Mar­shall push­ing for WSU to fo­cus on re­bound­ing

The Wichita Eagle (Sunday) - - Sports - BY TAY­LOR ELDRIDGE

The im­por­tance of de­fen­sive re­bound­ing wasn’t sink­ing into Wi­chita State’s new­com­ers in the front­court, so Gregg Mar­shall had to come up with a vis­ual to get his point across in prac­tices lead­ing up to the Charleston Clas­sic.

“Coach told us that the paint is the kitchen, so don’t let any­body come in there and hurt your grandma,” WSU ju­nior cen­ter Jaime Echenique said. “It’s a funny thing, but I’ve been tak­ing that re­ally per­son­ally.”

The mo­ti­va­tion has worked as the Shock­ers have looked more like the Mar­shall teams of the past that were among the best in the coun­try in de­fen­sive re­bound­ing. WSU out­re­bounded both David­son and Ap­palachian State be­cause it boarded so well on the de­fen­sive end.

But WSU’s big­gest test on the glass awaits in Sun­day’s 12:30 p.m. game on ESPNU against a long and ath­letic Alabama (3-1) team for fifth-place in the tour­na­ment.

“The more mis­takes you make, the more he gets on you,” WSU fresh­man cen­ter Mor­ris Udeze said. “That’s why he’s so good at coach­ing re­bound­ing. That con­stant pres­sure sinks into your mind. You’re al­ways think­ing about check­ing out and know­ing where the ball is. He just em­pha­sizes it a lot in prac­tice, so you have to be good at re­bound­ing.”

WSU’s dili­gence check­ing out against David­son would have made any of Mar­shall’s past teams proud. The Shock­ers grabbed 29 of 33 de­fen­sive re­bounds, an 88-per­cent mark that has only been bet­tered 13 times by WSU teams in the past five sea­sons.

The 6-foot-11 Echenique has been gob­bling up re­bounds at one of the best rates in the coun­try, but it’s ac­tu­ally 6-4 fresh­man guard Erik Steven­son who leads the team with 22 de­fen­sive re­bounds.

Steven­son has a knack for find­ing the ball, but Mar­shall cau­tioned against giv­ing all of the credit to him. McDuffie and Udeze only av­er­age two de­fen-

sive re­bounds per game, but their work check­ing out al­lows guards like Steven­son to swoop in for the easy re­bound.

“I re­mem­ber in col­lege when I played, I was no sky­walker, so I’m check­ing out ev­ery time and then

I’ve got a buddy over there get­ting all of the re­bounds,” Mar­shall said. “He looks like a great re­bounder, but we’re do­ing the grunt work. So I don’t get caught up on who gets the re­bound, I want to see how our team re­bounds.”

What Mar­shall saw in WSU’s first two games, when the team al­lowed a com­bined 27 of­fen­sive re­bounds, was a lack of at­ten­tion to de­tail. The Shocker bigs were turn­ing their heads when shots went up, in­stead of putting a body on a de­fender to check out.

“The key is to hit first,” Echenique said. “You hit first, then you go hit the glass.”

It’s a new con­cept for al­most all of WSU’s front­court play­ers. Markis McDuffie is play­ing ex­clu­sively at power for­ward and has never been asked to re­bound as much as this. Echenique and Udeze are both first-year WSU play­ers and As­b­jorn Midt­gaard has very lit­tle ex­pe­ri­ence.

But this week it has clicked and WSU has been at its best when the two post play­ers have their de­fend­ers walled off when the shot hits the rim and WSU’s guards can swoop in from the perime­ter to grab the re­bound. That’s why WSU guards have come up with 30 of 47 (64 per­cent) of de­fen­sive re­bounds this week in Charleston.

In less than 10 days, Mar­shall has been able to re­turn WSU to its dom­i­nant re­bound­ing roots.

“Coach Mar­shall puts an em­pha­sis on it ev­ery day that every­body has to check out and re­bound,” said WSU guard Sa­ma­jae Haynes-Jones, who has five re­bounds the last two games. “We know the bigs are go­ing to have a hard as­sign­ment ev­ery game, so we can help them out by grab­bing a cou­ple.”

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