Wichita State staff is stocked with MU ties
SAN DIEGO — This is like a family reunion for Gregg Marshall.
First, the former Marshall University men’s basketball assistant coach (1996-98) leads his Wichita State University team against the Thundering Herd at 1:30 p.m. Friday in an NCAA East Region first-round game in Viejas Arena.
But there are more connections for Gregg Marshall this week.
One of his Wichita State assistants, Donnie Jones, was MU’s head coach from 2007-10. Two of Gregg Marshall’s former assistants with the Shockers — Chris Jans and Earl Grant — are head coaches at New Mexico State and College of Charleston, respectively, who have their teams playing NCAA Midwest Region games Friday at the same venue.
“We have a lot of friends playing here, guys I’ve known for many, many years,” Gregg Marshall said.
Gregg Marshall was on the MU staff of former head coach Greg White in the 1996-97 season, when the Herd narrowly missed out on an NCAA tournament berth. Chattanooga beat Marshall in overtime in the Southern Conference tournament final on a last-second tip-in. Marshall and his wife, Lynn, have a son, Kellen, who was born in Cabell Huntington Hospital. Kellen, a Wichita State junior, is a student assistant on the Shockers’ bench.
Jones joined the Shockers this season. He has a master’s from MU and was a Herd assistant coach from 1990-96 before becoming the head coach. In three seasons at MU, he compiled a 55-41 record. In the 2009-10 season, the Herd was 24-10 and played in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament.
The Point Pleasant, West Virginia, native left MU for the University of Florida as part of former Herd head coach Billy Donovan’s (1994-96) staff. In 11 seasons, from 1996 to 2007, the Gators went to three Final Fours and won back-to-back NCAA championships, in 2006 and 2007. The next stop for Jones was a head coach gig at UCF where in six seasons (2010-16) the Knights had three 20-win finishes and two postseason appearances.
“Donnie is a great person,” Gregg Marshall said. “When I try to recruit coaches — and this goes for players too — I want men who are great examples and role models and leaders. Donnie Jones is all of those. He’s a great basketball coach, but he’s a better person. He’s a wonderful husband, father and spiritual man.
“He’s a guy you want in your foxhole. You want a guy like Donnie Jones that you can depend on.”
Jones had been scouting for the NBA Los Angeles Clippers when Jans left the Shockers and Gregg Marshall had a vacancy.
Wichita State (25-7) returned nine of 10 players with NCAA Tournament experience from last season and three of its starters — 6-foot-8, 279-pound senior Shaq Morris, 6-6 senior Zach Brown and 6-7 senior Rashad Kelly — have been in eight NCAA games.
Marshall (24-10) is in its first NCAA tournament in 31 years.
All-American Athletic Conference point guard Landry Shamet, a 6-4 sophomore, leads Wichita State with 15.0 points per game and is a 45.9 percent 3-point shooter. Morris was another All-AAC player who averages 14.0 points and 5.5 rebounds. Darnal Willis, a 6-9 junior, comes from off the bench to add 10.4 points and 6.0 rebounds while 6-1 senior guard Conner Frankamp, a starter, contributes 10.1 points a game as a 34.7 percent 3-point shooter.
Junior forward Markis McDuffie and sophomore guard Austin Reaves both average 8.5 points. Reaves is also a potent 3-point shooter at 43.5 percent.
Gregg Marshall said having experienced players is nice and he’s hopeful they’ll play well and make a deep run in the tournament.
A shootout is possible, with Wichita State putting up 83 points and making 9.3 3s on average, while Marshall scores 84.3 and averages 10 3-pointers.
“I’m not sure we play as fast as them,” Shamet said. “In film we have seen them come down and take the first semi-open look they get. They play a unique style of basketball that is not very identical to ours.
“We like to play fast, but not nearly as fast as they like to get out and play.”