Marshall pushing for WSU to focus on rebounding
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.”