Wichita State has started the season 10-2, with their only losses coming at the hands of top 25 teams, Michigan State(24) and Louisville(10). Two more tests remain before Valley play begins, and WSU is looking to bolster their tournament résumé against Oklahoma State and South Dakota State.
The Shockers have been surrounded by questions of what life will be like, sans VanVleet and Baker (what about Wessel?) As the season has progressed, and over a third of the regular season games have been played, that question has been quieted by the play of the current Shocker back court. A new question must be asked, where do the minutes go?
Gregg Marshall’s system is seldom learned overnight, but true freshman Austin Reaves, and junior JUCO transfer Daishon Smith have rewritten the timeline for expectations. Where typical freshmen and JUCO transfers fail, Smith and Reaves excel. Beyond having the fundamentals required to play at a D-1 program, Austin and Daishon show a mental acuity and toughness rarely seen this early in a career. Poised and efficient, Austin and Daishon’s performances demand more minutes, but from an already deep and versatile roster those minutes are sparse to come by. With a few minor adjustments to the minutes for the back court over the last two games, Marshall has infused Reaves and Smith into a plug-n-play rotation, regardless of which set of two guards are in the game. As Tom Izzo said “players kept coming into the game two at time, as if they were boarding Noah’s Ark.”
From the beginning of the season until the Louisville game, Smith averaged 15 minutes per game. From the Michigan State game up to and including the Oklahoma game, Daishon is averaging 21 minutes per game. Reaves has played 16 minutes per game in each of the last two outings, after a season low 10 minutes against Colorado State when he was coming back from his dislocated shoulder suffered during the Michigan State game. Both Smith and Reaves are receiving increased minutes of late, and are making the load a little lighter for Shamet and Frankamp, which should pay dividends late in the season when fatigue starts to play a factor. The depth of the roster also adds a small safety net when and if one of the guards goes on a cold streak.
Daishon Smith offers a change-up in speed and style to the other guards on the roster. More in-line with Landry Shamet in athletic ability, Smith is explosive off the dribble and can take it to the rack with the best in college basketball. Pairing his explosive athleticism with a consistent and effective three point shot(50%) , Smith provides headaches to teams when trying to gameplan against the Shockers. Smith has an effective FG% of 58.2%, third highest on the team. He is also the third highest in win shares per 40 minutes at .273. Daishon leads the team with 30.3% in assist %, which is an estimate of the percentage of teammate field goals he assisted in while on the court. Simply stated, when Daishon is on the court and a Shocker scores a bucket, you can figure that 30% of the time it was off an assist from Smith. Daishon is not only filling the shoes of VanVleet and Baker, he’s blazing a trail side-by-side with some prolific Shockers that transferred in to the program. Joe Ragland, Clevin Hannah, and Malcolm Armstead to name a few. Bringing his work ethic and desire to be better everyday, his name should be Day One Smith.
When describing Austin Reaves play style to someone, I like to take people back to the days of my childhood in the 90’s with basketball drills on VHS tape. You know those tapes where they had a coach explaining the fundamentals of basketball, and there was a kid demonstrating the drills. The kid was like a robot, performing every single task perfectly down to always having his head on a swivel and his arms at a 90 degree angle, palms out ready to receive the pass. That’s Austin Reaves, all the time on the court. Fundamentally, Austin Reaves was ready for D-1 basketball when he stepped on campus.
Austin is currently shooting 57.9% from the floor and 53.8% from three this season, which is the best on the team in both statistical categories. In advanced stats, Reaves also leads the team in effective FG% at 80%, and has the highest win shares per 40 minutes. Rarely are those types of numbers put up by true freshmen this early in their career. But nothing is shocking anymore for a player who looks barely old enough to be on the court. Shocker opponents this year have found out first hand what the Doogie Howser of college hoops can do, and he will be completing his residency at Wichita State for three more seasons.
Follow us on Twitter @ShockerHoops, like us on Facebook, and for more discussion, join the community at ShockerNet.net. ShockerHoops.net is a publication of Knockwood Interactive, L.L.C. and is not affiliated with Wichita State University.