WICHITA - Gregg Marshall took time at 2018 WSU Media Day to talk to reporters about the new-look Shockers heading into the new season. Quotes courtesy of WSU Athletics:
-- Anything that has surprised him about his young team at this stage of the season:
"I don't know if there are any surprises. We anticipated this being a group that was very excited and coachable and they have maintained that. We also knew, because of their inexperience, that the teaching part would be slow, trying to relay to them how we want to play and how you must play in college basketball to have any chance of success."
-- The last time he has taught this much in practice:
"It's been awhile and I would say this is probably my youngest team in 21 years. I do like coming to the gym every day, and I love coaching this group because they are eager. They all have talent and abilities. It's just a matter of when they are going to be able to showcase them in a real game. I mentioned to them the very first day, if I had a magic wand and could swing that wand to the group to give them one skill it would be that they would understand how hard you must play to be successful at this level of college basketball. That is just universal.The great majority of players have no idea [because up to this point] they have been able to get by with their size, talent or abilities."
-- Markis McDuffie accepting the leadership role:
"I think Markis has had a great fall camp, and he looks really good. I'm very proud of him for how he has embraced this role of being the veteran. He just turned 21. He was very young when he came here at 17, and he was always the youngest guy on the team. He was talented and was helping us win, but there was no leadership required of him and now there is a lot of leadership responsibilities that have been thrown on his shoulders."
-- Markis' personality from his freshman year to now:
"Markis has always been one of the most jovial young men I've ever coached. He always has a smile on his face. I remember him as a freshman at the Disney World tournament, he's up there dancing with the Disney characters in front of everybody and just full of life. This year he's still good-natured and a blast to be around, but I've noticed a little more calm, reserve and seriousness from him knowing that this is his last shot. He's got a chance now to erase what was a bad season from him last year coming back from the injury. As a sophomore he was one of our best players. He was our leading rebounder, leading scorer so I just think mentally, as much as physically, that injury took a toll on him. This year he's looked great, as I mentioned. He's playing at a very high level and the game has slowed down a little bit for him."
-- Ricky Torres:
"I think generally junior college players come in with a year or two more of physical and mental maturity. Ricky is a mature guy. He's seen and done a lot in his life, and he's not one of these wet behind the ears freshmen. He's got a moxie about him and, when he's been in, he's been good. He understands our stuff, he's very bright and he's one of those guys that came in and picked it up right away. He understands the point guard position -- and I'm sure that statement will come back to bite me and there will be some games early on where he doesn't look like he knows what he is doing. He does understand our system, the way we play and what we are trying to get out of that point guard spot. His mental approach to the game is the best thing he is doing now."
-- Helping big men Echenique and Midtgaard tap into their inner bullies:
"The thing that I have to do with them is get them to be a little tougher and a little more nasty. They are the nicest young men on the team. Both of them were coming along as youngsters, and people told them 'now, you're bigger than the rest of the group. Now, you have to be nice to everyone, and you can't bump into anyone, knock them down and make them cry.' We've got to try to reverse that. They certainly took that advice to heart, and they are just the nicest kids ever."
-- Senior point guard Samajae Haynes-Jones:
"This will be an interesting year for him. Last year he had the physical problems before a lot of games, and we weren't able to utilize his talents as much. He's got to understand that his speed and quickness doesn't mean that you have to play reckless or out of control. Use that to your advantage and not disadvantage. That's the biggest thing for him. He is quick-on-quick, and he's really scored the ball beautifully in our fall workouts. I'm trying to get him to be a better defender, getting him to use that quickness on the defensive end and be a more complete player."
-- Having new assistants:
"I've known Tyson for 20 years and, my first year as a head coach, he was my point guard. We've had a relationship all these years. It was a chance for me to hire somebody who, first, knew what we were about, what I was about and what this program is about. Secondly, be able to understand our system. A lot of the sets and quicks haven't changed. Lastly, I wanted someone who was going to be loyal and stay awhile. It is great having these assistants moving on and doing great things.. I want all of my assistant coaches to aspire to be head coaches, but not all at once. You want to see them have success, but not what happened last year and -- boom -- everyone is going to make their move at the same time."
-- This team's shooting ability, compared to last year:
"I really don't know how that's going to work out. I don't think we are going to shoot it like last year's team. That was a special shooting team -- Connor Frankamp being one of the best shooters I've been around and Landry Shamet is a guy stroking it in the NBA. Then you had big guys who can shoot the ball with Rauno, Shaq, Darral Willis and I've even seen Rashard Kelly shooting the ball well in Russia. We will figure out how to play offensively, but I don't know when that will be and it could be several games into the season. That's a variable with the newness and inexperience that we are going to have to deal with all year long."
-- The increased challenge of a rebuilding year in the American Athletic Conference:
"Absolutely, the competitor in me doesn't want to take a step back, but the truth is that we probably will in the short term. Ultimately, I think we can be as good or better than that last year's group. I just don't know when that is going to be. I have faith in my staff, players and what we teach them every day and the history is that we are going to be successful and we are going to win. There are going to be some deep breath's this year. Don't lose faith, but there are going to be some times where people go 'wow this is a work in progress.'"