By PAUL SUELLENTROP
The Wichita Eagle
WICHITA (MCT) Ron Baker, former standout at Scott City High School and The Telegram's 2011 Player of the Year, is stretching, a black walking boot on his left foot. Evan Wessel is trying to dunk left-handed. Carl Hall is at home after Tuesday's surgery on his thumb.
The action off the court is almost as important as the action on the court during Tuesday's Wichita State basketball practice. WSU's injury list grew longer with the revelation that Baker will miss around six weeks with a stress fracture in his foot. He is the third Shocker starter sidelined and the fourth hit by an injury this season.
On Monday, WSU announced that Hall will miss four weeks with a broken right thumb. Wessel is out with a broken right pinky for an unknown amount of time and may also face surgery. Center Ehimen Orukpe is slowed by a sprained right ankle.
The remaining healthy Shockers say they won't let the injuries derail a great start. WSU (9-1) plays Charleston Southern today at Koch Arena.
"We've got to go hard now," junior Cleanthony Early said. "We've got to make sure practice is better and the intensity is better. We've got to make sure we're not missing a step."
Hall and Baker started all of WSU's games. Orukpe started six and Wessel eight before their injuries. Baker, a redshirt freshman, was averaging 7.3 points and 2.6 rebounds. He is 16 of 50 from three-point range, the most makes and attempts by a Shocker.
The Shockers, a team that went at least 10 deep and 12 in some games, is now faced with playing with nine mostly healthy bodies. At least they play their next three in Wichita. After Thursday's game, WSU plays Southern Mississippi on Saturday at Intrust Bank Arena. Then it takes an eight-day break before opening Missouri Valley Conference play against Northern Iowa at Koch Arena.
"We need quite an atmosphere," WSU coach Gregg Marshall said. "Anything they can do to rally around this team with noise and support ... this place needs to be as loud as it can possibly be. We're 9-1, but we've had our wings clipped a little bit and we need to use every available resource."
The Shockers don't want to use the injuries as an excuse.
"We're a family, so when one goes down, somebody else has to step up," guard Tekele Cotton said. "Just because we've got a few injuries doesn't mean we're down."
Orukpe missed three games before playing in last week's loss to Tennessee. He is practicing, but not moving and jumping like a healthy player. He played seven minutes against the Volunteers.
"Ehimen is no better than he was in the Tennessee game, which was not great physically," Marshall said.