Having a quintet of key contributors return from a 35--1 team that earned the program's first No. 1 seed is a coach's dream. Choosing sides for an intrasquad scrimmage can get complicated, though, especially with the arrival of seven newcomers. Coach Gregg Marshall "put all of us veterans together one day, and it didn't go so well," says junior point guard Fred VanVleet. "They scored the first two points. Then five minutes later it was 20--2."
VanVleet is quick to point out that the youngsters did rally. As stellar as Wichita State's backcourt veterans are—VanVleet, fellow All-America candidate Ron Baker and perimeter pest Tekele Cotton—success in 2014--15 will depend on how quickly the inexperienced frontcourt jells. "I need these guys to assert themselves," says Marshall of freshmen Rashard Kelly and Rauno Nurger, juco transfer Bush Wamukota and rugged 6'7", 261-pound redshirt freshman Shaquille Morris.
VanVleet has tried to accelerate the process, bringing Morris in for extra cardio sessions. When Morris skipped a set of stadium runs, the playmaker broadcast his displeasure on Twitter. "That was just to throw him under the bus a little bit because he needed it," VanVleet says. He knew that Morris, like the Shockers, would respond well.
With 2014--15 Projected Stats
ROUND OF 64
ROUND OF 32
TELLING NUMBER 4
Consecutive seasons in which the Shockers have ranked in the top 40 nationally in both offensive and defensive efficiency, according to kenpom.com. Only Kansas (8) and Syracuse (5) have streaks of greater length.
GREG NELSON FOR SPORTS ILLUSTRATED
VanVleet will direct old and new talent.