‘Wherever it takes me:’ Ben Smith returns to WSU to dive into coaching world


Selena Favela

Wichita State graduate manager Ben Smith celebrates from the bench during the game against Cincinnati at Charles Koch Arena on Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020.

More than seven years after hanging up his Wichita State jersey, Ben Smith is back in Wichita. This stint as a Shocker is much different than Smith’s last. 

The former Shocker guard has returned to the men’s basketball program as a graduate manager to learn the coaching ropes under Gregg Marshall and company. 

In his two seasons at WSU in 2011 and 2012, Smith averaged 8.2 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He was also named the MVC’s Sixth Man of the Year in 2011 while earning a spot on the all-defensive conference team a year later. 

As a graduate manager, Smith’s role is pretty flexible especially during the season. He currently wears many hats for the program and is there to help the coaching staff and players with anything they need. It’s all part of the learning process. 

“My day is different every day,” Smith said. “It just depends on if we have a game that day or we just got done with a game, but typically I don’t go in that early because I have school, so I do my homework and stuff. Mostly it’s film, and it’s kinda being with the coaches and seeing what they need. Nothing really complicated just learning how coaches work.

“I ask a lot of questions, so that helps me.”

After his playing career, Smith started getting into coaching at the middle school level at Summit Middle School in Edmond, Oklahoma. At Summit, he taught geography while coaching the eight-grade baseball and girl’s basketball teams.

Smith went to a coaches convention at the Final Four last year.

“I went there, kind of just talked to people, got to network,” Smith said. “I really just like impacting young minds, so I think coaching would be a great job and it would put me around basketball. I loved coaching middle school, and that’s what really sparked it.”

Knowing Marshall’s system has helped Smith gain the team’s trust quickly. As a former D-I player, he knows what college athletse go through on a day-to-day basis. 

“I know what the typical college kid goes through, with going through classes, weights, and just trying to balance,” Smith said. 

And how can he help them navigate their busy schedules?

“Just talking to them and showing them the ropes and how to manage their time, because that’s really the biggest key to me,” Smith said.

“Making sure you have that mental toughness, because that’s the biggest thing about college basketball. Sometimes you can go through your head and it’s so much stuff and you can get overwhelmed. Just making it easy, calming them down, and understanding that every college kid goes through it.”

Sophomore combo-guard Dexter Dennis said Smith has been a great help to the team.

“Obviously he’s been someone who’s played in this system and under Coach Marshall, so he’s helped a lot of us younger guys who’ve struggled sometimes with the mental approach to the game and also just teaching us some things about how to play the game as well,” Dennis said. “I think he’s been a big help.”

Besides learning how to run a practice, Smith said that learning how to communicate with his players has been one of his most valuable takeaways from his second stint at WSU. 

“Just trying to build your guys up what type of behaviors you need to connect with the guys and stuff like that,” Smith said. “Coaching is just building a relationship with your players and making sure they trust you, respect you, and having that credibility. That’s the one thing that helps me, because I played. It helps me in that sense.”

Dennis said Smith has a winning mentality that will translate well no matter where he ends up.

“Even if you’re a player or a coach here, you will learn a lot,” Dennis said. “Him being able to translate that winning mentality to any program he goes to, I think it’ll be very beneficial to any program he goes to.”

Smith’s future is to be determined. He’s currently pursuing his master’s degree in sport management.

Although Smith said he’d like to start his coaching career at the college level, he could also see a future coaching high school students.

“Of course I would love to coach D1,” Smith said. “At the same time, high school doesn’t sound bad. Wherever it takes me. At the end of my two years, me and Coach (Marshall) will talk and see what happens.”