With the triumvirate of Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker and Tekele Cotton back for another season, the Wichita State Shockers will once again be the favorites to not only win the Missouri Valley Conference but factor into the national discussion as well. Gregg Marshall’s Shockers won 35 straight games, only to see their season end in disappointing fashion as they fell to eventual national runner-up Kentucky in the NCAA tournament.
Yet despite the return of the three players mentioned above there are some personnel losses to account for, with forward Cleanthony Early being the most notable. Wichita State will have seven newcomers on the roster, including freshmen Rashard Kelly and Rauno Nurger, and for those players the preseason is of great importance.
Getting acclimated to the way in which Marshall and his staff want things done is one of the important tasks for those players, along with putting in the work needed to ensure that they’re ready to fight for playing time when practices begin. That’s meant a lot of hard work in the weight room, and according to Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle the newcomers have been able to follow the lead of a group of veterans that expects to be successful.
[Strength and conditioning coach Kerry] Rosenboom even took the bold step of comparing [Kelly and Nurger] to Graham Hatch, a former Shocker who is the poster boy for reshaping his body and improving from a fringe talent to a starter through work in the weight room.
“I look at Ron and Fred and Tekele and Evan as my great leaders in here,” Rosenboom said. “I look at Rauno and Rashard and see the next leaders. They’ve got such strong goals already that they don’t wait for their turn, they want to take it right now.”
There’s no question who the leaders will be for Wichita State this season, with the veteran trio mentioned above, senior Darius Carter and redshirt junior Evan Wessel filling those roles in various capacities. But they’re going to need help, and that’s where newcomers such as Kelly and Nurger come into play.
And in that regard, it’s a good sign for the Shockers that two of their newcomers have made strides in improving their bodies while also learning from the more experienced players what it takes to be successful at this level.