PORTLAND, Ore. — Wichita State’s basketball team was greeted with piercing screams Wednesday as it ran on to the Rose Garden court for a pre-NCAA Tournament practice.
The screams came from a bunch of grade-school girls from Harvey Scott School in Portland who were sitting in front-row seats as the Shockers jogged past them.
Asked later if they knew the team they had just screamed for, six of them shouted, in unison, “No!”
Asked why they had screamed, the same six girls shouted, again in unison, “We like to be loud!”
At least it was a little love for the Shockers on a cold, drizzly day 1,700 miles from Wichita.
Not that there weren’t genuine Shocker fans at the arena. Most observers counted two.
They were Ryan Burrus and Marty Burger, two WSU alumni from Wichita. The die-hard WSU fans who had followed the Shockers all the way to the Sweet 16 in 2006 through Greensboro, N.C. and Washington, D.C.
They will follow them to Atlanta and beyond this year if the Shockers survive Portland with two victories. The opener is at 6:15 tonight against Virginia Commonwealth.
“I’d just like to say I was there when they win,” Burger said.
The Shockers’ traveling party, including the players, coaches, school administrative personnel, the band and cheerleaders, made it to Portland without any trouble on Tuesday, but most had gone to the Nike employee discount store in Beaverton on Wednesday.
Nike items were selling for half price at the store, and this is the mecca of Nike, so it was hard to blame them.
If not for the school girls from Harvey Scott, the arena would have been a quiet place one day before the tournament tips off.
It was the same for all teams in Portland because none of them are from places remotely near Oregon.
Media and ushers and security guards and tournament officials milled about.
Shocker coach Gregg Marshall did an interview with CBS radio as his team practiced. The Shockers were doing light drills after having a more serious practice earlier in the day at the University of Portland.
About 60 WSU people dined at a steakhouse in downtown Portland after they arrived Tuesday night, with team hosts Dwayne and Merritt Richardson of Portland.
“Our team hosts have been unbelievable,” said Eric Sexton, Shocker athletic director. “Whatever WE needed, they’re here for us.”
The team and traveling party are staying at the Hotel Monaco downtown, just a few minutes from the arena.
A plane chartered by the WSU Alumni Association was due to leave Wichita this morning. In Portland, fans will gather at the team’s hotel for a send-off rally for the team at 2 p.m. Pacific time.
When the Shockers ran off the court after practice, a woman in a WSU sweatshirt asked for autographs.
She was Brittany Basso of Kalama, Wash., about 40 minutes north of Portland.
The sweatshirt was for Washington State University.
Basso got Shocker senior Toure Murry to stop and sign his name in a memory book she is keeping for the tournament.
Basso, 20, said she had admired Murry’s skills during the drills.
She had spent the day at the arena, gathering signatures from players of all the teams.
What was her favorite team?
“I like the Cardinals,” she said, referring to Louisville, another team in Portland.
“Say, ‘Wichita State,’ ” her aunt, Jaime Baker, prompted.
“Oh, Wichita, too,” Basso said.