Men’s basketball down to 10 active players

WKU forward Willie Carmichael (12) drives past a Kentucky Wesleyan College defender during the Hilltoppers 103-97 double overtime win over Kentucky Wesleyan College on Saturday Nov. 5, 2016 at E.A. Diddle Arena. Carmichael had 7 points for the game.

Matthew Stewart

The Hilltopper basketball team has seen three players leave the program for different reasons in the past week and a half. 

Sophomore forward and University of Tennessee transfer Willie Carmichael and freshmen guards Marty Leahy from Australia and Marko Stajkovski from Serbia will no longer be a part of the Hilltopper basketball team. 

The Tops now have just 10 active players on the roster. 

“It’s real difficult to deal with, especially now in a time where we almost need everybody,” sophomore forward Jabari McGhee said. “We were starting to get a good feel for Marty like as a person really. People had to make the best decisions for them and we wish them the best of luck, we just got to  move forward.” 

Carmichael was suspended from the team earlier in the season after the exhibition games and had returned to the team for a short time. In the time that he was back with the Tops, he saw little playing time. 

“Willie hasn’t been with us basically all season,” Head Coach Rick Stansbury said. “That’s nothing new there. He wasn’t with us and wasn’t playing.”

Leahy has been the most productive of the three players, and has an interesting reason for not being able to remain a Topper. 

“Marty is gonna go back to Australia,” Stansbury said. “It’s a unbelievable situation. I hate it for him. There’s an engineering school, it’s called the Queenslands. You check it out, it’s one of the best in the world. The only way he can get in it is to get in it in February. If he doesn’t get in it this February, he can’t ever get in the school again ever.”

Stansbury said Leahy’s decision is “tough” and he “hates” that he can’t finish the basketball career that he started in America. 

“He always wanted to come to the U.S. to experience the opportunity to play basketball, but he knew always what he wanted to do,” Stansbury said. “Like I told him, I don’t like it but I respect it. I hate it for Marty. It’s been a tough battle for him ever since he’s been here. First off he’s a great young man, great student. It’s all academics with him. He’s a great kid. You want your son to grow up and be like somebody, he’s one of them.” 

Leahy’s teammates said they will miss the talented Australian guard and remember him as a quiet but funny guy. 

“He was just different,” McGhee said. “He was real quiet, but it was like a quiet that you have to like. You have to smile. I’m going to  miss him, honestly.”

“He’s quiet, but he’s a funny dude,” junior guard Tyler Miller said. “He’s just a competitive person and I like that about him too.”

Stajkovski had played limited minutes for the Tops this season, three to be exact. The 6 foot 7 guard from Serbia has decided to take his talents to the professional ranks after not seeing much of the court during his time in America.

“Marko left, he went to go play pro ball in Germany,” Stansbury said. “He’s got a division two contract in Germany, so that’s where that is. Marko hadn’t played at all … I mean Marko had a hard time playing. What was shocking was he said he had a division two contract to go back and play in Germany which you know a lot of people can get a division two contract and play on a team. That’s kinda what he wants to do and that’s good.”

Stansbury said he wasn’t too surprised or blindsided by the losses of Carmichael or Stajkovsky, but was caught off guard with the Leahy situation. 

“Marty was the one that was a little shocking,” he said. “First off, I didn’t know about the engineering school, only being able to get in it in February. He tried to get us to help him figure out a way that he could get in in the summertime or something. It’s impossible. Marty would have been a good player in the future. I really believe that, he was a good piece.”

With barely enough players to run full scrimmages in practice now, Stansbury said that he does anticipate adding any eligible players for the remainder of the season.

Reporter Matthew Stewart can be reached at 270-745-6281 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @MES_WKU22.