Junior guards Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet will return to Wichita State for their senior seasons. They turned down an uncertain professional future for one more run as Shockers. They are sticking with coach Gregg Marshall, who turned down a chance to go to Alabama.
That trio assures WSU of a place in the preseason national rankings. Next up is finding a big man. WSU coaches will search the junior colleges, or add a graduate transfer, and develop the returners to improve front-court production to supplement the backcourt.
Regardless of how the roster moves continue, the Shockers are in great shape for next season with Baker and VanVleet leading the way.
Both players confirmed their decisions with news releases on Monday.
“It’s been a good three years,” VanVleet said in the news release. “But now it’s time to finish what we started.”
Both applied to the NBA Undergraduate Advisory Committee for an evaluation of their NBA Draft potential. First-round picks receive a guaranteed contract. Players taken in the second round are not guaranteed a contract.
“I spent a lot of time talking it over with Coach (Gregg Marshall), my teammates and my family,” Baker said in the news release. “The reality is, I felt like any decision I made was going to be a good one. I think I’ll eventually be successful at the next level, but with what we have coming in and the people we have returning, including Fred VanVleet, next season has the potential to be very special.”
Joe Danforth, VanVleet’s stepfather, said the executives slotted VanVleet as an early-to-middle second-round pick. Three of the 18 personnel people who evaluated him said he would not be drafted.
“He said ‘I’m having a lot of fun at Wichita State,’” Danforth said. “‘I can wait until next year.’”
Athletes who want to declare as an early entrant for the NBA Draft must do so by April 26. Players who did not sign with an agent can withdraw their name by June 15.
VanVleet averaged 13.6 points and 5.2 assists. He earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors and honorable mention All-America from the Associated Press.
“Fred VanVleet makes coaching so much easier and a lot more fun,” Marshall said in a news release. “He will put the (school) assist record into another stratosphere and we are truly blessed to have both these fine young men finishing their careers as Shockers prior to playing professionally.”
Baker averaged 14.7 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists. He shot 43.3 percent from the field and 38.3 percent from three-point range. He earned second-team All-American honors from USA Today and was a finalist for two national Player of the Year awards, in addition to All-Missouri Valley Conference honors for a second season.
“It goes without saying that Ron has already established himself as an all-time Shocker great, as well as an iconic figure in college basketball,” Marshall said. “Any coach would be hard-pressed to find a better representative of his program.”
With their return, Marshall can continue shaping his roster for the 2015-16 season.
Freshman guard Corey Henderson Jr. will transfer to another program. At least one more departure is likely because WSU is one over the NCAA limit of 13 scholarships after the loss of seniors Tekele Cotton and Darius Carter and the scheduled arrivals of four recruits.
The return of Baker and VanVleet, plus the addition of transfer guard Conner Frankamp, will again give WSU’s one of the nation’s top backcourts. Junior forward Evan Wessel is WSU’s third returning starter.
The November signing class includes Park Hill (Mo.) guard Landry Shamet, a four-star recruit and ranked No. 89 nationally by Rivals.com. Forward Markis McDuffie, from Saint Anthony (N.J.) is ranked No. 92 nationally in ESPN.com’s rankings and also awarded four stars (on a scale of five). WSU also signed guard Tyrone Taylor, from Grandview, Mo., who is at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy and rated a three-star recruit by Rivals.com. Forward Eric Hamilton, from Duluth, Ga., kept his commitment to WSU after spending the year at Sunrise Christian Academy.
Worth noting — WSU center Shaq Morris tweeted that minor surgery on his left knee went well on Monday. The knee bothered Morris since before the season and swelling caused him to miss practice in February. He expects recovery to take around eight weeks. … Carter averaged 11.7 points, with a high of 13, and 3.7 rebounds in three games at the Portsmouth (Va.) Invitational over the weekend. He made 14 of 30 shots for Sales Systems LTD, which went 1-2. Former Northern Iowa center Seth Tuttle went 0 for 13 in three games and didn’t score for Norfolk Sports Club. He averaged 4.7 rebounds. The Portsmouth Invitational is an exposure tournament for seniors attended by professional scouts from United States and foreign leagues. … WSU will play Hawaii Pacific on Nov. 7 in an exhibition game. The NCAA Division II school is coached by Darren Vorderbruegge, a former Wichitan who’s the former coach at Wichita Northwest and Hoisington high schools.