KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Wichita State reached another Sweet 16 this season thanks in part to the frenzied, full-court press that coach Gregg Marshall often employs to such success.
Now, it may be Marshall’s turn to deal with another kind of full-court press.
After a run of unparalleled success with the Shockers, including a Final Four trip a couple years ago, Marshall will have no shortage of suitors trying to lure him away. Alabama has already been identified as one school interested in hiring Marshall, and with several other jobs certain to come open, the longtime Wichita State coach will have some difficult decisions to make.
“That’s not something I’m worried about,” Marshall said before Thursday night’s 81-70 loss to Notre Dame ended the seventh-seeded Shockers’ season.
“None of my players are worried about it, none of my staff’s worried about it, and I’ve said how content and happy I am at Wichita State over and over, and we are,” he added. “It could be the last job I ever have. I could retire from there.”
That said, Marshall acknowledged he doesn’t “bury my head in the sand.” If the right offer came along, he would be foolish not to listen. That was the case when Wichita State approached him in 2007, finally pulling him away from Winthrop after nine wildly successful seasons.
“That’s been something we’ve dealt with for 17 years,” Marshall said. “Probably 13 of the last 17 years, we’ve had decisions to make, but I’ve had two jobs in that amount of time.”
One thing that could factor into his decision is whether point guard Fred VanVleet and small forward Ron Baker, two juniors with NBA potential, return for their final seasons.
Marshall said both players will consult with the NBA draft advisory committee, something that Baker also did a year ago. If they are projected to go in the first round, it could make sense for both players to leave school early.
“If you’re midway through the second round, chances are about 50-50 that you never play a second in the NBA,” Marshall said. “They have to make some really tough choices.”
If all three choose to return, the Shockers could be even better next season.
Sure, they lose a lockdown defender in Tekele Cotton and 6-foot-7 forward Darius Carter to graduation. But they otherwise return their entire team, including gritty junior Evan Wessel and promising freshmen Rashard Kelly, Shaq Morris and Zach Brown.
That would be a far cry from this season, when more than half of the roster was new.
“No one expected us to be where we are,” Baker said. “When you’ve got eight, nine new faces coming into your program, a lot of people probably didn’t expect us to make it this far.”
There will be new faces next year, too, as Wichita State begins to reap the rewards of its success — including a 35-0 start to last season — on the recruiting trail.
Four-star prospect Markis McDuffie, a rangy 6-7 forward from coach Bob Hurley’s juggernaut at St. Anthony’s in New Jersey, highlights the incoming recruiting class. Shooting guard Landry Shamet is one of the best prospects in the Kansas City metro, and Tyrone Taylor and Eric Hamilton are joining the Shockers from prestigious academies to provide some additional depth.
In other words, the Shockers could be even more loaded next season.
That doesn’t take the sting away from the way the Shockers’ season ended Thursday night.
After rolling to another Missouri Valley regular-season title, then knocking off Indiana and Kansas — the latter of which has been a game the Shockers have been trying to schedule for years — they ran into a talented team from Notre Dame having an exemplary shooting night.
They started off in a 15-5 hole, rallied back to briefly take the lead in the second half, then watched as the Fighting Irish pulled away late to earn a date with Kentucky.
“It’s been a heck of a ride, man. Been a great year for us, lots of ups and downs, lot of fighting,” VanVleet said. “Just feel sorry for the seniors, you never want to end on a loss, but it happens. They had great careers, and I’m just happy to be able to play with those guys.”
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