June 24, 2013
By Tom Weber
CARBONDALE, Ill. - Summer is barely underway, but what better time to talk Missouri Valley Conference men's basketball, right? The MVC held a media teleconference today in which all 10 head coaches provided updates on their programs. I took plentiful notes, and here's a rundown on what's happening across the league.
Paul Lusk, Missouri State:
Working relentlessly on finishing the schedule. Still have three games to get. Always want to get more home games. In my first two years, we played a very challenging non-conference schedule and were on the road a lot. We're still relatively young team and would like to play at home...Jarmar Gulley is in workouts and doing light contact work. Structurally, his knee is sound. Now, it's a matter of getting in basketball shape. To play it safe, he won't start 5-on-5 until August...Marcus Marshall likes to play, takes his game very seriously and will not rest on his individual accomplishments...You hate to lose a quality program like Creighton. Loyola brings a lot to the table. Porter Moser does an excellent job...We were out-manned a lot on the interior last year. We've added some big bodies. The young guys have gotten bigger. Tyler McCullough has tremendous size at 6-10, 253 pounds and a lot of positives with his game. He's ready from a physical standpoint. Emmanuel Addo is 6-7, 230, a transfer from Northern Colorado. Christian Kirk was our one interior guy last year, and now, it will not be all on him. Bruce Marshall is 6-10 and up to about 230 pounds. We have a roster with some options. We've shown we will play young guys. I think it will be more competitive for minutes. Austin Ruder is a freshman who can shoot the basketball, a winner, who understands how to play. Ron Mvoulka is a 6-5 utility guy who can handle and pass. He's not here this summer and is back in Paris. They all have a chance to come in and make an impact.
Greg Lansing, Indiana State:
Dan Muller, Illinois State:
A lot of new guys, that would be an understatement. We're trying to get a feel for what our new guys can do...Nobody can replace Jackie Carmichael in the low post. I would be surprised if he's not drafted. We have John Jones (6-9, 260) and some guys with length that give us depth in the front court. It will be a collective effort...We'll play a little bit different style in which we don't rely on just a couple of players. The way we execute our offense has to be different. We'll try to play fast, but the way we construct that will depend on what we have. We have some options to play big, some options to play small. We have some guys who look good in the airport. In another month I'll have a better feel...Bryant Allen is a month and a half past his ankle surgery. By mid-July he should be 100 percent. We'll be cautious.
Geno Ford, Bradley:
We don't have a lot in quantity coming back, but our quality is pretty good. We think Walt Lemon can be one of the top perimeter guys in the league. Tyshon Pickett really came on with his toughness and ability to score in the paint. Jordan Prosser is a senior who has played a ton of minutes. 7-foot-1 Nate Wells is returning...Kadarryl Bell had major shoulder surgery in the off-season, won't be cleared until September or October. He was really playing his best basketball when he got hurt...We have eight newcomers. Anthony Fields and Omari Grier were redshirts last year. Anthony is a true point guard with good speed. Omari is a really good shooter and we've been at or near the bottom in 3-point shooting. We have Jordan Swopshire and are really excited about him. Xzavier Taylor won a state championship at Morgan Park in Chicago. Stefan Zecevic is with the Serbian under-20 team and is not on campus yet. We have two JUCO transfers. Chris Blake is an active inside guy 6-6, bouncy, runs the floor. Auston Barnes from Odessa has played well. He's a big guy at 6-7 who can really shoot it. I wouldn't even be able to guess a starting lineup or rotation. We're probably nine or 10 deep...We all know how great the basketball is in Chicago, we trip over each other up there...Lemon didn't play point until his sophomore year and developed into an All-Conference player. He can be helped by not having to run the team and focusing on making plays...We need to make a jump into the next tier of our league. It was difficult to go from dead last to the bottom end of the middle-pack.
