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.”
The way that college basketball coaches build their rosters has changed in recent years, as the explosion of the transfer market has opened up a new avenue to attract talent into a program. Some may love it and some may hate it, but it’s not going away. Here are the 15 transfers that will have the biggest impact on the 2015-16 season:
THE TOP 15
1. Damion Lee (via Drexel) and Trey Lewis (via Cleveland State), Louisville
At the start of the offseason, Louisville’s top returning scorer was Quentin Snider at 4.1 points per game, and that’s after his scoring average jumped a full point following three straight double-digit outings in the NCAA tournament.
But head coach Rick Pitino tapped into the graduate transfer market and came out with the most-sought after transfer, Damion Lee. Before that he had grabbed a point guard and 3-point shooter in Trey Lewis. Those two fifth-year seniors joined a heralded incoming freshman class that included Donovan Mitchell, Ray Spalding and Deng Adel.
Lee missed almost all of the 2013-14 season with a torn ACL, but recovered to finish fifth in the nation in scoring last season at 21.4 points per game. Lewis will be able to play either guard spot and provides a deep threat, hitting 96 threes (42 percent) in 2014-15.
2. Robert Carter Jr. (via Georgia Tech) and Rasheed Sulaimon (via Duke), Maryland
The Terrapins could very well open up the season as the No. 1 team in the nation. Part of that is Melo Trimble and Jake Layman spurning the NBA for another year in College Park, but another part of that high praise is the transfers who are coming into to fill spots in the starting lineup.
Robert Carter Jr. averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds for Georgia Tech before transferring to Maryland in 2014. The 6-foot-9 forward, who has reportedly dropped 20 pounds during his redshirt season, will help Maryland with low-post scoring, as will fellow newcomer Diamond Stone.
The Terrapins added a former rival in May, as Rasheed Sulaimon had committed to Maryland as a graduate transfer, giving him immediate eligibility. On paper, it’s a good pickup for the two-guard spot, but this is the same player whose production went in both his sophomore and junior seasons. Mark Turgeon likely isn’t looking for much offensively, he just needs Sulaimon to defend on a nightly basis.
3. Sterling Gibbs (via Seton Hall) and Shonn Miller (via Cornell), UConn
Kevin Ollie had a great spring, picking up two impact transfers for next season. With Ryan Boatright graduating, Gibbs, the ex-Seton Hall lead guard, can slide right into that role of scorer and facilitator. He’s also someone who isn’t afraid to take a big shot. Gibbs will run the show in a talented perimeter of Daniel Hamilton, Rodney Purvis, Sam Cassell Jr. and Jalen Adams. Gibbs averaged 16.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 3.8 assists per game, shooting 43 percent from three for the Pirates last season.
Joining Gibbs is Shonn Miller, the all-Ivy League forward. The 6-foot-7 stuffed the statsheet, posting averages of 16.8 points, 8.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.8 blocks and 1.3 steals per game. Matched up with shot-blocker Amida Brimah, the Huskies will have two very good defenders on the frontline.
4. Eron Harris (via West Virginia), Michigan State
Tom Izzo scored big when he landed the former West Virginia guard back in 2014. The 6-foot-4 guard averaged 17.2 points per game and shooting 42 percent from beyond the arc for the Mountaineers during the 2013-14 season. Harris joins Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Tum Tum Nairn on the perimeter for the Spartans.
Although, he’ll have to overcome a rocky start to his career in East Lansing, being suspended for the team’s foreign trip in August.
5. Anton Grady (via Cleveland State) and Conner Frankamp (via Kansas), Wichita State
The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 14.3 points and 7.9 rebounds per game in his final season at Cleveland State. Electing to use his final year of eligibility as a role player to Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, Grady will offer a different low-post presence, head coach Gregg Marshall said recently. While it’s a different style than his predecessor, Grady helps fill the void left behind by the graduating Darius Carter.
