Shockers accept awards, attention with gratitude

Sports Editor

Constant media attention can get to anyone’s head. Regardless if it is a Hollywood celebrity or a college-level basketball player, attention can be taken with a positive attitude or an egocentric one.

The Wichita State men’s basketball program has received attention from national headlines since their run to the Final Four in the 2012-13 season. Featured on Sports Illustrated covers and numerous ESPN broadcasts, the team seems to remain humble in their experience and endless exposure.

This season, the Shockers were featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The cover showed seniors Cleanthony Early and Chadrack Lufile along with sophomores Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker and junior Tekele Cotton. It was the second time in a year that the team has been the lone feature of the publication’s cover. When the opportunity for a second cover arose this season, head coach Gregg Marshall was at a standstill for who to select. He could only choose one player.

“If you have seen our team, you know that is a tough situation,” Marshall said. He decided the fairest way to choose would be drawing straws between the major players.  

The guys began to chuckle at the thought of Sports Illustrated interested in featuring the team on another cover.

“Cleanthony says ‘I think it should be Tekele,” Marshall said. “Everyone looked at him and he says, ‘The rest of us get more hype and I think it should be Tekele. I don’t want to pick.’ So that’s the kind of guys that we got. I thought that was a really mature and team-first statement for Cleanthony.”

While the players easily solved the battle for the Sports Illustrated cover, regular season awards were out of their hands and not as easy to put a stamp on.

For the 2014 Larry Bird Player of the Year award, three Shocker players were top candidates for the honor. Many voters were jumbled on whom to pick as Early, Baker and VanVleet were the top choices among the contenders.

It was announced on Tuesday that VanVleet was the winner of the contest. Even though he was awarded with the honor, he said he would have been proud even if it were given to one of his two other teammates.

“There really wasn’t any joking,” VanVleet said. He said the players were 90 percent sure one of them would win. “So whoever got it, the other two would be happy and cheering. If those other guys would have won, I would have been just as pleased as I was when I found out that I was the one that got the award.”

On senior night and the final regular season game, VanVleet took only one shot in the duration of the game. He said that his focus wasn’t on himself but that the team walked away with a win and the seniors had their time to shine.

“That’s a great quality that we all have as players, individually,” VanVleet said. “I wanted to win the game, obviously. In the flow of the game and the way we were playing allowed for me to not force my hand so much on the offensive end and let the other guys be more aggressive and get them going. So that’s what I tried to do and it worked out that way.”

Coach Marshall noted VanVleet’s unselfishness on the court and his leadership abilities on the team.

Marshall said. “It’s all about winning for him,” Marshall said. “He is an extension of our coaching staff on the floor and that’s just comforting.”

VanVleet and the rest of the Shockers are taking a break from action until Friday when they will make their first appearance in the 2014 Arch Madness tournament. The team is scheduled to play against the winner of the Drake vs. Evansville game at 12:05 p.m.