Porter Moser, Loyola:
Joining the MVC is really resonating with the 2014 and 2015 classes. The Valley has a strong name in this area. The media people here have been great -- WGN, Tribune, Sun-Times -- we'll be on a bigger stage. Almost every game will be on some type of TV. It's such a different level...We have no seniors, two juniors. We have one post player who is an upperclassman. We need Christian Thomas to take a leadership role. Coach Rick Majerus and I were going to try to get him to walk-on at Saint Louis. He was one of the most improved players in the Horizon last year. Matt O'Leary has put on 20 pounds and grew an inch to 6-8. He's impressed me with his drive to improve his body. Devon Turk has added 12 pounds -- needed it because he was so light...Milton Doyle has a lot of expectations. Just want him to play as hard as he can all the time. He's tremendously talented, a skinny 6-4, long arms...Jeff White is one of my favorite kids I've coached. Worked hard on his shot and body and is learning to make better decisions and becoming a true point guard. He's one of the most-liked guys on campus. His personality resonates with people...I'm a Valley guy. Doug Elgin is a long-time friend. It's an awesome league. We're preparing our guys to let them know how good it is. There's great teams in the Valley, kids play on the same page, fundamental, play within a system. Hard to win on the road in the Valley. I've been watching a lot of tape to get caught up. League coaches work unbelievably hard in recruiting to take guys from big boys.
Marty Simmons, Evansville:
We're excited about our core nucleus of players, who played with Colt Ryan...Egidijus Mockevicius continues to grow and develop. He's never had a chance to work so much in the off-season and can be a special player...DJ Ballentine had a great freshman year for us and will step into a bigger role for us...Ryan Sawvel has worked extremely hard in the off-season and is committed to getting better and stronger...Adam Wing started for us late and brings tons of toughness -- a glue guy who does a bit of everything. We have a redshirt freshman in David Howard, 6-9, 240, who is a very skilled interior player. Luke Gibson was the Cleveland-area Player of the Year. He has ability to push in transition and can guard. Jalen Brown is as athletic as any player we've had in the program with great quickness and jumping ability. My son, Blake, can shoot it, drive it, good passer. Christian Benzon from Denmark is an athletic swing player playing with their national team. We have a lot of new faces who are working extremely hard...I think the Valley will be a knockdown drag out. Good coaches and programs committed to winning.
Ray Giacoletti, Drake:
We're getting close to being done with our schedule. Playing in a MTE in Fresno and owe a game to Saint Mary's. We have interest in maintaining the rivalry with Creighton. It's been a great game for both institutions...Summer practices have been great asset to implement fundamentals and bring team up to speed with new staff. Hopefully, we can close the gap of the learning curve with summer practices. Offense will be dictated by personnel. We're trying to get a feel for our strengths and weaknesses. We want to get stops, get out and run and get easy baskets. It's so hard today to get half-court baskets...I've not watched any video. We start at ground-zero with no preconceived notions. Everyone starts fresh...Trying to raise the final bit of money for our new practice facility. It will be on the north end of the Knapp Center, $7 million facility. Badly needed men's and women's practice courts, locker rooms, film rooms. Will give players 24/7 access. Be finished in 2014...Offensively, it was a great learning experience at Gonzaga, and we'll take some of what we learned...It's so difficult late to not make mistakes in recruiting. We wanted to be 100 percent sure or save it for 2014. We found three guys who can help us. The better of the three is Chris Caird from Marshalltown, 6-6, a real strong young man who can post up people. Trevor Berkeley from Tyler JC is a longer athletic kind of guy who fills a need. We were able to get Blake Danielak, a high school player who committed to Texas Tech, but there was a coaching change. We will have five scholarships for 2014...Seth Van Deest and Richard Carter have done good job with leadership. Jordan Daniels will be available at the semester break and is a quick little guy. Aaron Hawley has year of eligibility left. After having basketball taken away from him, he has a chip on his shoulder...At Gonzaga, the whole school bought in to how it will help everyone at the University, such as the engineering school. The brand of Drake Basketball can help the entire campus. The president and athletic director at Drake really see that.
