‘I’ve improved as a basketball player, and grown as a man’: Seniors McDuffie, Haynes-Jones reflect on Wichita State careers

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‘I’ve improved as a basketball player, and grown as a man’: Seniors McDuffie, Haynes-Jones reflect on Wichita State careers

Coach Gregg Marshall speaks with Samajae Haynes-Jones and his sister after their final game in Charles Koch Arena on March 5, 2019. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

Coach Gregg Marshall speaks with Samajae Haynes-Jones and his sister after their final game in Charles Koch Arena on March 5, 2019. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

Joseph Barringhaus

Coach Gregg Marshall speaks with Samajae Haynes-Jones and his sister after their final game in Charles Koch Arena on March 5, 2019. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

Joseph Barringhaus

Joseph Barringhaus

Coach Gregg Marshall speaks with Samajae Haynes-Jones and his sister after their final game in Charles Koch Arena on March 5, 2019. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

Markis McDuffie first arrived at Wichita State a follower.

He was a lanky 17-year-old on a team with All-Americans Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker. That team was full of success.

McDuffie became accustomed to winning. As a sophomore, his team-best scoring and rebounding average catapulted Wichita State to the top of the Missouri Valley Conference. Even still, Gregg Marshall would have described him as a follower.

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State senior Markis McDuffie is surrounded by his family as he lifts up his jersey at center court after his final game at Charles Koch Arena. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

That changed when McDuffie stepped in as this season’s most-experienced player.

“This year made him (McDuffie) become a leader,” Marshall said. “That’s the biggest thing he’s going to take away this year.”

“Through all the challenges and all the trials and tribulations, I’ve improved as a basketball player, and grown as a man,” McDuffie said.

McDuffie, Marshall said, is the bridge between the VanVleet, Baker-era and the future of Wichita State basketball. His transformation from charismatic youth to a mature senior could best be described by teammate Asbjørn Midtgaard, a sophomore center.

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State forward Markis McDuffie makes a pass from the ground to guard Jamarius Burton during the first half of the game against ECU on March 5, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

Midtgaard arrived to Wichita State from Denmark with one suitcase — that’s all he could really afford to bring with him. When Midtgaard arrived in Wichita, he didn’t have many clothes. McDuffie invited him over to pick out a pair of shoes. That was an opening, Midtgaard said, to understanding what kind of leader McDuffie was both on and off the court.

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State senior Samajae Haynes-Jones walks onto the court with his sister after the game against ECU on March 5, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

Samajae Haynes-Jones, the team’s other senior, overcame adversity before arriving at Wichita State. He lived through the death of his mother, who passed from cancer when he was in high school. He battled through slipping academics, playing two years of junior college basketball before he had the grades to play Division-I basketball.

“All that he has overcome is amazing,” Marshall said. “It’s a story that he can tell now. It’s been a dream come true for he, his family and for the Wichita State Shockers to have him be a part of this program.”

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State senior Samajae Haynes-Jones makes a pass through traffic during the second half of the game against ECU on March 5, 2019 at Charles Koch Arena. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower.)

Both players will hold memories of Tuesday’s senior sendoff.

“I’m kind of at a loss for words right now,” McDuffie said after the game. “I just appreciate everything. I will never forget being here.”

Joseph Barringhaus
Wichita State senior Markis McDuffie hugs and celebrates with senior Samajae Haynes-Jones. McDuffie told Haynes-Jones to “sit down” on the couch that sits courtside after scoring the buzzer beater against UConn. (Photo by Joseph Barringhaus/The Sunflower).