ATLANTA — If the Shockers of 2061 make a run to the Final Four, Carl Hall knows where he’ll be.
"I’ll be back at the pep rally," Hall said. "Cheering them on."
Just like Tommy Newman and Manny Zafiros from Wichita State’s Final Four team in 1965 attended the Shockers’ pregame celebration on Saturday, Hall plans on being similarly connected to the program. His WSU career ended when the Shockers lost 72-68 to Louisville in the Final Four.
Hall wants his connection with WSU to stay strong well into the future, and he likely won’t have to work that hard for it. Just as he didn’t have to work that hard to develop that connection when he arrived at WSU as a junior-college transfer with two years to make a lasting impression.
Fans were drawn to Hall almost immediately. There was the hair, of course, but also the intangibles he exhibited as the Shockers’ sixth-best scorer last season. He displayed characteristics — toughness, passion, and energy — that rarely go unnoticed and that became a significant part of the Shockers’ identity this year.
Hall played a true-to-himself game Saturday — 13 points, five rebounds and an eagerness to challenge Louisville’s taller post players. It added to a legacy that Hall may not yet be aware he owns.
"It’s something I haven’t thought about yet," Hall said.
Chances are, the old-time fans in 48 years will remember Hall. They’ll remember his dreadlocks and the mini-controversy he created when he cut them off before the NCAA Tournament.
They’ll remember the tenacity with which he played, the will he exhibited to become, at a slightly exaggerated 6-foot-8, a post player that went toe-to-toe with taller and more well-known opponents in the postseason.
They’ll remember Hall the way he wants to be remembered.
"Just be known for just playing hard," Hall said. "That’s all I want to be known for, that’s all I can control is just playing."
They’ll remember, of course, the improbability of his story, the one that has been told so many times before. Overcoming a serious heart condition that forced him to quit basketball in junior college and take a low-paying job at a light-bulb factory.
They’ll remember how he kept it all in perspective.
"I’m just blessed to be in this situation," Hall said. "There’s people going through worse situations than just losing a basketball game. I’m just blessed to be here and happy for this team."