Ben Jacobson, UNI:
We have one game to get on our schedule. With MWC Challenge and BracketBusters going away, we have true road games and MTE at the Paradise Jam. We're hopeful to start something with Creighton. It was late in the game to try get something going this year and even next year, but hopefully sometime soon...I think Loyola is positioned to do well in our league. Porter has experience in our league. Very good coach and person. Based on that alone, they have ability to do well. They will put resources behind the program. Across the board in our league, we're in good position to cover up for not having Creighton...We have five incoming freshmen and Virginia's Paul Jesperson is a transfer. I really like the group. Some will be counted on to play right away. Wes Washpun sat out last year and he's a guy who is the most athletic and fastest guy we've had in our basketball program. He's highly competitive and wears his emotions on his sleeve. Jeremy Morgan has some size and length on the wing and has had some great workouts. Ted Frieman gives us some size at 6-9, and is good defensively. Robbie Knar can really shoot the basketball. Bennett Koch is the youngest of the Koch brothers. He's right at 6-10 and his body could use a year to develop. Klint Carlson is a 6-7 skilled forward and the guys have been impressed with him in pick-up games. Our group of five freshmen have a lot to work with...Seth Tuttle and Deon Mitchell need to elevate their leadership and play on the floor. Seth needs a lot of work on his perimeter skills. We ran a lot of our offense through Jake Koch last year, and Seth needs to pick up that slack. He gets in here on his own at 7 a.m. and is working to take the next step as a player.
Wichita State, Gregg Marshall:
There have been subtle differences in life since achieving Final Four. I'm still a dad at home and come in here and coach kids at camp, enjoyed a vacation, not really that big a change. Have a commitment from a 2014 recruit who was recruited by schools we generally wouldn't be able to beat in recruiting. He pursued us, so I think that was a direct correlation to the Final Four run. I hope it will open some other doors for us...Senior Cleanthony Early working hard in the off-season to improve his draft stock and make himself a more sought-after player...Evan Wessel was maybe inch-for-inch, pound-for-pound our toughest player when he went down early last season. We could have brought him back, but he had not used a redshirt year. He's a local kid, a third-generation Shocker. He'll be a sophomore again. Vincennes transfer Darius Carter looks like a guy who can play the 5 or 4. He's much more skilled than Carl Hall, but not as strong. He's longer, more athletic.
Barry Hinson, Southern Illinois:
We still haven't finished our schedule, anticipate going into August. We're going to play Missouri and Murray State next year and both will dramatically improve our schedule...We're extremely young. We have Davante Drinkard, Desmar Jackson and Anthony Beane as the only guys with extended playing time, and Jalen Pendleton has a little bit...Bola Olaniyan -- offensively, skill-wise he needs to develop a lot, but he's so strong and is probably our best rebounder. He's just so green, having come over from Nigeria...Our league is fine. We had a team play in the Final Four, and it wasn't Creighton. We've never been a one-team league. It's the second-oldest conference to the Big Ten. I'm not excited about Creighton leaving, but we have a great league and if you're not a part of it, you're missing out...Beane Jr. needs to expand his repertoire offensively and get better at stopping his man defensively. We were just awful defensively last year. We were 10th in a lot of statistical categories...If Desmar ever figures out that he's a pretty good player and he'll be responsible off the court, he'll be a lot more responsible on the court. He's had a good summer so far, but he could go off-road on us in a heartbeat. He's certainly our best talent...As much as I've talked about Wichita State while recruiting, they ought to put me on the alumni list. I'm really proud of what Gregg and those guys did, we take great pride in it...I think Sean O'Brien will play for us, if not start -- I'm really encouraged by what he's done. KC Goodwin weighs 114 pounds, but if we can get a little meat on his bones, he can help us at point guard. Including Bola, those three really stick out more than anybody among our newcomers.