by Kevin Burton
Hope to be wrong on this, but….
It appears to be over for Wichita State.
The Little Program That Could, could compete in a small conference, but still have a senior class graduate having won nine NCAA tournament games – nine happy NCAA press conferences – now can’t even retain its players.
Yesterday point guard Craig Porter Jr. announced he is entering the transfer portal. That left Wichita State with exactly one player on its roster who played significant minutes last year.
No players used up their eligibility, they all renounced their remaining time. Not sure why that last player standing, reserve center Kenny Pohto, would stick around now.
“Another large domino fell on Friday in what has been a gutting week for the Wichita State men’s basketball team when Craig Porter entered the transfer portal,” wrote Taylor Eldridge in the Wichita Eagle.
“It concluded a 48-hour span where the Shockers lost their leading scorer (Tyson Etienne), their budding superstar (Ricky Council IV) and now their starting point guard in Porter.”
“The only scholarship players who are returning from WSU last season are Kenny Pohto, Jalen Ricks and Isaac Abidde,” Eldridge wrote.
Etienne, a guard with tremendous range who led the Shockers in scoring at 14.9 points per game, declared for the pros. But he has been known to disappear for long stretches. He doesn’t appear quite ready for professional ball. I hope to be wrong about that too.
Council is a skilled wing with tremendous potential, but who was so undisciplined he didn’t start for WSU. He led the team in turnovers, often passing up simple plays to attempt the spectacular. Though he was the American Athletic Conference sixth man of the year, he was also the most likely to blow his defensive assignment.
I would say I’m not sorry to see Council go, except that nearly the whole team left.
“A total of eight scholarship players have entered the NCAA transfer portal since the end of Wichita State’s 15-13 campaign. Coupled with the early departure of Etienne for professional basketball, WSU only has one player (Kenny Pohto) returning who played last season, losing 92 percent of its production,” Eldridge wrote.
Porter is the player I most wanted to see come back next year. At 6’2” he led the team in blocks per game because he is so smart defensively. His departure more than the others is the tipping point that leads me to believe the Shockers are entering a period of national irrelevance.
This will be weird, as Shocker basketball had become a tournament brand.
“Internally, Wichita State believes it can still retool through the transfer portal. But with only one season of college basketball eligibility remaining, Porter didn’t want to take the chance of playing on a team pulling off a nearly total reload for this upcoming season,” Eldridge wrote.
Also noteworthy this off-season, Shockers Assistant Head Coach Lou Gudino left the team, making a lateral move for the same position at Ball State.
Danny O’Keefe had a top ten hit in 1972 with “Goodtime Charlies Got the Blues,” a song with the recurring lyric, “Everybody’s leaving town.”
If the song fits, sing it.
Now if you look around college sports, you will note that everybody seems to be leaving every town.
I don’t blame players for taking advantage of the transfer portal. Why shouldn’t players have the freedom of movement that coaches have enjoyed for years?
But what do the departures say about the state of Wichita State’s program?
The Shockers were 15-13 last year, significantly worse than any of the other recent teams. But the local radio buzz yesterday was the team would and should be thrilled with a .500 season next year and that fans should brace for something worse than that.
The Fred VanVleet/Ron Baker teams coached by Gregg Marshall were giant killers that put WSU on the national map. But Marshall was outed by journalists as having been physically abusive to players and he had to go.
Isaac Brown and the current coaching staff have some major work to do, to keep the program form sinking to the bottom of the AAC. Things don’t look good right now.