Players receive postseason awards in farewell ceremony

Evan Pflugradt

In the final season of the four- and five-year basketball careers of Wichita State seniors Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet, there were numerous times to say goodbye — once for the final game in Charles Koch Arena, once for the final game in the Missouri Valley Tournament, once again in the exit of the NCAA Tournament with signs, chants, cameras and tears awaiting a bus drop-off later that evening, and for a final time in lengthy autograph lines at sponsored events. 

Yet, for some WSU fans, each time didn’t seem like quite enough. 

On Thursday, spectators were able to relive the 2015-16 season seated in Charles Koch Arena with highlight film packages and postseason award recognitions in an end-of-the-year celebration. 

About 2,000 fans gathered to watch the ceremony led by play-by-play commentator Mike Kennedy, who announced postseason awards and told stories about the season from November through March. 

Fourteen players and three assistant coaches sat alongside WSU head coach Gregg Marshall. Baker and VanVleet departed from Wichita earlier in the week; Baker to Los Angeles and VanVleet to Indianapolis, Indiana. Anton Grady also left Wichita to begin his training for the NBA Combine in mid-May. Evan Wessel stayed at home after being diagnosed with strep throat earlier Thursday morning. 

Baker and VanVleet, in their final days of training, prepared a 60-second goodbye video thanking fans for four and five years of commitment to the program. 

“I want to thank you for being loyal fans, supporting my family, giving them hope when I arrived here,” Baker said in the video. 

VanVleet followed, stating his regret for not being to be able to say a farewell with fans for a final time, but also said the fans would continue to support him and other seniors in their post-collegiate careers. 

“It’s been an unbelievable ride, through it all, I hope we’ve been able to pay that back with our hard play on the floor. Thank you,” VanVleet said in the video. 

Wessel wrote a letter to be read on his behalf. 

“Thank you to all the fans, Shocker Nation, the best fans in the country,” Wessel said in the letter. “I cherished this journey. At [Wichita State] I was able to fulfill my dreams.” 

Kennedy also spoke on behalf of Grady, who thanked the program for support throughout the ups and downs of the season, and positivity during a spinal concussion he suffered in the last week of November. 

“I also want to thank this program for giving me the gift I always wanted, an NCAA Tournament,” Grady said in the letter. 

Baker and VanVleet were announced as co-winners of the Wichita Eagle’s Most Valuable Player award. Baker was awarded the Shocker Radio Most Outstanding Defensive Player award. Wessel was awarded both the Shafer Dart Most Inspirational Player award and the Shelley Cox Leadership award. Redshirt sophomore Shaq Morris received the Cleo Littleton Most Improved Player award.