point guard while Fred VanVleet recovered from a strained hamstring. He had the potential to give WSU scoring and defense on the wing. He averaged 8.7 points in his three games and started against Emporia State.
He impressed coaches when he arrived in the summer with his serious-minded approach, watching video and asking questions. On the court, his athletic ability and maturity propelled him toward a spot in the rotation. Consider this: Markis McDuffie may be the Missouri Valley Conference Freshman of the Year. Shamet started the season far ahead of McDuffie on the depth chart.
Serving up two sports — WSU assistant coach Greg Heiar is the go-to guy for individual drills. Fans who showed up early to basketball games this season got a chance to see some of Heiar’s most entertaining work.
WSU’s redshirts and reserves often drill two hours before games. Many times, this included ball-handling drills with a basketball and a tennis ball. Heiar has the Shockers dribbling through cones while tossing, catching and dribbling a yellow tennis ball.
All that’s missing is a chain saw and it’s a Vegas-worthy juggling act.
“The first time we started doing it heavy with the tennis ball I was like, ‘This can’t be possible,’ ” WSU guard Peyton Allen said. “I struggled through it, and we all did.”
Shamet sees the drill helping with his transition to playing point guard at WSU. He played shooting guard in high school and his future at WSU likely includes both. At a school where Fred VanVleet sets the standard for low-turnover ball-handling, drills matter.
“Coach Heiar is an evil genius, mad scientist,” Shamet said. “Before you even go through the drill, you have to go through it in your head, ‘How am I going to throw it up, between-the-leg, between-the-leg, catch the tennis ball, can’t touch the cone.’”
Allen, a 6-foot-4 sophomore guard, is also working on his ball skills to ease his adjustment next season when he is eligible. He is redshirting after transferring from Texas A&M. Working with the big orange ball and the small yellow ball gives him more confidence to drive, run the break and work off screens in situations he avoided in the past.
“Being tight with my dribble, not keeping it too high or out in front, just keeping it right by my side,” he said. “When you’re in tight spaces in the lane, just a couple pounds, it’s definitely helped. Now with my dribble I can create a little space, create my own shot or create a shot for others.”
Rising in the rankings — WSU women’s tennis team is No. 21 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, five spots below its highest spot as a program.
Friday’s 5-2 win at No. 23 Kansas should help the Shockers move up again. Their target is No. 16 in 2008.
After Friday’s win, WSU owns wins over No. 35 Oklahoma, No. 61 Minnesota and No. 33 Washington.