Fred VanVleet

Fred VanVleet
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Wave of injuries has crippled Wichita State early in season

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall abhors excuses, so when asked what needs to change to get his team back on track, he first mentions creating better shots and defending better.

Then, almost as an aside, he adds: “I hope we’re done with injuries.”

Perhaps no other team in major college basketball has weathered more of them during the first few weeks of the season. Star point guard Fred VanVleet is hobbled by a hamstring, backup Landry Shamet had a stress fracture in his left foot that landed him on crutches and forward Anton Grady may never play the game again after a frightening injury during a tournament in Florida.

No surprise that the Shockers, ranked 10th in the preseason poll, have lost four of their past five games to drop out altogether. Their only win during that stretch came against Emporia State, a Division II school not far from their campus in southeastern Kansas.

“We are missing a lot of key guys,” said Markis McDuffie, a freshman forward. “But we’re not going to sit here and say the whole (reason for the losses) was because of injuries.”

That wouldn’t be the Wichita State way.

The Shockers have made a habit of overcoming adversity the past few years. They’ve rattled off three straight 30-win seasons, each capped by an NCAA Tournament trip, even though it has only been recently that many have begun to give Marshall and his troops credit for their accomplishments.

Another 30-win season is a longshot at this point. Instead, the Shockers (2-4) are just hoping to get healthy enough to make a run in the Missouri Valley Conference, and earn another trip to the tournament in the final season for Baker, VanVleet and the rest of their seniors.

“We’re not performing to our capabilities, even though we’re missing a lot of key guys,” McDuffie said. “We’re going to keep fighting and practicing, and we’re definitely going to knock off this losing streak. It’s a wake-up call. No one expected this.”

VanVleet dealt with an ankle injury at the start of the season before the hamstring issue cropped up. He missed the entire Advocare Invitational in Florida – the Shockers lost all three games – and was still hobbled in practice this week. His status for Saturday’s game at Saint Louis remains in question.

“He’s doing stuff on the side during practice,” Marshall said. “He’s running a bit and working with the trainers. It’s protocol to get as conditioned as possible without harming the hamstring. I don’t know (if he’ll play Saturday). There’s a chance, but I don’t know.”

There is no chance that Shamet will be on the court anytime soon.

The talented freshman guard averaged 8.7 points in the Shockers’ first three games. He complained of pain on the outside of his foot for about a week before the fracture was discovered.

Marshall indicated the timetable for recovery is 10 to 12 weeks.

Asked about the state of his backcourt, Marshall replied: “Depleted, short-handed, inexperienced other than Ron. We’re moving small forwards into the backcourt just to have enough guys. … To have Fred and then Landry go down is a lot for us to overcome.”

Then came the injury to Grady, by far the most serious.

The transfer from Cleveland State collided with an Alabama player in the final minutes of their game last week. Grady took a few steps before falling to the court, and teammates heard him say that he couldn’t move. He was loaded onto a stretcher and transported to an Orlando hospital, and CT scans and an MRI exam revealed that he had sustained a spinal concussion.

Grady was able to fly back to Wichita with the team, and the senior hopes to continue playing basketball. But for now, his immediate future involves rehabilitation.

“I don’t know if he’ll play again, or if so, then when,” Marshall said. “I’ll leave that up to the doctor’s decisions – his family, trainers and him.”

For now, the Shockers are forced to press on without him.

Without Shamet and VanVleet, too.

“Once we know who’s going to be out on the floor,” Marshall said, “we’ve got to come up with an attack that’s going to create easier scoring opportunities than the ones we’re getting. We’ve got to shoot the ball better and execute better. I hope we’re done with additional injuries. It seems like we’ve been going backward for a while.”

Wichita State’s VanVleet leaves game with minor ankle sprain

Fred VanVleet
Associated Press
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No. 10 Wichita State point guard Fred VanVleet entered Friday’s opener against Charleston Southern at less than full strength, as he’d been dealing with a hamstring injury. Unfortunately for the Shockers the All-America candidate picked up another injury in the first half of the 88-63 victory, as he left the game with a sprained ankle that head coach Gregg Marshall described as “minor.”

VanVleet, who played just three minutes Friday night, is considered to be day-to-day with the Shockers’ next games scheduled for Tuesday night at Tulsa.

Friday night freshman guards Ty Taylor II and Landry Shamet saw the most minutes off the bench amongst the Wichita State guards, with Shamet (27 minutes) scoring 13 points and Taylor (16 minutes) tallying ten. Junior John Robert Simon played just eight minutes but finished with a team-high three assists, a number matched by senior Ron Baker.

Also of note in the win was the play of forwards Anton Grady and Eric Hamilton. Grady, a grad student who transferred in from Cleveland State, accounted for 12 points and three rebounds while the freshman Hamilton added 13 points and seven boards off the bench. They’ll be two key players moving forward for a team that has to account for the loss of Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter from last season’s Sweet 16 team.

VanVleet’s status heading into Tuesday’s game will be something to keep an eye on, as Tulsa has a very good backcourt tandem of its own in seniors James Woodard and Shaquille Harrison. And even if he can go, how effective he’ll be dealing with two injuries remains to be seen.

PHOTOS: Wichita State unveils new black uniforms

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Wichita State unveiled new road uniforms on Friday afternoon, via the athletic department’s Facebook page.

The Shockers will officially unveil the new black uniforms on Nov. 17 during a non-conference contest at Tulsa.

