The Western Kentucky men’s basketball team is scheduled to depart Sunday from Bowling Green to Wichita, Kan., where they’re schedule to meet Wichita State in its season opener at midnight on Monday/Tuesday inside Charles Koch Arena. The game will be televised by ESPN2.
Here are comments from coach Ray Harper and senior guard Caden Dickerson.
Point guard Brandon Harris: “He has not practiced. Questionable? Doubtful? Whatever, but he has not practiced since the game on Saturday.”
Kaspar, Hulsey, B. Price? “They’ve done a great job. I’m comfortable with any of those three guys.”
Starting five? “No, we’re still – we have three days left of practice and we’re weighing some options. Guys are gonna have to win a spot these next three days.
“I feel like we’re close to settling in on what we’ll do Monday night, but not quite ready at this time.”
Injury deja vu? “No, it was never even a thought. I would’ve thought more about how well Brandon Price played. Got to see what we were hoping. We’d seen a lot of it in practice and that’s like anything else, you’re presented opportunities in life and he was presented an opportunity on Saturday and the door was cracked a little bit and he kicked it wide open.
“It’s his job. It’s Brandon Price’s job to lose. Somebody’s gonna have to come take it from him. That’s the business of sports. I feel like he’ll do a good job for us.”
Is he a pleasant surprise: “Not really. Not a surprise. Watched him in high school, he’s just a competitor. He’s so tough, plays with a big heart, he’s a true point guard.
“He makes good decisions with the basketball, he can run a team, he’s vocal. I feel like he’s got a chance to be a very good player for us.”
Wichita State: “Tough – mentally, physically. There’s a reason why they were in the Final Four last year, they’re just – they don’t beat themselves.
“They’re very disciplined on both ends of the court. It’s gonna be a tough basketball game for us and our guys will find out quick how tough they are. I think they’re more mentally tough than they are physically tough.”
Excitement for the season opener: “I’m sure they are, we haven’t really talked about that much about it, but I think anytime – you’re always excited for the opening game. Even more so when you’re playing a team that’s ranked as high as 12th in the country on national television.
“Great opportunity for us and we’ll see how we handle it.”
Shockers’ personnel challenge: “Cleanthony Early is a terrific player. Ron Baker one of the best 3-point shooters in the country. (Fred) VanVleet played major minutes for ‘em as a backup point guard last year. (Tekele) Cotton started for them last year, so they basically have three starters back. Kadeem Coleby played at Louisiana-Lafayette a couple years ago, he sat out last year – big, strong, athletic guy.
“They got all the pieces to be right back where they were last season. It will be a great challenge for us here in a few days.”
Would you rather open with a more winnable game? “I think most teams if you look at their schedule across the country will find a game they can get them a win, get their feet under them to open the season. It didn’t work out that way when we were working on the schedule.
“But I think it’ll be fine. We were going to play them, whether it’s first game, second game I don’t think really matters at this point. Tough environment, which will be good for our guys. We’ll see how they react when you can’t hear and the crowd’s right on top of you. Our team should grow up a lot Monday night and I’m looking forward to how they react.”
Midnight tip: “I don’t think they’ll have any trouble being wide awake and ready to go at midnight. Me on the other hand? May be a little bit more difficult. May have to find a couple hours to take a nap.
“Again, opening game, national television, I think that says it all. They’ll be rearing to go. We kinda got it mapped out from the 48 hours prior to the game how we want to handle it. You can remember when you were 19, 20, probably midnight didn’t mean a whole lot to you. You were wide awake, especially when you were getting ready to play a big-time college basketball game.
“We’re not gonna talk about it a lot. It’s game time, let’s go play.”
Any extra Diet Coke’s? “I’m gonna try not to have any extra. Extra for me would not be good.”
Noise of Charles Koch Arena? “We just – we’re not gonna talk about it a lot. We’ll make the kids aware, ‘Hey, it’s gonna be a loud arena, great atmosphere.’ We’ll have to use our hand signals on offensive calls a lot. Their gonna have to communicate on the court.
“Again, as a player, that’s the kind of atmosphere you want to play in. If you’re a competitor you look forward to that challenge. I think our guys will do that.”
What have you seen in fall practice? “The intensity and the effort. It’s gonna be a tough schedule this year and we gotta come ready to work every single day and I think we’ve had that mindset for the most part of the preseason, just coming in with the same intensity every day and ready to get better.”
Midnight tip: “I don’t know. I think it’ll be fun. Never really done this, so it’ll definitely be interesting. I think either way we’re gonna be pumped to get this season going. We got a tough challenge ahead, so I think we’ll be ready to play.”
Preparing for midnight tip: “I don’t know, I think maybe lots of sleep throughout the day. Just getting some rest and eating right and just preparing our body for that late-night game.”
Wichita State: “They were in the Final Four last year, they’re a tough program. They pride themselves on toughness – and they win at home. It’s gonna be a tough challenge for us – but we’re ready to face ‘em.
“They’re tough and they can rebound the ball, so we’re definitely gonna have to match their physicality. And like I said, they pride themselves on rebounding and toughness, so we’re gonna have to match their rebounding and physicality in the game.”
WKU strengths: “We’re definitely deep. I think we’re experienced, even though we got some newcomers, I think they have a lot of basketball IQ and I still think we’re experienced. I think our depth will help us in this season as well.”
Brandon Price: “His tenacity overall. He finds a way to get all the loose balls, his hustle, he’ll step over and take a charge, he’ll get in there and scrap on rebounds. He just brings that tenacity that we need for the point guard position and he’s done a great job and we hope that he can keep helping us.”
Your health: “I feel like a lot better than I have in the past. It feels good to not have some sort of apparatus for once. It definitely feels good.”