It has taken Malcolm Armstead a while to find a home, but in his senior season, he finally located one.
SALT LAKE CITY — It has taken Malcolm Armstead a while to find a home, but in his senior season, he finally located one.
Armstead is a senior starting point guard for Wichita State, which meets Gonzaga on Saturday night in the NCAA basketball tournament with a Sweet 16 berth on the line. He transferred from Oregon, where he played two seasons, one each under Ernie Kent and Dana Altman.
Asked if he and Altman didn’t see eye-to-eye, Armstead said, “I wouldn’t say that. He was a good coach. I still talk to him. It was never a bad relationship. It was a business decision. My style of play didn’t fit what he was trying to do.”
After taking the Oregon job, Altman made a late-summer sojourn to Armstead’s Alabama home to dissuade him from transferring. Then Armstead sometimes tested Altman’s patience by showing a bit of a rebel streak, wearing clothes other than the team-prescribed outfit on some occasions.
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When he committed to transferring, Wichita State was high on the list, because the Shockers had recruited him out of Chipola Junior College, plus the former head coach there, Greg Heiar, is now on the Wichita State staff.
“His state of mind, I think, was maybe a little confused,” Heiar said Friday, recalling the decision to transfer. “He felt comfortable with our relationship.”
As for Armstead’s nonconformist ways, Heiar said, “He’s himself. He’s got his own personality. I know Malcolm in a different way.”
So does Pittsburgh. In Thursday’s game, Armstead was the best player on the floor, disrupting the Panthers’ backcourt, having a hand in causing a final-game, 1-for-12, five-turnover meltdown by guard Tray Woodall, and scoring 22 points himself, with five assists and one turnover.
“He’s got tremendously quick hands and he’s not afraid to take big shots,” Heiar said.
Armstead set a season steals record with 89 at Oregon, and has helped the Shockers to a 70-steals advantage this year.
“He’s such a great ‘digger,’ ” said Wichita State forward Carl Hall. “Throw the ball into the block, and he has such strong, quick hands, the post man might take a dribble and he might take the ball from him. That helps when you’re going against (Gonzaga’s Kelly) Olynyk. Now he’s looking for those guards.”
Armstead hasn’t come without some adventures. He incurred two technical fouls in three early games for his new team. Gregg Marshall, the coach, told the Wichita Eagle, “We had a talk. We have a deal. It involves going places you don’t want to go.”
• Two Gonzaga assistants, Ray Giacoletti and Donny Daniels, have close ties to the University of Utah, which is hosting the subregional. Giacoletti was head coach from 2004 to 2007, replacing Rick Majerus, and Daniels worked on Majerus’ staff from 1990 to 2000.
• Wichita State played in the 1965 Final Four, but it didn’t play great defense. Back in the era of the consolation game at the event, the Shockers lost 118-82 to Princeton in the third-place game, and Bill Bradley, later the U.S. senator from New Jersey, lit them up for 58 points.
• The Zags could show the Shockers some zone defense, because Wichita State shoots only 33 percent on threes, 211th in Division I. But that could lead to vulnerability on the boards, since the Shockers are seventh in rebounding margin at 8.3. Gonzaga is 11th at 7.5.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org