I’m shocked, to say the least. I never thought the Shockers would reach the apex of college basketball and go undefeated. They thrashed each opponent on their way to 34 wins. Then again, can you really be shocked? Coach Gregg Marshall drew out the blueprint. His team epitomizes the new hip-hop adage “started from the bottom” as their spry play has ESPN commentators gushing over their dream season.
Since his tenure began, Marshall took his team to two NIT tournaments–winning one in 2011–and back-to-back-to-back NCAA tournaments in 2012, 2013 and now 2014, with a Final Four appearance last year. Now Marshall and his team are craving bigger dreams. They’re craving an NCAA title. With the reputations of mid-major teams constantly sullied because of their lack of competition, Wichita State has emerged as the lone warrior among all.
Here are their five best players since 2000.
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5. Sean Ogirri
While the senior Paul Miller was receiving the accolades for his play down low in the paint, Ogirri was a dominant second option during their ’05-06 season. He was a sniper from deep and shot near 45 percent from deep while averaging 12 points a game that year. He ingratiated the nation with his performance against Seton Hall in the first round of the tournament when he dropped 23 light ones, sprinkling four threes in the faces of Pirates defenders. He also dropped another pair of threes to help oust No. 2 seed Tennessee to clinch a Sweet Sixteen berth for his team.
Despite leaving the team for his final season to play for Wyoming, his heroics in the ’05-06 tourney won’t be forgotten by Shocker nation.
4. Paul Miller
Before Gregg Marshall took over, Mark Turgeon was at the helm. While Marshall took the Shockers to new heights, Turgeon had a Cinderella run of his own back in ’05-06. Forward/center Paul Miller had a very turbulent start to his collegiate career where he broke his ankle three games in. After watching his freshman year collapse right in front of his very eyes, Miller insisted on bulking up to return stronger his following year. He would be named on to the MVC All-Freshman team by averaging seven points and four rebounds.
But it would be his senior year where he burst onto the national forefront. Serving as the engine to the Shockers in their rapid fire run to the Sweet Sixteen, he averaged 13 points and seven rebounds, shooting over 51 percent from the field. His play earned him MVC Player of the Year and an All American honorable mention.
3. Toure’ Murry
New Yorkers didn’t know who Toure’ was when he inked his contract with the Knicks. He was another product of Marshall’s who performed, especially on the defensive end. Prior to his arrival, the Shockers’ future seemed murky. Yet when he walked onto the court, everything changed. A defensive guru, who relished in playing the passing lanes and providing pesky defense, Murry earned his stripes in the Missouri Valley Conference. He was on the All-Missouri Valley Freshman Team and All-Missouri Valley Newcomer Team in 2009. In addition to that, he was a two-time All-Defensive Missouri Valley Conference selection.
By helping his team win the NIT championship in 2011 and being a spark plug during their run in the tourney in 2012, he proved how his hustle and heart could outshine talent on a national stage.
Hit page 2 to check out which players topped this list…
2. Cleanthony Early
Dick Vitale salivates over guys like this. Early is what Dickie V likes to call a PTP’er. After manhandling the toddlers on the JUCO level, Early decided to take his talents over to Marshall’s Wichita State Shockers. He would bring that same voracity over to the Shockers his first year by walloping his opponents with 14 points and five rebounds a game. His play garnered a variety of accolades in the form of being a First Team All-Missouri Valley Conference selection and MVC Newcomer of the Year. He helped steamroll the Shockers to the Final Four last year, where they would eventually lose to the Louisville Cardinals in a game in which he dropped 24 and 10.
This year, he thrived under the bright lights and lifted his averages of 14 and five to 16 and six while also earning another MVC First Team placement in route to his Shockers undefeated season.
1. Fred VanVleet
VanVleet is a baller. The man has heart. He gives little guys like me hope to ball so hard. The 5-11 sophomore has played a huge role in the Shockers resurgence. He plays with efficiency and care at the point guard position. Here’s exhibit A–his game against Loyola last month–where he posted 22 points, eight rebounds and six dimes. If those stats aren’t enough to cajole you as to why he’s considered one of the top players in the country, listen to this: he went 6-6 from the field and 10-10 from the line. That would be considered an A+ game in My Player for NBA 2K.
The All-Conference First Teamer and the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year has already etched himself among Shocker greats. Another run to the Final Four can have him in the best ever conversation for his program.
What do you think?
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