‘I feel like I belong:’ Council’s performance leads WSU to victory against Cincinnati


Lena Alhallaq/ The Sunflower

Wichita State freshman Ricky Council IV plays defense during the game against the Cincinnati Bearcats at Charles Koch Arena on Jan. 10.

In the first half of Wichita State’s game against Cincinati, the offense was struggling and was shooting 34% from the field after the first 20 minutes of the game. The Shockers were in need of an offensive spark as they took a one-point lead at the end of the first half. 

Freshman Ricky Council IV was able to provide WSU with the offense they needed and tallied a career-high 23 points and six rebounds, leading the Shockers to an 82-76 victory.

Council was struggling to contribute offensively in the previous two games with a combined five points in the games against Mississippi and Houston. Even with the recent offensive struggles, Council remained confident heading into the contest against Cincinnati.

“I feel really comfortable, I’m not going to lie,” Council said. “I feel like I belong. Even from the first game, I felt pretty comfortable. It was a little adjustment but I still felt comfortable.”

One of Council’s strengths thus far has been his success in finishing around the rim. In conference play he has shot 70.8% on two-pointers in conference play and has also attempted 20 free throws this season.

“Practice definitely helps, I get fouled a lot,” Council said. “In the games, I know I’m going to get those calls so I just have to be strong, focus on hitting the shot after the contact and just finish. Practice helps out a lot.”

Council was a three-star recruit coming out of high school and ultimately committed to WSU over the likes of Hofstra, Georgia Southern, Sienna, Appalachian State, Coastal Carolina, and Rice.

Interim Head Coach Isaac Brown said that since arriving in Wichita this summer, Council has been confident in his ability. 

“The kid has a lot of confidence, he’s been doing that all summer long,” Brown said. “He just had to learn the system and I’m just staying on him so much about defending, rebounding, operating our system. He did a better job defending tonight and he was able to stay on the floor. He is so great when he’s getting to the basket and finishing layups. He has a lot of confidence and he’s going to get better and better.”

Council said Brown has been preaching to him is to ‘be smart’ with the basketball. Council finished the game with four turnovers and is something he is hoping to cut down on in the future.

“Obviously, I’m a freshman so it’s a new game but he’s just telling me to be smart, don’t force it, take what’s given to you,” Council said. “Basically that’s it. Just be smart, don’t force anything, play within yourself.”

WSU’s leading scorer Tyson Etienne was held to only two points in the first half and was struggling to contribute to the offensive end.

With Cincinnati hoping to shut down Etienne and others, Etienne said that Council’s performance makes the Shockers’ offense more difficult to defend with another offensive weapon.

“Going into the game, Cincinnati has a scouting report on myself and other players that we usually carry a lot of our scoring load,” Etienne said. “For Ricky to come off the bench and play the way he did was amazing. I’m not surprised because I’ve seen him do it every day in practice but it’s good for him going into the rest of the conference schedule and for our team because we’re going to need those types of games from different people.”

Junior Morris Udeze said that part of what makes Council effective as a freshman is his fearlessness. According to Udeze, that fearlessness has translated from practice to game action.

“I feel like he’s just fearless and his confidence is just 100 all the time,” Udeze said. “He has that ‘you can’t tell him nothing’ mentality, you can’t bring him down. Confidence goes a long way in basketball. So, every day he’s always intense so I love it.”

With today’s victory, the Shockers improved to 7-3 and 3-1 in conference play. Council said that instead of looking at the big picture, the team is trying to take it game-by-game.

“We’re just trying to win every game,” Council said. “Houston we came up short but we definitely felt we could’ve won that game. We’ve just got to move forward and take it game-by-game. We’ve just got to keep pushing.”

Council and the Shockers will try to stay perfect at home in conference play on Wednesday as they host Tulsa for a matchup at 6 p.m. The game will also be broadcast on ESPN+.