‘We’re coming:’ No. 24 Wichita State looks to build off decade of success in second half of season

Senior+Jaime+Echenique+dunks+on+Abilene+Christian+during+the+game+on+Sunday+inside+Charles+Koch+Arena.
Back to Article
Back to Article

‘We’re coming:’ No. 24 Wichita State looks to build off decade of success in second half of season

Senior Jaime Echenique dunks on Abilene Christian during the game on Sunday inside Charles Koch Arena.

Senior Jaime Echenique dunks on Abilene Christian during the game on Sunday inside Charles Koch Arena.

Morgan Anderson

Senior Jaime Echenique dunks on Abilene Christian during the game on Sunday inside Charles Koch Arena.

Morgan Anderson

Morgan Anderson

Senior Jaime Echenique dunks on Abilene Christian during the game on Sunday inside Charles Koch Arena.

When Gregg Marshall came to Wichita State in 2007, he didn’t envision the success he has endured in the past decade. He knew he had to believe in himself to help build a program of national quality, but had no way of knowing the ranks his team would consistently reach.

Marshall has plenty of milestone’s under his belt: an NIT Championship in 2011, a Final Four run in 2013, and a 35-0 start the next year. Multiple conference championships, both regular season and tournament, and he’s seen five players take their talents into the NBA during this decade – Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker, Cleanthony Early, Landry Shamet, and Toure’ Murry.

The Shockers’ head coach knows what a successful team looks like, and he sees a bright future for this year’s squad.

“This team is a lot of fun to coach, and I really think that, if we don’t allow good to become the enemy of great, we can make a statement this year,” Marshall said after Sunday’s win against Abilene Christian. “We don’t have to wait for next year or the year after, because we’ve got 10 underclassmen.”

This year’s Shockers finished their front half of the schedule with a record of 11-1 – a significantly better start than last season (7-5). That 2018 team didn’t see their 11th win of the season until Feb. 6. WSU is seeing sophomores Erik Stevenson (12.6 ppg, 5.2 rpg) and Jamarius Burton (9.6 ppg, 3.8 rpg, 4.0 apg) leap into leadership roles, and freshman guards Tyson Etienne (11.2 ppg) and Grant Sherfield (9.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 2.6 apg) are quickly turn into shining stars.

But this team is about depth. They still have Jaime Echenique averaging double figures (10.3 ppg) and Trey Wade and Morris Udeze as scoring options as well. And even in Dexter Dennis’ unexpected absence, the team isn’t slowing down, going 2-0 since the sophomore decided to step away from the program indefinitely for “personal reasons.”

Last year’s lack of experience isn’t lingering over the Shockers anymore. Now, the entire team is stepping up to the plate, regardless of where they are located on the bench. And that’s why Marshall can see success in the near future.

“We can be good this year, if we continue to work and allow ourselves to to just dream,” Marshall said. “Dream it and make it happen.”

It’s not just Marshall who is peering into a future of success though — it’s the players as well. And it’s even the young players who are appearing mature beyond their age. After the game against ACU on Sunday, Etienne, Sherfield, and Echenique all spoke on the future of the program.

“Last year, we had to learn the hard way. We had 10 newcomers and just two seniors who had to do everything,” Echenique said. “This year, the newcomers know it. They know how hard they need to play. It’s a lot easier to play with these guys this year.”

Etienne chose to keep it blunt in the postgame press conference. With a smug smirk, he calmly chimed in, “The results will show.”

“I’m not going to say much, but they can count us out, they can say we aren’t the top of the top, but at the end of the day, we’ll pound the stone. We’ll get out of the mud.”

As Etienne was speaking, Echenique chimed in with two words:

“We’re coming.”

Etienne gave no indication to who he was referencing as underestimating the Shockers. Last week, the Shockers were poised to slip into the AP Poll for the first time since the end of the 2018 season, after winning three straight against Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Virginia Commonwealth, but were not selected. On Monday, WSU did find themselves in the most recent edition of the poll at No. 24.

For Sherfield, going forward means continuing to trust the process laid out by the coaches.

“We’re in a great spot,” he said. “It’s all about continuing to trust the coaches and trusting each other. If we continue to play to the best of our ability, and wherever the cards fall, we’ll be good with it.”

The now-nationally ranked Shockers will look to continue their hot streak on Wednesday when they host East Carolina in their first American Athletic Conference game of the season. Tip off is scheduled for 2 p.m.