After reaching the Sweet 16 last season Wichita State had two important departures to account for. Not only did the Shockers lose one of the nation’s top “glue guys” in Tekele Cotton, but their best interior scorer in Darius Carter exhausted his eligibility as well. Carter averaged 11.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, shooting better than 52 percent from the field, making head coach Gregg Marshall’s search for a replacement an important subplot this spring.
Ultimately the Shockers managed to land a productive interior scorer in grad student Anton Grady, who averaged 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per contest as a redshirt junior at Cleveland State. In regards to both numbers and skill set, Grady is more than capable of being the front court supplement that players such as Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet need.
But Marshall was quick to point out to Bob Lutz of the Wichita Eagle that his newest big man has a style of play that differs from what Carter brought to the table in 2014-15.
“When Ron and Fred decided they were coming back for their senior years, we knew we had that one scholarship available,” Marshall said. “I determined to try and do the best I could to give those guys an opportunity to go out with a crescendo, as high a note as they could possibly go out on. So we were thrilled to get Anton rather than a transfer who had to sit out or a freshman probably not ready to be a prime-time player.”
Marshall believes Grady is ready to be that.
“He’s not a Darius Carter-type, he’s different,” Marshall said. “He’s not as long. This kid has had [three] knee surgeries, so he plays more of an old-man game. But he uses his body well. He gets angles and he can use either hand.”
Grady’s had to endure a total of three surgeries to repair the meniscus in each knee (two on the left and one on the right), which has forced him to make adjustments to his game. As Marshall noted in the quote above Grady has more of an “old man game,” which won’t be an issue given Wichita State’s other front court options as well as the presence of two of the nation’s best guards in Baker and VanVleet (Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp will be eligible in December).
Whether it’s through elite athleticism or a craftier approach, Wichita State simply needs Grady to be a dependable scoring option in the post area. And despite having to deal with knee issues throughout his college career, Grady’s proven that he can be productive.
Wichita State has self-reported an NCAA violation stemming from the recruitment of Texas A&M transfer Peyton Allen, sources confirmed to NBCSports.com.
Allen announced his decision to transfer out of the Aggie program on July 14th. He arrived for an official visit at Wichita State on July 31st, which is the final day of the dead period for official visits. The program was allowed to pay for his flight and his hotel on that day, but they were not allowed to fund a campus visit or take the family out to dinner, which they did.
It was a Level 3 violation.
“Inadvertent and unintentional,” a source said.
CBSSports.com was the first to report the violation, noting that Wichita State’s self-sanctions include a reduction of two recruiting days and the loss of one of the program’s 12 allowed official visits. The NCAA has reportedly agreed with the sanctions.
Allen averaged 4.5 points as a freshman last season. He will sit out the 2015-16 season and have three years of eligibility remaining. An athletic, 6-foot-5 off-guard, Allen will help to replace senior all-american Ron Baker when Baker graduates after this season.
While Wichita State returns senior guards Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet, two of the best players in the country, and adds quality transfers in graduate student forward Anton Grady and former Kansas guard Conner Frankamp (he’s eligible in December) there’s still the need to account for the loss of two key contributors in Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter.
Cotton was the team’s best defender while also averaging 9.8 points, 3.9 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, and Carter led the team in rebounding (5.4 rpg) to go along with his 11.4 points per contest. The addition of Grady will definitely help the Shockers as they look to get out of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament for the third time in the last four years, but there’s a need for other contributors as well.
One such possibility is rising sophomore forward Rashard Kelly, who played nearly 14 minutes per game as a freshman. According to Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle, Kelly’s been hard at work this summer in an attempt to add polish to an offensive game that produced just 2.9 points per game in 2014-15.
Kelly and coaches agreed on a plan for him to shoot 500 jumpers four or five days a week outside of practices. He stuck to that plan and said he made a high of around 397. Extending his arm and concentrating on proper follow-through is helping his accuracy.
“The more you shoot, the more confident you are and the bigger the goal gets for you,” he said.
It isn’t as if Kelly will be asked to be the Shockers’ feature option this season; that’ll once again be left to their star guards with Grady giving them a quality front court scorer. But he’ll have to be a supplementary piece head coach Gregg Marshall can rely on consistently, which is why Kelly’s putting in the aforementioned work on his game (he’s also improved his body per the story).
And if Kelly can emerge as that option, it simply makes a team that will already be good an even tougher one for opponents to slow down.