Coaches look for ‘diamonds in the rough,’ character

Evan Pflugradt

The Shockers have a lot to look forward to this season.

The team returns with its star seniors, Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, and the team is rated 10th in the Associated Press’ top-10 preseason poll.

The program this season could be better than ever with eight new faces added to the squad.

Wichita State welcomes freshman Ty Taylor II, Markis McDuffie, Landry Shamet and Eric Hamilton and transfers Conner Frankamp, Anton Grady and Peyton Allen.

The recruiting season for WSU never stops in continuing to build on its success.

“Recruiting is an inexact science,” head coach Gregg Marshall said.  

Marshall is accredited for liking to recruit what assistant coach Greg Heiar refers to as “diamonds in the rough.” In his time as head coach, the Shockers have recruited just one freshman out of the ESPN 100 rankings, Markis McDuffie (95).

This shouldn’t worry anyone. In fact, senior Ron Baker was about as far off the grid as a recruit could be. Then a walk-on, Baker wasn’t even rated by any recruiting site. Marshall has transformed the former walk-on to one of college basketball’s winningest seniors.

“We look for different guys,” Heiar said. “Different, meaning we don’t always go for the four and five-star recruits, guys who maybe have a chip on their shoulder.”

For Marshall, the focus isn’t always trying to attract superstars but landing the right fit for a need on his team.

“There are guys who you think are going to play more right away who don’t play as much ever,” Marshall said. “Then there are guys who blossom and just become All-Americans. It works both ways.”

With an increase of national attention, recruiting has become easier for the program.

“We have more student athletes who are calling us, more who want to come here,” Heiar said. “Our pool of players to recruit from has certainly gotten bigger.”

The attention may give the Shockers exposure to new talent, but filling the needs ultimately still remains up to the coaching staff.

In order to target the right recruit, the assistant coaches look for one thing in every player.

“We look for character,” Heiar said. “Character is someone who wants to work hard, they want to do the right things on and off the court.”

The recruiting trail is a winding, never-ending trail, as the coaches are faced with filling five open-roster spots next season.

“We will keep the same recruiting process,” Heiar said. “Coach [Marshall] has done it his entire life and had success with it.”