Wichita State has won 30 games in each of the last three seasons. This rise to national prominence includes an appearance in the 2013 Final Four, followed by an undefeated regular season in 2013-14. The Shockers intends to build on that success this year behind the play of one of the nation’s premier back courts in Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet.

Check out the uniforms Baker and VanVleet will wear in their final season with the Shockers:

Ron Baker

Fred VanVleet

Wichita State opens the 2015-16 season on Nov. 13 against Charleston Southern.

Wichita State PG Fred VanVleet working to be a more explosive player

Fred Van Vleet (Getty Images)
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Wichita State senior point guard Fred VanVleet will enter the 2015-16 season as one of the nation’s top players and point guards, teaming up with Ron Baker to form a perimeter tandem that will be among the nation’s best. But VanVleet is hard at work this summer to ensure that he’s a slightly different player than the one who helped lead the Shockers to the Sweet 16.

While VanVleet was certainly a good enough athlete to earn the praise and honors that have come his way over the last three seasons, he’s looking to become even more athletic ahead of his final season. According to Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle the hard work has paid off, with the 5-foot-11 floor general showing more explosion both vertically and laterally.

Those developments, combined with VanVleet’s efforts to trim a few pounds from his frame, can not only help the guard in the college game but as a pro as well.

Part of this, (Wichita State strength and conditioning coach Kerry) Rosenboom says, is about attracting the attention of NBA scouts. If VanVleet adds muscle and definition and dunks in a game, he might start to check boxes for athletic ability scouts previously ignored.

“As much as it helps your jumping, it helps your lateral movement, quickness, you’re getting more explosive,” VanVleet said. “I’ve already got a lot of finishes I can do, and I think as my vertical increases, hopefully, I’ll get more finishes that I can do and it’s going to be scary for a lot of people.”

During the summer players see more of the strength coach than they do their basketball coaches, with the NCAA having limits on how much time coaches can spend with their players on the court and the recruiting requirements of the summer factoring in as well. That leaves most of the responsibility when it comes to getting better on the shoulders of the players themselves, and based upon how well VanVleet has performed throughout his time at Wichita State it’s no surprise that he’s put in the work.

That will benefit the Shockers in 2015-16, and if VanVleet has his way the improvements be noticed by NBA scouts as well.

Ron Baker, Fred Van Vleet to return to Wichita State

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Wichita State announced on Monday that Ron Baker will be returning to school for his senior season.

“I spent a lot of time talking it over with Coach, my teammates and my family,” Baker said. “The reality is, I felt like any decision I made was going to be a good one. I think I’ll eventually be successful at the next level, but with what we have coming in and the people we have returning, including Fred VanVleet, next season has the potential to be very special.”

MORE: Who has entered 2015 NBA Draft?

“It’s been an amazing ride here at WSU, and my family and I aren’t quite ready for it to end.”

There was some speculation that Baker would be heading to the NBA while head coach Gregg Marshall was in the process of deciding where he would be coaching next season. Baker will be a redshirt senior in 2015-2016, meaning that it’s unlikely his draft stock will change between now and the 2016 NBA Draft. He’ll probably end up being a second round pick. Professionally speaking, there wasn’t much to gain returning to Wichita State, particularly if he finished his degree in his four years on campus.

But with VanVleet back — which wasn’t official until this announcement — and Marshall still their head coach, the Shockers will once again have a chance to do something special next year. They will likely enter the season as a preseason top ten team.

Report: Former Kansas guard Conner Frankamp transferring to Wichita State

Conner Frankamp (Getty Images)
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Conner Frankamp will continue his collegiate career in the state of Kansas, as he will transfer to Wichita State.

Paul Sullentrop and Bob Lutz of the Wichita Eagle reported the transfer on Monday evening. The news was later confirmed by a multiple other media outlets.

“I think Coach (Gregg) Marshall can improve my game quite a bit,” Frankamp told the paper. “I’ve been very impressed with how Ron (Baker) and Fred (VanVleet) have developed as players. I think they have a good chance to get to the league (NBA).”

In his lone season at Kansas, Frankamp averaged 2.5 points in 8.3 minutes per game. During the 2014 NCAA Tournament, he saw a spike in play time, logging an average of 21.5 minutes per game in the Jayhawks’ two contests. Those games — a win over Eastern Kentucky and an upset loss to Stanford — saw Frankamp score in double figures with 10 and 12 points, respectively; the only time he would do so that season. Against the Cardinal, Frankamp came alive from three, knocking down 4-of-7 shots from beyond the arc.

Frankamp returned to Lawrence for his sophomore season, but the KU back court looked to be crowded despite the departure of Naadir Tharpe. Fellow sophomore Frank Mason had assumed the starting role and Devonte Graham, a four-star prospect, became a late addition after he finally received his release from his National Letter of Intent from Appalachian State. Frankamp announced his decision to transfer on Oct. 31. In addition to the Shockers, he was also reportedly considering Colorado.

He will have three years of eligibility remaining. According to the Wichita Eagle, Frankamp will be eligible for the second semester of next season.

Frankamp joins an incoming class for Gregg Marshall that consists of top-100 shooting guard Landry Shamet, point guard Tyrone Taylor, wing Markis McDuffie and power forward Eric Hamilton, all three-star recruits, according to Rivals.

With Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker likely returning for their senior seasons, the addition of Frankamp will give the Shockers another talented perimeter attack in 2015-2016.