WICHITA, KS — When Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall learned that the Shockers’ 100-66 win over Bradley on Sunday was the first time they had hit the century mark in a conference game since 1988, he had a funny explanation.
“We got rid of those plodders, Baker, VanVleet, and Wessel, and got some thoroughbreds in here,” he joked.
Those plodders were responsible for 40 percent of the points, 63 percent of the assists, and 49 percent of the steals for the Shockers last season. But the void left by the trio’s departure created an opportunity for a new crop of young leaders to rise up this season.
Markis McDuffie and Landry Shamet have answered the bell. The young duo is quietly averaging a combined 21.6 points and 4.2 assists per game this season.
McDuffie’s success comes as no surprise. He is one of just two ESPN Top 100 recruits to commit to Marshall in his 10 years at Wichita State. He is a product of Paterson, New Jersey, where he played his high school ball at St. Anthony High School for legendary coach Bob Hurley. He showed promise last season when he posted 7.4 points and 3.3 rebonds per game as a freshman, playing in the shadow of the aforementioned plodders. His role has increased substantially this season, as have his stats. McDuffie currently averages 12.1 points and 5.1 rebounds per game. His three-point percentage is also up over 10 percent from last season (43 percent compared to 32 percent).
Shamet’s greatest strength is his consistency. He has started all 15 games this season, while no other Shocker has started more than 10. His 15-point outing on Sunday marked his eighth double-digit scoring performance of the year. He is averaging 9.5 ppg and 2.6 apg this season after missing almost all of last year as a medical redshirt with a fifth metatarsal stress fracture in his left foot. He knew this season would present him with an opportunity to step up following several key departures.
“Competitively, I wanted to be one of those guys who could help fill that void,” Shamet said. “That’s the cool part about this year’s team. It’s not really just two guys who have to fill the spots of two guys that leave, but more so a collective unit filling that void.”
Marshall’s game plans this season have echoed the team-over-individual mentality that he stresses to his players. McDuffie and Shamet lead the team in playing time, averaging 23.9 and 23.3 minutes per game respectively. Their stats do not jump out of a box score the way other players’ around the country do, but that is partially by design.
“(Staying healthy) is a concern with everybody, that’s why I try to clear the bench as quick as I can. I always have, when games are in hand,” Marshall said following Sunday’s win. “That’s why we don’t win player of the year and stuff like that. We share the minutes, we share the depth, we share the ball. In the end, these guys accept it, they don’t beef about being pulled.”
The Shockers’ greatest strength this season has been their depth. They are not overly reliant on any one player, and they currently have five players averaging between six and 10 points per game. McDuffie and Shamet have not been asked to carry the team the way Baker and VanVleet did the past four years, but they both appear capable of doing so if called upon.
The Shockers currently sit at 12-3 overall and 2-0 in MVC play. Their next game against Drake on Wednesday will serve as a tuneup before they travel to Northern Iowa and Illinois State in the next two weeks.
Correction: An earlier version of this article stated McDuffie was the only ESPN Top 100 recruit to play for Wichita State under Marshall. In fact, he was one of two, the other being VanVleet.