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Wichita State working to get Corey Henderson Jr. prepared for backup point guard role

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One of the remarkable things about Wichita State’s 35-1 record last season was the Shockers’ lack of a backup point guard. With the loss of backup point guard D.J. Bowles before the 2013-14 season due to a heart condition, Wichita State had to rely on sophomore Fred VanVleet to carry a heavy amount of minutes as the team’s only point guard.

VanVleet averaged 31.7 minutes per game last season, and when he wasn’t running the Shocker offense, head coach Gregg Marshall usually handed the reigns to shooting guard Ron Baker, who also did an admirable job with the ball in his hands in spot situations.

For the 2014-15 season, however, Marshall and Wichita State would like a stable option to backup VanVleet at the point. Not only will this allow the rising junior point guard to  rest more on the bench, but it lets Baker stay at his more natural spot off-the-ball.

In a story from Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, Marshall and VanVleet talk about getting true freshman point guard Corey Henderson Jr., prepared for that task. Henderson Jr., is the son of former Texas A&M guard Corey Henderson and the Shockers believe the 6-foot-3 guard is up to the challenge to be the team’s new backup point guard. Rivals regarded Henderson Jr., a native of Dallas, as a three-star prospect coming out of high school.

“I just hope he continues to grow like his dad did and continue to get stronger,” Marshall said of Henderson to Suellentrop. “If he puts on 10 pounds and takes care of that basketball, he’s going to be out there.”

VanVleet is working closely with Henderson to help him understand the Wichita State playbook and the freshman is also doing his own homework by watching DVDs of last season’s games. VanVleet said that learning the plays is part of the equation, but being a point guard is also about getting the offense to move at the right speed at the right time.

“The first few months are always hard for a point guard in this system,” VanVleet said to Suellentrop. “You’ve got to learn the pace of the game, learn how to control the game and understand the value of the game. A high school point guard can turn the ball over 20 times and nobody says anything.”

For his part, Henderson seems to at least be grasping the concepts during the summer workouts in which the Wichita State coaches get to work with the players for two hours a week. It doesn’t hurt that one of the nation’s best point guards is one of Henderson’s teachers.

“Fred told me to make sure I start off the play in the backcourt, not starting in the front court,” Henderson said. “Timing is one of the most important things the point guard needs. It all starts with us.”

Redshirt freshman Ria’n Holland will also join the Shockers this season in the backcourt, but he’s more likely to be a combo guard that can play a bit of both guard spots. If Wichita State can add a freshman like Henderson into the rotation, it would be a luxury to get VanVleet some time on the bench while also developing a future starting point guard for when he graduates in two years.

Illinois’ injury woes continue as starting center needs knee surgery

George Niang,Abdel Nader,Mike Thorne, Jr.
AP Photo/Mark Wallheiser
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Illinois suffered another blow in what has already turned out to be a brutal season.

Mike Thorne is expected to miss the rest of the season after tearing his meniscus. He reportedly underwent surgery on Monday to repair the injury.

Thorne, a transfer from Charlotte, was starting at center for the Illini and doing a good job of it as well. He was averaging 13.4 points and 8.4 boards, although Illinois has started off the season 3-4.

The reason for that slow start has mainly been those injuries. Tracy Abrams is already out for the season after tearing his achilles, and the Illini training room looked like a M.A.S.H. unit. Kendrick Nunn just returned two games ago from surgery to repair a torn thumb ligament. LeRon Black is still getting back to speed after offseason knee surgery. Jaylon Tate is back after dislocating a finger. Jalen Coleman-Lands was slowed by a stress fracture.

John Groce entered this season on the hot seat, and dealing with all of these injuries certainly isn’t helping his cause.

NEW PODCAST: Recapping Feast Week

Kris Dunn
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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We talk about a lot of stuff of the podcast today, mainly because a lot of stuff happened since we last spoke with you all.

For starters, we need to discuss the ‘realness’ of Syracuse and Xavier. Are they both truly top 15 teams, or do they just have top 15 resumes? We also dive into Chris Mack’s epic troll-job of Dayton at the Advocare Invitational final.

Other topics we touched on: Whether or not Scott is ever going to apologize to Wayne Selden, Wichita State’s tournament hopes, Texas A&M and whether we’d take Ben Simmons, Kris Dunn or Denzel Valentine today.

As always, you can subscribe to the podcast in iTunes right here. It’s the quickest way to get access on your cell phone or tablet.