NIT brings opportunity, experience for Shockers

Shockers

For this young and inexperienced Shockers team, postseason play might have seemed like an unattainable dream back in January.

Flash forward a month and a half later, they are just one win away from a trip to Madison Square Garden in New York, to play in the semifinals and possibly the championship of the National Invitation Tournament.

WSU checked off the second round of the NIT with heads held high, claiming the 63 to 55 win on the home turf of opponent, Clemson.

“You know, considering me and Samajae, you know our last, you know the best we can do is give our all, continue to lead these young guys and make them something to remember,” said Markis McDuffie, WSU Senior Forward.

For most of the team, battling through the postseason and reaching this point, is all brand new.

“Ten newcomers, nine freshman, two junior college including me, so we never experience nothing like that,” said Jaime Echenique, WSU Junior Center.

Even though it was a rocky start to the season, the players say this squad is family and gelling better than ever.

“We’ve been growing since day one, and I feel like every game we have been picking it up another level, and I feel like, we don’t want to go home, we want to keep playing and that just shows throughout the whole team,” said Samajae Haynes-Jones, WSU Senior Guard.

Grabbing their fifth straight road win, WSU will now head to Bloomington, Indiana for the quarterfinals of the tournament.

“We want to keep playing as much as possible together. It’s Markis’ last year. It’s Samajae’s last year, and we’ve been enjoying the time together,” said Echenique.

Grabbing their fifth straight road, their are two objectives now.

One is to get to Madison Square Garden for the semifinals and finals.

The other, to get one New Jersey native player back home, up north.

“Our goal right now is to take Markis back to New York,” said Echenique. “That’s one of our goals, we really want to do that,” added Dexter Dennis, WSU Freshman Guard.

It’s a sentiment echoed by others, even McDuffie himself.

“We want to take Mark home and just like getting there is going to be amazing, and we want to win it all just coming out with a chip on our shoulder,” said Haynes-Jones. “That’s what coach made the goal to be, so I guess that’s the goal so,” added McDuffie.

Tip-off for the Shockers game against Indiana is set for 6 p.m. Tuesday night.

KSN’s Kendra Douglas is following the Shockers journey through the NIT.

She will be at the game and have more on KSN News at 5, 6 and 10 Tuesday night.

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