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WSU Head Coach Gregg Marshall
All the puzzle pieces are laid out on the court for Wichita State men's basketball head coach Gregg Marshall.
His challenge, of course, is experimenting to find what fits. A base has to be in place by Nov. 5, when the Shockers open the season with an exhibition game against Pittsburg State.
"We've got some talented players, without a doubt," Marshall said. "We've got great guys that are very coachable and do what we ask them to do. It's just a matter right now of building a team, and having those individuals mesh into a tough, hardened, battle-tested unit that is going to fight for 40 minutes, have some composure and let their skill and talent take over and get us some wins."
Marshall still has time before he has to pick a starting lineup, and he intends to use it. However, some players have impressed.
If the season started today, Malcolm Armstead would be the starting point guard, Marshall said. Armstead is fast with the ball and experienced, having transferred from Oregon. Carl Hall has made critical strides outside of the paint to build his all-around game.
A two-time NJCAA National Player of the Year at Sullivan County Community College in New York, Cleanthony Early has flashed an array of talents in his first practices with the Shockers.
"His skill set, his size, his athletic ability - the combination that he possesses of all those things - we haven't had anybody like him since I've been here," Marshall said.
The Shockers are nursing injuries. Freshman Fred Van Vleet is trying to overcome a sprained ankle. Demetric Williams, a key piece of the rotation in the Shockers' run to make the NCAA Tournament a year ago, is banged up. Marshall said everyone has a few dings at this time of year.
For some, Marshall just wants to see intensity on both sides of the court.
"You may have the ability to score the basketball, but unless you give me more on the defensive end and rebounding, you'll never get the opportunity to score the ball," he said. "You can do it in practice, but if you can't defend and rebound in practice, you're probably not going to get the opportunity to score too much in live action."
Which leads back to the starting lineup. The Shockers are stacked with depth, creating competition at nearly everyone position.
"We're equal opportunity employers," Marshall said. "We don't care if you're a former walk-on or a guy that is a McDonald's All-American. We're going to try to find the best five guys to put out there on the floor to win."
The Shockers will give the public a glimpse of this year's team at Shocker Madness on Thursday. Players will sign autographs, scrimmage and have a dunk contest.