D.J. Bowles was impressed by the Wichita State coaching staff when they recruited him towards their basketball program, enough to the point that he signed with the school in November. He admitted Wednesday that he will be watching when his future program tries to "Shock" the world again Saturday in the NCAA Final Four in Atlanta when they face Louisville, the tournament's top seed.
Although Wichita State head coach Gregg Marshall has been rumored for numerous openings that have popped up thus far in the postseason, the former Notre Dame and Cleveland standout, who played this season at Oldsmar Christian School in Tampa, Fla., isn't concerned he's going to leave.
"I hear it all the time, but coach Marshall tells me all the time that he'll be back, and he's a man of his word," Bowles said. "There's been a lot of stuff thrown his way lately."
Former Florida International coach Richard Pitino took what presumably is the last high-major opening when he became the next University of Minnesota coach Wednesday afternoon, so Marshall -- who has shown no interest in leaving -- seems set to stay at Wichita. It's a good thing, Bowles said, admitting he was signed "to Coach Marshall and his staff -- not the school."
Wichita State's run furthers a trend of mid-majors -- the likes of Virginia Commonwealth, Butler and George Mason -- making Final Four appearances in the past six years. It's a trend that could continue as long as high-majors schools such as Kentucky, Duke and North Carolina shuffle players in-and-out with the "One-and-Done" rule.
"I just don't get caught up in high-major basketball anymore," Bowles said. "Anywhere that you go, you can be seen, and it's to the point now where a lot of mid-majors are just as good as high majors."
Smith to TWC
Hixson senior D'Mondta Smith signed Wednesday to continue his basketball career at Tennessee Wesleyan College, a NAIA Division II school.
Smith, a 6-foot-5 forward, finished his career scoring 1,507 points, 821 rebounds, 317 blocks, 221 assists and 172 steals. He said that the opportunity to play college basketball never crossed his mind.
"I'm actually speechless," Smith said. "I had never thought about playing in college; I just enjoyed playing high school, bu I'm excited about the opportunity."
He feels that his time playing in the tough District 6-AA -- where he was usually the focal point of opposing defenses -- has prepared him for playing at the next level.
"I think that'll be a big advantage on my part," he said. "It's going to be a change because I am basically going from the top to the bottom and starting over, but I'm not worried about it. I'm just ready to play basketball."
Smith wants to major in psychology, but hopes that it's something to fall back onto once his professional playing days are over -- hopefully overseas.
Hill to TWC
Hixson senior Marissa Hill signed Wednesday afternoon to continue her basketball career at Tennessee Wesleyan. The 5-foot-4 guard averaged 11 points and two steals per game for the Lady Wildcats, who fell in the District 6-AA quarterfinals.
"I'm excited to continue my career," she said. "I'm excited about the opportunity to continue my career, especially since I didn't start playing until I was in high school."
Second-year Hixson coach Matthew Smith guided his team to a double-digit win total for the first time in recent memory. He said that Hill played a big part in that.
"I am very proud of Marissa and how hard she has worked these past two years," Smith said. "She is a great example of how hardwork and dedication plays off. She will represent TWC well on and off the court."
Layne to Bryan
Richard Hardy senior Carley Layne will sign this morning to continue her playing career at Bryan College. Layne, a 6-foot forward, averaged 17.5 points and 13.3 rebounds this season for the Lady Hawks, who advanced to the Region 3-A tournament. She was a two-time all-district performer in both basketball and volleyball, and is believed to be the first female athlete in the school's 88-year history to sign a college scholarship.
"It's an amazing opportunity, and I thank God for it. Hopefully it will open up doors to smaller schools for kids that colleges don't take notice to," Richard Hardy coach Carl Layne -- Carley's father -- said. "Carley can play all five positions, and has a great work ethic, and she will definitely work hard at the next level."
Johnson to Wabash
Cleveland senior Jahmal Johnson, who played his sophomore and junior seasons at Walker Valley, committed to Wabash Valley Junior College in Mt. Vernon, Ill. Johnson, a 6-foot-4 forward with perimeter skills, averaged 10.4 points and 8.8 rebounds for the Raiders, who tied for the District 5-AAA regular-season championship and fell in the Region 3-AAA semifinals.
Contact Gene Henley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6311. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.