Conner Frankamp, the former Kansas Jayhawk, becomes eligible in the second semester and will offer depth for the Shockers back court.
6. Ryan Anderson (via Boston College) and Mark Tollefsen (via San Francisco), Arizona
Anderson decided to use his final year of eligibility at Arizona after averaging 13.5 points per game through his first three seasons at Boston College. He’ll bring experience to the starting five, sharing the front court with senior Kaleb Tarczewski, the only returning starter. Mark Tollefsen should also provide some contributions in his lone season with the Wildcats. The 6-foot-9 forward shot 38 percent from three for the Dons in 2014-15.
7. Cole Huff (via Nevada) and Mo Watson Jr. (via Boston University), Creighton
Creighton struggled in the first season of the post-Doug McDermott era. It would appear it would only get worse for the Bluejays after graduating five contributors this past spring. However, among all the new pieces are two key transfers in Watson and Huff.
During Creighton’s foreign trip in Italy, the 6-foot-8 Huff led the team with 14.3 points per game. Watson averaged 6.7 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 4:1
8. Terry Henderson (via West Virginia), NC State
The former Mountaineer guard will attempt to follow the success for previous transfers like Ralston Turner and Trevor Lacey. Henderson will slide into that role this season alongside Cat Barber. In 2013-14, Henderson averaged 11.7 points per game, shooting 38 percent from behind the arc.
9. Kuran Iverson (via Memphis), Rhode Island
The top-30 recruit in the Class of 2013 had an grand exit from Memphis. The versatile 6-foot-9 forward gets a new start at Rhode Island, where he will have the chance to fit in with the Rams’ four returning starters.
10. Ricky Tarrant (via Alabama), Memphis
This has not been an easy offseason for Josh Pastner. But the one bright spot was landing Alabama’s second-leading scorer Ricky Tarrant. The 6-foot-2 guard should be able to provide consistent production the Tigers guards could not do last season.
11. John Egbunu (via South Florida), Florida
The 6-foot-11 center averaged 7.4 points, 6.4 boards and 1.3 blocks per game in his freshman season at South Florida in 2013-14. Egbunu is reportedly down 11 pounds, which will only help in Mike White’s uptempo system.
12. Rafael Maia(via Brown) and Sterling Smith (via Coppin State), Pittsburgh
Through his first three seasons, the 6-foot-9 Brown big man averaged 8.1 boards per game, leading the Ivy League in that category in each season. He can help a Pitt team that ranked tenth in the ACC in defensive rebounding percentage. As for Smith, who averaged 13.9 points per game at Coppin State, he provides depth behind James Robinson and Chris Jones.
13.Tyler Lewis (via NC State), Butler
The former McDonald’s All-American takes over for Butler’s leader the past few season, Alex Barlow. Lewis, who has a career 3:1 assist to turnover ratio, steps into a good spot alongside all-Big East caliber guards Kellen Dunham and Roosevelt Jones. Former St. Bonaventure guard Jordan Gathers joins the Butler back court as a graduate transfer.
14. Seth Allen (via Maryland), Virginia Tech
Allen, who averaged 13.4 points per game as a sophomore, before transferring from Maryland in 2014. He provide a scoring boost alongside Justin Bibbs and will share ball-handling duties with Devin Wilson.
15. Dylan Ennis (via Villanova), Oregon
The fifth-year senior started in all 36 games for the Big East champions, averaging 9.9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 28.1 minutes per game. He brings experience to a young back court, which is headlined by five-star recruit Tyler Dorsey.
HERE ARE THE REST OF THE NATION’S IMPACT TRANSFERS
Max Bielfeldt (via Michigan), Indiana: The former conference foe provides experience and depth to a young frontline.
Deonte Burton (via Marquette), and Hallice Cooke (via Oregon State) Iowa State: The former Marquette guard was pegged as a breakout star in 2014-15. After transferring mid-year Burton hopes to become the next successful transfer in Ames. Cooke had a successful freshman campaign at Oregon State, but spent much of last year recovering from a pair of hip surgeries.
