Wichita State’s season officially starts with first practice


Sean Marty / The Sunflower

Wichita State junior Ricky Council IV goes up for a dunk during their first day of official practice on Sept. 28 inside the Charles Koch Arena Practice Gym.

The Wichita State men’s basketball program officially started practice for the upcoming 2021-22 season. The Shockers are six weeks away from the start of the regular season and coaches now have 20 hours a week for basketball-related activities. 

The Shockers entered last season with limited expectations after being picked to finish seventh in the American Athletic Conference. WSU went on to win the AAC regular season title and made a trip to the NCAA Tournament, finishing with a 16-6 record.

“I think this year everybody’s going to be expecting us to win at a high level,” head coach Isaac Brown said. “We’ve just got to do a good job what we’ve been doing at Wichita State for years. That’s defending, rebounding, playing with confidence, sharing the basketball on offense, and we’ve got to get off to a good start. That starts today in practice.”

The Shockers return six players from the 2020-21 roster – Dexter Dennis, Tyson Etienne, Chaunce Jenkins, Craig Porter Jr., Ricky Council IV, Clarence Jackson, and Morris Udeze – and added a mixture of transfers and freshmen to round out the roster.

“I’m really excited about the team,” head coach Isaac Brown said ahead of the team’s first official practice. “I still think we’ve got a new team and a young team because we’ve got six newcomers, but we do have some veteran guys back. We’ve got some guys with NCAA Tournament experience, we’ve just got to be ready to go.”

One of the major challenges that WSU dealt with last season was COVID-19 postponements. Games will not be postponed this year but rather a forfeit will be issued to a program dealing with COVID-19 issues. 

Brown said he left it up to the players to get vaccinated but the Shockers will be fully vaccinated by Wednesday.

“Now, if you’re vaccinated and a guy besides you gets COVID, you don’t have to sit out unless you have some symptoms,” Brown said. “So, that’s why I’m super excited that these guys went and got vaccinated because now you get losses when you lose a game, you don’t forfeit anymore, they just cancel the game and you get a loss when your team isn’t ready to go.”

The Shockers have kept their team’s core intact over the offseason, which has become a rarity in college basketball in the age of the transfer portal. WSU will return four of its top five leading scorers from last year. Tyson Etienne, Dexter Dennis, and Morris Udeze are entering their third season together, which Dennis said is special for them.

“These are guys I’ve been around for three or four years,” Dennis said. “We know how to get on each other, how to push each other. Obviously with these new guys, trying to give them some tips, things to learn on the way and it’s a great group of guys.”

The Shockers will return the reigning AAC Player of the Year this season, Tyson Etienne,  after he initially entered his name into the NBA Draft. Etienne increased his scoring by 6.9 points per game last season and Brown said that he anticipates Etienne to take another leap this year, with him playing more point guard.

“The game is slowing down for him,” Brown said. “I think he’s getting used to the double-teams and used to being denied the ball, so he’s starting to do other things like creating shots for other guys on the team. He’s moving better without the ball and learning to use screens. He’s gotten himself in tip-top shape, and he’s better at creating shots off the bounce.”

One of the question marks that remains about WSU’s roster is the depth behind junior Morris Udeze at the center position. The Shockers landed junior-college transfer, Matthew McFarlane, this offseason but he ultimately left the program due to “personal reasons”.

Brown said that he’s been impressed with Kenny Pohto, a 6’11 center, and Isaac Abidde, a 6’9 forward, and feels they can step in both as true freshmen.

“I think we’re good at that spot,” Brown said. “Kenny Pohto has had a great summer, you could tell he had good coaching at Sunrise. He can defend, he’s got a good strong body, he can make threes, and he understands how to run offense.  Isaac (Abidde) – another freshman – can also play the four and five spots. He has a big body, he can step out and shoot threes.  

“Morris will get a lot of minutes at that spot, so we’ll be good. We’ve got a lot of depth. Guys will be playing at the four and the five – multiple positions.”

The Shockers will start its season with an exhibition game against Missouri Southern State on Nov. 3 inside Charles Koch Arena.