Monday night, junior Jordan Vincent entered the Eisenhower locker room at halftime looking for answers.
Eisenhower trailed Valley Center 30-21 on the Hornets’ senior night. The Tigers couldn’t break through the confusing zone defense, and Vincent, one of Kansas’ better players, was mostly held in check. For guidance, he turned to a former Wichita State Shocker and that player’s mentor.
Eisenhower coach Steve Blue, first-year assistant Zach Bush and the rest of the coaching staff went to work. After the break, the Tigers went on a 24-1 run and pulled out a 69-53 road win to maintain a top 10 seed in Class 5A West.
“We figured it out,” Bush said.
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Bush walked on at Wichita State in 2013 after an outstanding career at Eisenhower. He averaged 22.8 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists as a 6-foot-6 guard in high school between Goddard and Eisenhower, where he holds the high jump records As a senior, he was named to the Eagle’s All-State team.
He signed with Washburn but decided to walk on at WSU. He spent four years under coach Gregg Marshall. He admittedly wasn’t the player some of his teammates were in college, but he picked up on what it takes to be successful.
After graduating from WSU, he picked up a job with a medical device company. It wasn’t for him, and he talked with Blue a lot. He wanted to get back into basketball. There was a mutual interest.
“I had always hoped that coach Bush would come back,” Blue said. “He is one of our best all-time players. When he played for us, we knew his basketball IQ was so high. The fact that he’s played at the highest level with a great coach like Gregg Marshall, we knew he had a lot to bring to the table.”
Bush said he was looking at other jobs in the Wichita area. He wanted to make sure he would fit, and the allure of returning home never weakened.
After he left WSU, he was a familiar face at Eisenhower practices without even being on the staff. He was familiar with the players, and they could relate to him. He was part of Eisenhower’s first graduating class.
“The kids look up to him,” Blue said. “He’s done such a tremendous job with our guards, taking them to the next level and has brought some sets they run at the college level that have helped us out a lot. ... He fires me up about as much as anybody when he comes to practice.”
Vincent has been one of the biggest beneficiaries. He is taking over for his brother Dylan, an All-Metro and All-State selection last year who averaged 25.8 points and 5.9 assists as part of the most successful senior class in Eisenhower history.
The Tigers lost five of their top seven scorers from last season. Jordan Vincent was expected to step up and has. Monday, despite a slow first half, he finished with a game-high 34 points in the win.
“I went to every game Tuesday and Friday to watch (Bush) play,” Vincent said. “It’s crazy. I’m glad to have him as a coach. Me, Ethan Stewart and Zach play (one-on-one) after practice all the time.”
Bush said Blue has always been excellent at coaching the mental side of the game. That’s where Bush excelled in high school, and when he got to WSU, that didn’t change, just shifted, he said. Blue said high school players think they are playing hard, but they don’t know hard until they experience it in college.
“Being able to see it from a different perspective in college and helping these guys see things differently from the way they see,” Bush said. “I know there are some things I thought I knew in high school. Then you go to college, and you see it in a completely new fashion.”
Bush is still around those he met at WSU. He is helping coach the Aftershocks, a team of former WSU players that will compete in The Basketball Tournament July 25-28 in Koch Arena.
He joins Karon Bradley and J.R. Simon on staff and will lead some of the best players to come through WSU in recent years. He said his job right now is to reach out to potential players and sell them on the team and the tournament.
He said between the Aftershocks and Eisenhower, it’s a lot of basketball, and that’s how he likes it.
“I get to be around (Blue); he was everything to me from the time I met him when I was in fifth grade,” Bush said. “So getting to be a part of this and then my other great love, Wichita State basketball, it’s a pretty cool time in my life.”