Kareem Canty (via Marshall) and Tyler Harris (via Providence), Auburn: Canty was one of the prized transfers in 2014 after averaging 16.3 points per game in his only season at Marshall. This will be Harris’ third school, and he will play in a front court alongside Cinmeon Bowers and freshmen Horace Spencer and Danjel Purifoy.
Tyler Cavanaugh (via Wake Forest), George Washington: The 6-foot-9 Cavanaugh should make an immediate impact in lineup that includes Patricio Garino, Kevin Larsen and Joe McDonald.
Charles Cooke (via James Madison), Dayton: Jordan Siebert graduated and Dyshawn Pierre suspended, the 6-foot-5 guard could play a key role for the A-10 contender.
Nick Faust (via Maryland) and Gabe Levin (via Loyola Marymount), Long Beach State: The 49ers lost all five starters. Faust, who averaged 9.3 points per game at Maryland, Levin, the 2013 WCC Rookie of the Year and Roschon Prince, a former top-100 recruit, are all eligible.
Johnny Hill (via Texas-Arlington), Purdue: This will be the third stop for the 6-foot-3 guard, who attempt to replicate the success Jon Octeus had in his lone season with the Boilermakers.
Khalid Lewis (via La Salle) and Mike Thorne Jr. (via Charlotte), Illinois: The late addition adds of Lewis helps combat Tracy Abrams season-ending injury. The 6-foot-10 Thorne a highly-sought after big man before picking the Illini.
Kamari Murphy (via Oklahoma State), Miami: Versatile big man should have a presence on the defensive end for the Hurricanes.
Sean Obi (via Rice), Duke: The big body post player recorded 11 double-doubles at Rice and was third in the nation in defensive rebounding percentage.
Semi Ojeyele (via Duke), SMU: The former McDonald’s All-American has a chance to make an impact for the Mustangs when he becomes eligible midseason.
Duncan Robinson (via Williams College), Michigan: A healthy Caris LeVert and Zak Irvin will limit his minutes, but the ex-Division III hooper might be Michigan’s top shooter.
Adam Smith (via Virginia Tech), Georgia Tech: The graduate transfer remains in the ACC and brings a deep shooting range to the conference’s worst 3-point shooting team from a season ago.
Andrew White III (via Kansas), Nebraska: White couldn’t find minutes in a crowded Kansas perimeter. The former four-star recruit has a chance to restart his college career playing alongside Shavon Shields.
Tim Williams (via Samford), New Mexico: The 6-foot-8 forward averaged 17.6 points per game in 2013-14.
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.
“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 forward working hard to improve offensive repertoire
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.
Former Cleveland State forward commits to Wichita State
After averaging 14.2 points and 7.9 rebounds per game as a redshirt junior at Cleveland State, forward Anton Grady made the decision to use his final season of college eligibility at another school. Friday it was reported by multiple outlets that Grady has picked Wichita State, where he’ll be eligible to play immediately in 2015-16 as a graduate student.
The 6-foot-8 Grady played in just six games in 2012-13 due to a torn ACL, returning to be a key contributor for Gary Waters’ team in each of the next two seasons. Last season Grady shot 48.3 percent from the field, and his addition gives the Shockers a capable scorer in the front court to go along with guards Ron Baker and Fred Van Vleet (Kansas transfer Conner Frankamp will be eligible in mid-December).
Wichita State lost two starters from its Sweet 16 team in guard Tekele Cotton and forward Darius Carter, with the latter averaging 11.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per contest. The addition of Grady will certainly help Wichita State account for the loss of Carter as they look to make a fifth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, and his ability to score and rebound is just what the Shockers needed.
Grady joins four freshmen as players who will join the Wichita State program this summer (not counting Frankamp since he was a mid-year addition).