He’s back: Echenique returns, makes immediate impact for Shockers

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He’s back: Echenique returns, makes immediate impact for Shockers

Wichita State senior Jaime Echenique is fouled by Oral Roberts redshirt sophomore Elijah Lufile in the second half at Charles Koch Arena Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

Wichita State senior Jaime Echenique is fouled by Oral Roberts redshirt sophomore Elijah Lufile in the second half at Charles Koch Arena Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

Selena Favela

Wichita State senior Jaime Echenique is fouled by Oral Roberts redshirt sophomore Elijah Lufile in the second half at Charles Koch Arena Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

Selena Favela

Selena Favela

Wichita State senior Jaime Echenique is fouled by Oral Roberts redshirt sophomore Elijah Lufile in the second half at Charles Koch Arena Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019.

Jaime Echenique is back.

After four weeks of rehab, the senior center from Colombia made his much-anticipated return to the floor Saturday against Oral Roberts.

Four weeks ago, Wichita State participated in a closed scrimmage against Nebraska. The Shockers won the unofficial contest, but it came at a cost. Echenique, WSU’s starting center, fell on his hand, breaking it in the process.

When Echenique went to the doctor, he was told he wouldn’t need surgery. The senior dodged a bullet. But he was told he would have to sit for four weeks and be reevaluated. That meant he was going to miss at least four games.

Saturday marked his four-week absence, and Echenique decided that he was going to give it a go. He made the return on his terms.

“He wanted to go,” Head Coach Gregg Marshall said after the game. “He didn’t want his first minutes [to be] in Cancun. He wanted to get a little prep, and we needed him.”

Echenique said he didn’t make the decision to play on his own.

“I’ve been talking to my family a lot about what this situation was and how it was a minor step back,” Echenique said. “It wasn’t the way I wanted to start, but I’m really close to God and I’m going to respect the decisions he makes.”

The Shockers did need Echenique on Saturday. The center chipped in five points, four rebounds, and two blocks in 11 minutes of action. His season debut also came in a game where Morris Udeze, Asbjørn Midtgaard, and Isaiah Poor Bear-Chandler struggled to find their rhythm.

“He doesn’t have the same problems that some of the other guys had trying to contain Elijah Lufile (the Oral Roberts center) down on the glass on the offensive end,” Marshall said.

Lufile, the younger brother of former Shocker Chadrack Lufile, abused the Shockers in the paint, scoring 13 points and tallying 10 rebounds — five of which came on the offensive glass. After the game, Marshall said the younger Lufile “makes our guys look like they haven’t seen a weight room.”

Echenique also brought much-needed experience to the forefront against Oral Roberts, which made the game interesting late after a 21-10 scoring run cut the lead to three in the second half.

A season ago, the Shockers might have folded like they did early in the season. But with the experience of Echenique and others like Erik Stevenson and Jamarius Burton, WSU held its ground.

“It’s good to just have another experienced guy,” Stevenson said of Echenique. “He gives us a little more shot-blocking. He’s a rim protector that we need, and he’s just another guy on the offensive end that can post up on the block — especially when he gets back into his rhythm.”

Burton said he expects the team to trend towards more success with the senior’s help.

“He’s a very experienced guy. He’s played in big games and in big moments, so just to have him back, I feel like we can make more strides,” Burton said.

Echenique was on the floor in crunch time for Marshall.

“I think in those situations, I think it’s pretty evident I go with the experienced guys,” Marshall said. “Guys that are a little older, guys that have been in that situation before. That’s just human nature. You notice the bench contracts a little bit in those situations because I want to go with experience, and we can’t have errors that could cost you a game at that point.”

Up next, the Shockers will participate in the Cancun Challenge starting on Tuesday against South Carolina. Echenique will still be on a minutes restriction to prevent re-injury, according to Marshall.