Leftovers from Missouri Valley Conference media day in St. Louis:
▪ Most seasons, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall lets players decide if they want to redshirt. This season, he plans to take matters into his owns hands, if necessary.
He’s got perhaps his deepest roster in nine seasons at WSU with 13 scholarship players, one talented walk-on in Conner Frankamp and three other walk-ons (plus transfer Peyton Allen, who is sitting out).
“With 18 guys on our team, I can give them the option, but if they don’t take my suggestion then it becomes DNP-Coaches Decision, which then still gives me the option,” Marshall said. “I just don’t want to waste their year. Some of these guys think they’re going to play a lot. They’re going to be on our third team.”
The Shockers scrimmage Oklahoma State on Saturday (no fans, no media) at Koch Arena in what will probably be a reality check for a few players. It will also give Marshall a useful evaluation tool.
Minutes at point guard will be hard to come by with Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker around. That might make freshman Ty Taylor a redshirt candidate. The downside is that experience gained by Taylor this season might be helpful next season, when he will probably be WSU’s lone returning pure point guard.
WSU is scheduled to have six juniors next season, more if they add another junior-college player. It might be smart for sophomore forward Rauno Nurger to redshirt, break up that class a bit, and give himself another year to muscle up. He is a skilled offensive player, but he was slotted behind players such as Evan Wessel, Rashard Kelly, Shaq Morris and Bush Wamukota last season. Add in Anton Grady and it appears Nurger might be far back in the rotation, even if Wessel plays more on the wing this season.
The same might be said for freshman Eric Hamilton, but my guess is Marshall would lean toward having another rebounder available and that is something Hamilton does well. Nurger appears to be valuable mostly for his scoring and WSU has plenty of shooters.
Marshall is under no time pressure to make a decision. He can hold players out as long as he wants to see if injury or performance makes his decision.
New Shockers can play in the exhibition game on Nov. 7 against Hawaii Pacific without burning a redshirt possibility. Neither Frankamp nor Allen can play in the closed scrimmage or the exhibition. As transfers, they must serve a year in residence at WSU before playing outside competition.
▪ Interest in Frankamp’s role once he becomes eligible on Dec. 12 will continue to grow because of his background as a City League star. Here’s what Marshall said Tuesday about integrating Frankamp into the rotation.
“How much he plays, where he plays, whether it’s (shooting guard or point guard) … is dependent upon so many other factors,” he said. “How well and how healthy the other guys are playing. Maybe Landry Shamet and Tyrone Taylor, those guys have said ‘You’ve got to play me. Look at what I’m doing.’ Is he going to play in front of Fred or Ron if they’re healthy? Probably not. Maybe Ron can play some (small forward). We’ve just got to find the combinations that are going to give us the best chance of success. Conner’s going to be in those some of those combinations.”
▪ New rules and newly emphasized rules ruled the topics of the day. I’ll be writing more about fouls and the shot clock later. The consensus from coaches and players is that games will be called tightly (like two seasons ago) and referees will maintain that focus for an entire season (unlike two seasons ago).
Referees are telling coaches the NCAA is serious this time and refs who don’t call the games as instructed (meaning as the rules are written) won’t get assignments. It may take two or three years to adjust. Expect lots of fouls.
Opinions differed on the 30-second clock. Some coaches see little change in the game. Others are preparing for more presses, more zones and less time to run offensive sets. From a WSU perspective, Marshall said he is happy to go through this change with VanVleet and Baker running his team.
There is also a thought that the new shot clock, which may limit the number of plays called by coaches, and the fact coaches can’t call live-ball timeouts puts more burden on players to understand situations and think like a coach.
▪ The MVC has 33 starters back, which is on the high end for recent seasons, surpassed only by last season’s 36 and more than four of the previous six. Eight of the top 10 scorers, five of the top 10 rebounders and all five of the assists leaders are back.
The Valley may also benefit from post-season experience in 2015. In addition to WSU and Northern Iowa winning NCAA games, Illinois State won an NIT game, Evansville won the College Basketball Invitational and Loyola won the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The MVC did lose Josh Cunningham (Bradley to Dayton), Jordan Caroline (SIU to Nevada) and Reggie Lynch (Illinois State to Minnesota). All three would have been significant factors for their teams.
▪ Bradley’s roster took another hit on Tuesday when it announced senior center Mike Shaw will end his career because of back injuries. Shaw was one of three returning players for the Braves, whose roster includes one senior, one sophomore and 10 freshmen.
“I’m teaching more than I ever have, which is fun for me,” coach Brian Wardle said. “But the intensity, the demands, the accountability is no different than if my team were seniors or freshmen. I expect them to understand what is demanded of them.”
▪ Loyola could use big-and-nasty help to continue its climb in the MVC in its third season. Coffeyville Community College center Maurice Kirby (6-9, 240 pounds) should fill that role.
“He’s going to give us a body to bang with some of the teams who have bigger players,” coach Porter Moser said. “We played small last year. I can’t predict his scoring, but I will say in defense and rebounding, he’ll make his presence felt.”
▪ Drake freshman center Dominik Olejniczak, from Poland, is building buzz as one of the MVC’s top rookies. Coach Ray Giacoletti expects him to endure the normal ups and downs while showing a bright future.
“If he can sustain his attitude and work ethic, the sky is the limit,” Giacoletti said. “Most people say that kind of stuff … but this one’s different.”
▪ Missouri State is the women’s favorite, thanks to four returning starters and a finishing kick that included a 10-game win streak in 2015.