Gregg Marshall can turn a phrase, which is why I often go to him for help in constructing a sentence or a paragraph.
So far, though, he has not approached me for assistance in coaching Wichita State's basketball team. Probably a good thing.
Anyway, after a lackluster first half against Drake on New Year's night at Koch Arena, Marshall told a handful of players he needed better effort in the second half.
He was more specific with one of the players, sophomore guard David Kyles.
"He told me I was Cadillac-ing in the first half," Kyles said.
How good is that?
Perhaps it was Marshall's ability to turn a noun into a verb that inspired Kyles; but whatever, it was worked. He scored eight points in the second half and was part of a unit that finally got Wichita State's motor running during a 61-38 win.
The Shockers toyed with Drake much of the night before outscoring the Bulldogs 26-7 during the final 14:06. Marshall prefers not toying, as he made abundantly clear at halftime.
Kyles, for one, got the message.
While playing 10 minutes in the first half, Kyles missed three shots and made a free throw for one point. It was another one of those Kyles performances that gets under Marshall's skin because he knows how good Kyles can be.
"He wasn't very good in the first half, wasn't very energized," Marshall said of Kyles, a 6-foot-4 sophomore with freakish athleticism. "He was kind of too cool for school out there. I challenged him at half, and he responded."
Kyles is blessed with quickness, speed, jumping ability and skill. Or is he cursed?
When he goes through the motions, Marshall said, all of his attributes become a negative because he's not playing to his potential.
So no player hears more from Marshall than Kyles, who has picked up his pace some from a season ago but still has room to grow.
When he's in one of his stylin' and profilin' moods, Kyles gets lost in the crowd despite his abundance of talent. It mystifies Marshall as to how that can happen.
"I'd love for you to ask him that question," Marshall said when I pointed out Kyles' extremes after Saturday's game.
Kyles admits he's learning about Division I college basketball in every game, every practice. Playing with high energy doesn't always come naturally. He's not necessarily built that way. But he does see the benefits.
"It's hard to go hard all the time, but that's how you separate being average from being really good,'' Kyles said. "Basically, I was just out there in the first half. I wasn't energized on offense or defense. I thought about that a lot of halftime, and it kind of sunk in."
Kyles was part of a group that broke Saturday's game open in the second half. That group included only one starter, guard Clevin Hannah, and also consisted of Gabe Blair, Demetric Williams and Garrett Stutz.
Kyles scored eight second-half points during a stretch of 8:50, during which the Shockers built their lead from 40-31 to 58-37. He had two highlight-reel baskets, one on an alley-oop from Toure Murry and another on a pull-up jumper from 18 feet with only a tick or two remaining on the shot clock.
Kyles was just as effective defensively and was chosen as WSU's player of the game despite a modest line that included nine points, three rebounds, an assist, a block and a steal in 22 minutes.
"It all came so easy in high school," said Kyles, who played at Kimball High in Dallas. "There's a big difference at this level."
Kyles has what it takes to be a major contributor for the Shockers. The only missing ingredient is consistent effort.
"All of his ability and athleticism can be a curse because when he doesn't utilize those talents and those God-given gifts it's very easy for a coach like myself to see it," Marshall said. "And I'm not one to hold my tongue, so I let him know it."
Kyles, probably more than any player other than perhaps Stutz, has been a target of Marshall's criticism.
"Coach Marshall, he has the highest expectations for me," Kyles said. "He's told me he's my biggest fan. But he's always on me, whether it's in practice or a game."
Kyles knows there's a great way to get Marshall to back off. And that's to play the way he played in the second half against Drake. Consistent effort from Kyles will get him permanently removed from Marshall's doghouse.
"Last year, I didn't really drive the ball to the basket in conference play,'' Kyles said. "Now I'm starting to get a better feel for that. Coach Marshall tells me there are times when I'm in a game and I'm not ready to shoot. We're working on that.''
Still, Kyles is a Cadillac kind of guy. He likes to cruise with one hand on the wheel and the top down.
He doesn't play his best basketball that way, though. He'd be better off trading in the Caddy for a four-wheeler, something that'll get him out of the mud.