Wichita State traveled to Orlando, Florida, for the AdvoCare Invitational this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The Shockers headed into the tournament with a depleted roster at the guard position; Fred VanVleet is resting an injured hamstring, and Landry Shamet had surgery on Wednesday to repair a stress fracture in his foot. The task proved too tall, and the Shockers dropped three in Orlando without a win. Wichita State lost to USC 69-72, Alabama 60-64, and Iowa 61-84.
To add to the roster woes of Wichita State, Anton Grady suffered a spinal concussion against Alabama; the scary moment left the arena in silence as Anton lay motionless on the court. Taken from the court on a stretcher, the 5th year center was taken to the hospital for testing. Grady was given an x-ray and an MRI, both revealing no damage to his bones or soft tissue around the spine. Paul Suellentrop of the Wichita Eagle reports that Anton’s father believes he will be back to full strength in two weeks with rest, and expects Anton to finish the season with Wichita State. More information will hopefully be available in the coming weeks as to the status of Grady’s health and return to basketball.
Three losses in Orlando may be hard to swallow, but valuable court time was seen by many underclassmen and bench players. Markis McDuffie played just 12 minutes against Charleston Southern, zero against Tulsa, and 10 against Emporia State, but averaged 24 minutes per game in Orlando. McDuffie averaged 12.3 points, 3.6 rebounds, and 2 steals per game in the AdvoCare Invitational. Fellow freshman Eric Hamilton played sparingly in the first two games but played 17 minutes against Iowa; Hamilton finished the game against Iowa with 14 points, 5 rebounds, and 1 assist.
Sophomore Shaq Morris provided solid minutes against Iowa and gave the Shocker faithful visions of what could be. After a lackluster start to the season, Morris redeemed himself on Sunday against Iowa, scoring 11, grabbing 3 rebounds, and notching 2 steals. A physical enigma, Morris will be needed even more-so than before with Grady’s timetable for return up in the air.
Helping Morris at center was a surprise visit to the court from fellow sophomore, Rauno Nurger. Prior to Grady’s injury, the plan for Nurger’s sophomore year was to redshirt. That redshirt went out the window on Sunday when Nurger was subbed into the game with 9:46 left in the first half. Rauno played 9 minutes with just 1 rebound, and shot 0-2 from the field. Nurger will now be in the mix for minutes going forward this season.
Ron Baker played 114 of 120 possible minutes, with just one day of rest on Saturday. Baker’s role in the offense has changed with the injuries to VanVleet and Shamet. The wear and tear on Baker can be seen in Baker’s stat line through the tournament; Ron scored 25 against USC, 15 against Alabama, and finally just 7 against Iowa. Having 5 days between playing Iowa and traveling to St. Louis to play the Billikens will be beneficial to rest his tired legs.
Wichita State currently is 2-4 on the season after losing three games in Florida. The Shockers travel to St. Louis on Saturday to take on the Billikens of Saint Louis University. SLU is 4-1 on the year after losing to Louisville on Saturday. The Billikens play Morehead State on Wednesday before the Shockers visit.