Graduate transfers are appealing because, largely, they are a known quantity. They bring an NCAA Division I resume and should be prepared for practices, competition and academics at their new stop.
Anton Grady should check those boxes when he comes to Wichita State after four years, one injury-shortened, at Cleveland State. His high school coach thinks Grady should even bring a few surprises. He signed a financial aid agreement with WSU last week and is eligible immediately with one season to play for the Shockers.
At Cleveland State, Grady played center for a team thin on big men. Kevin Noch, who coached Grady at Cleveland Central Catholic, expects to see Grady show more versatility with WSU. In lineups with post men Shaq Morris or Bush Wamukota, Grady may be capable of playing on the wing.
“I think you’ll see him on the wing, attack and shoot,” Noch said. “He can really shoot the ball. With me, he was a face-up guy.”
Grady (6-foot-8, 225 pounds) made 4 of 10 three-pointers as junior at Cleveland State and went 7 of 29 for his career. Many big men want to shoot more threes before reality strikes. WSU coach Gregg Marshall, as players such as J.T. Durley and Garrett Stutz will attest, gives his post players the freedom to try.
Three knee surgeries (two on the left, one on the right) changed Grady’s game from his time in high school. While the injuries robbed him of some of his leaping ability, they also forced him to develop a better mid-range shooting touch and a variety of post moves.
“I can definitely do more face-up stuff,” Grady said. “I want to add more four-man skills, show that I can do both the four and the five. I can shoot the outside shot.”
Grady 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.
Last season, he produced mixed results against several of Cleveland State’s top opponents — four points, nine rebounds vs. Iona; one point, four rebounds vs. Louisville; six points, four rebounds vs. Bowling Green; eight points, three rebounds vs. Virginia and five and four vs. VCU. He stepped up against the top of the Horizon League, averaging 14.6 points and 9.6 rebounds in three games against Valparaiso and 22 points and 8.5 rebounds in two against Green Bay.
“The biggest thing they’re getting is a competitor,” Noch said. “I always compared him to a lion. He plays very, very tough. He’s going to lead. I know he’s excited about this opportunity.”
In the lead — The biggest story regarding WSU athletics in recent years has been men’s basketball. The biggest change comes from the women’s side of the department.
Their successes will help give the Shockers their third straight Missouri Valley Conference All-Sports Award, their ninth since 2004, later this month. With only men’s and women’s track and field undecided, WSU leads the standings with an average finish of 2.33. Southern Illinois is second at 3.88 and Northern Iowa third at 4.50.
WSU finished first in men’s and women’s basketball, women’s golf and women’s tennis and second in men’s indoor track and men’s tennis.
It is the rise of sports such as women’s basketball, softball and golf that made WSU’s strong position more dominant recently. Last year, WSU finished first or second in 12 of 15 sports and won eight MVC titles.
Women’s basketball won its first MVC title in 2013 and repeated in 2014 and 2015. Women’s golf claimed the past two titles, the first since 1992. Softball won its first Valley title in 2014 and finished fourth this spring.
Running with the Rebels — WSU’s men’s basketball team needs one opponent to complete its list for 2015-16.
That final game will be against a non-Division I team, so senior associate athletic director Darron Boatright considers work essentially done.
ESPN recently requested WSU move its game against UNLV to Dec. 9 from Dec. 2 to better showcase the game. WSU’s game, part of the Missouri Valley/Mountain West Challenge, will air on one of ESPN’s networks. While UNLV went 18-15 last season, the addition of freshman center Stephen Zimmerman makes the Rebels an intriguing opponent. Zimmerman, a 7-footer, played in the McDonald’s All-American game and the Jordan Brand Classic. ESPN.com ranks him No. 12 nationally in the class of 2015.
Boatright is already looking ahead to the 2016-17 schedule and said that interest from high-profile programs for a home-and-home series is improving. In recent seasons, WSU played series against schools such as Utah, Alabama, Tennessee and Saint Louis. That trend is continuing and it is an easier sell, Boatright said.
“That’s a credit to the consistency of our program,” he said.