Evan Wessel: Essential to the winning formula

Evan Pflugradt

He’s not the flashiest guy on the basketball court, and he’s not the highest scorer.

He’s not Ron Baker or Fred VanVleet, but he’s essential to the winning formula for Wichita State.

Evan Wessel is the winningest senior in college basketball by percentage, minimum 80 games played.

“When we put him on the court, more often than not, and more times than the majority of college basketball teams, we win,” head coach Gregg Marshall said. “He knows how to play. He knows how to win.”

In his career as a Shocker, Wessel is 83-5, posting a winning percentage in the mid-90s.

“There’s a reason he has the winning record he does,” assistant coach Greg Heiar said. “He does the little things as good or better than anyone in the country.”

Yet with all the success Wessel brings to the program at Wichita State, he often goes unrecognized. In press conferences with Marshall, reporters will often ask questions about the two senior guards and leave Wessel out of the mix.

Marshall quickly corrects them and gives recognition to his senior forward.

“I got off on a tangent about Evan, which is easy for me to do,” Marshall said.  “I know he is not an All-American, MVP of the Conference, First Team All-Conference. He is not even second team all conference, but as a coach, you try to see the value of guys and what they can do to help you win.”

Marshall made his recruiting pitch to Wessel in open workouts at Wichita Heights High School, located down the street from WSU’s main campus. Marshall was amongst other Division I level coaches — including University of Kansas coach Bill Self, North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Kansas State’s Frank Martin — who were lined up to sell standout forward Perry Ellis on their school.

“I had Perry there, [which] generated a lot of exposure, but Coach Marshall would always make sure he would talk to me and spend just as much time with me,” Wessel said. “Ultimately, that relationship sold me on WSU.”

And five years later, Wessel said his relationship with Marshall remains strong.  

“The respect I not only have for him, but the respect he has for me, as well, it’s encouraging for the both of us,” Wessel said.

While Marshall may have first looked at Wichita Heights for Perry Ellis, it was clear he considered Wessel not to be a slouch.

Wessel holds four high school state titles, three in basketball and another in football. In his time playing basketball at Wichita Heights, he amassed a record of 68-1.

“His record in high school and college is as good as I’ve ever seen in my life,” Marshall said. “From any individual in any sport.”

That record comes naturally for Wessel. In fact, winning just might run in his blood.

“We were a sports family from the beginning,” Evan’s mother, Kelly Wessel, said. “Evan grew up hearing stories of high school state championships in the family. His grandpa Everett won as a coach, his dad, Todd, and uncle, Darryn, both as players.”

Evan’s grandfather, Everett Wessel, played basketball for WSU from 1956-59. Evan’s father was a member of the Shocker football team in 1985 and 1986.

The list doesn’t stop there.

Evan is the eighth Shocker in his family spread across three generations.

“I love his family,” Marshall said. “I love the fact that they are generations of Shockers.”

Now in his fifth and final season, the most recent carrier of the Wessel name looks to continue focusing on winning.

“My expectation is to obviously win a lot of games and get a good seed in the tournament with a chance to advance and let it go from there,” Evan Wessel said.

And they’ve certainly won a lot of games already, winning at least 30 games in each of the last three seasons.

“Evan is a winner. Wherever you put [him], he is going to find a way to help the team win,” Heiar said. “That’s just [who] Evan is. He’s a winner.”

He may not be Baker, and he may not be VanVleet, but at the end of the day, he’s still crucial to the team’s success.

“I am glad we were able to see his value,” Marshall said. “He has had tremendous value for our program.”


NCAA’s Winningest players by percentage (minimum of 80 games played)

1. Evan Wessel, Wichita State: 83-5, .943 percent

2. Ron Baker, Wichita State: 80-9, .899 percent

3. Gabe York, Arizona: 80-10, .889 percent

3. Przemek Karnowski, Gonzaga: 96-12, .889 percent

4. Kyle Dranginis, Gonzaga: 94-13, .879 percent

6. Trey Pinkney, Stephen F. Austin: 88-13, .871 percent

6. Thomas Walkup, Stephen F. Austin: 88-13, .871 percent

8. Fred VanVleet, Wichita State: 95-15, .864 percent