Wichita State Basketball: Dexter Dennis return elevates Shockers in 2020-21

Dexter Dennis announced his withdrawal from the NBA Draft on Tuesday, instantly becoming Wichita State Basketball’s best-returning player.

There was plenty of smoke about Dexter Dennis returning to Wichita State Basketball for his junior season. That smoke became a fire on Tuesday, likely much to the relief of coach Gregg Marshall and the Shockers faithful.

Dennis announced that he would be returning to Wichita for at least one more season. He had been appearing in promotional material for the program and was reportedly participating in team Zoom calls prior to his decision, so the writing has been on the wall for Dennis to return for some time. Still, the guard took his decision almost right down to the NBA Draft withdrawal wire.

The stats don’t quite measure the impact of Dennis’ decision. As a sophomore, Dennis averaged 9.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game. His scoring only went up a tick from his freshman campaign, while his rebounding actually dropped. Additionally, his three-point shooting percentage fell from 40.0 percent to 33.6 percent, though that didn’t prevent him from attempting 152 three-pointers.

Dennis looked a lot better in AAC play than he did during the season at-large, though. Against AAC competition, Dennis averaged 11.2 points and 5.6 rebounds per game, shooting 39.0 percent from three-point range. That kind of hot finish to the year could lead to a big start to the 2020-21 season.

One of his best games of the season came in the Shockers’ third-to-last contest, taking place at SMU. In a 66-62 victory, Dennis demonstrated what he can do when he gets hot, scoring a season-high 25 points while grabbing eight rebounds. Most remarkably, he shot 7-of-14 from three-point range.

Dennis wasn’t a full-time starter in 2019-20, cracking the lineup in 20 of his 28 games. He also missed a few games with an undisclosed personal issue. The guard is in line for a bigger role as a junior, however, and should be one of Marshall’s starting guards for the whole season.

The state of affairs for Wichita State hasn’t been pretty this offseason. Top scorer Jaime Echenique graduated as expected, but three other significant players chose to transfer away from the program. The splashiest move the program made was bringing in UConn graduate transfer Alterique Gilbert, who will start alongside Dennis in the backcourt.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest thing Dennis’ return brings to the team is stability. He immediately becomes the leading returnee for the Shockers in terms of minutes played (25.8 per game). He also led the team in free throw shooting last year, making 84.6 percent of his attempts from the charity stripe.

His return should also lock in Wichita State’s starting rotation for next season. Dennis may end up starting at small forward, with Gilbert and Tyson Etienne starting in the backcourt. Meanwhile, Trey Wade and Morris Udeze will wind up starting up front. Redshirt Josaphat Pilau may also push for big minutes.

Based on what has gone on at Wichita State this offseason, the return of Dexter Dennis could not be taken for granted. Now that he’s back, the Shockers could make a push up the AAC ladder.