Noah Fernandes can shoot. He would rather pass and his addition to Wichita State’s rotation helps other shooters shoot.
That, Fernandes says, is how he prefers to play. He is known as a pass-first guard and earned that label over years of basketball.
“That comes with your personality,” he said. “I always put other people first. On the court, you need a guy that’s going to do that for the team.”
The Shockers (19-6, 7-5 American Athletic Conference) won their past two games with Fernandes, a 5-foot-11 point guard, in the starting lineup. They finish a short home-stand with Thursday’s 6 p.m. game against USF (11-14, 4-8) at Koch Arena.
Fernandes’ increased playing time pushes the Shockers toward a smaller lineup and it produced improved offensive performances in wins over UCF and Tulane. While the level of competition matters, the Shockers needed momentum after losing five of seven games and falling into bad habits with shot selection.
The new lineup seems to help and Fernandes’ unselfishness and hustle is part of the good vibe.
“He’s upbeat, and he always has a positive outlook on things,” coach Gregg Marshall said. “I just like the kid. I like his positive energy and I like the energy he plays with on the court.”
Fernandes played a season-high 25 minutes in a 75-58 win at UCF. He scored a season-high seven points and handed out two assists. In an 82-57 win over Tulane, he played 18 minutes and recorded three assists. His assists produced Wichita State’s first three baskets, an 8-3 lead, and a move-the-ball tone that can carry a team. His steal – stripping the ball from behind a careless opponent and diving to secure the turnover – led to a layup.
“He got down on the floor, came up with the loose ball, and that’s why he’s in there,” Marshall said. “Love that.”
Fernandes, a freshman from Mattapoisett, Mass., grew up with role models who guided him toward his unselfish attitude. Joseph Spinola, his grandfather, influenced him with his generous nature, his work with the homeless and community service.
We dominated Tulane yesterday. 💪 #WatchUs
Check out the best moments (and there are a lot) from yesterday’s W. pic.twitter.com/eNlx2OJM4x
— Wichita State Men’s Basketball (@GoShockersMBB) February 18, 2020
“My father (Michael), how he raised me to play, was just make the right play,” he said. “If I can score, score. If it’s pass, pass. Just make the right play.”
A foot injury sidelined Fernandes during fall practices and other guards passed him. He did not play in five of Wichita State’s first nine conference games. A three-game losing streak motivated Marshall to shake up the starters and he went to Fernandes. His teammate respected how he kept a good attitude during the tough times.
“We see how hard he works every single day, and when he gets an opportunity in these moments, he cherishes it,” freshman guard Tyson Etienne said.
Fernandes, helped by his teammates, stayed upbeat and stayed ready. Marshall told him that playing time was coming and Fernandes trusted his coach.
“When he was telling me my time would come, I believed him,” Fernandes said. “He prepared me for the moments that he needed me for.”
With Fernandes in the rotation, the Shockers present a smaller look and it worked against UCF and Tulane. They surround center Jaime Echenique, at most times, with four teammates capable of shooting and creating shots for others. It is a guard-heavy look that puts 6-foot-5 Dexter Dennis at power forward, where he is thriving in recent games.
The Shockers made 13 of 24 three-pointers and handed out 22 assists on 29 baskets against Tulane. They had 19 assists on 30 baskets and shot 48.4 percent against UCF. Surrounding Echenique with skilled shooters and passers help. Pushing the ball helps the Shockers get open shots before a defense can set up.
“These last two games we’ve had a lot of energy and we are feeding off our defense,” guard Jamarius Burton said. “Just the pace and sharing the ball and getting out in transition has been helping us out these last two games.”
Watch Texas Southern vs. Wichita State Shockers baseball – Friday, Feb. 21 at 3:00 pm and a doubleheader on Saturday, February 22 starting at 1:00 pm CST on Yurview Kansas (Cox Ch. 2022).