This was the night, Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall told his team, where they would finally put last season’s achievements behind them. The night that all the incredible things that happened on the way to the Final Four in April would be honored and then, at least temporarily, forgotten.
And like anything else, they would have some fun doing it.
“It was time we put to the bed the 2012-2013 season and now it’s all about the season coming up,” Marshall said. “A lot of the same guys, a lot of the same coaches, but at the same time we can finally say that’s over now and it’s time to concentrate on what we can do moving forward.”
The men’s and women’s teams made their public debuts on Friday night at Shocker Madness in front of 6,600 fans at Koch Arena.
The women’s team, coming off its first MVC title and NCAA Tournament berth, unveiled banners from both before a 20-minute scrimmage against a group of male students from WSU. The Shockers won 30-12.
“We’re moving forward now,” WSU coach Jody Adams said. “I’m really proud of what this group has accomplished this fall. They take great pride in putting on a Wichita State uniform.”
ESPN’s Midnight Madness telecast popped in at 9 p.m. for a live look-in on the WSU men’s team as they received their Final Four rings.
Following an introduction of the new Shockers and new assistant coach Steve Forbes, Marshall handed out the rings to managers and training staff before handing them out to the returning assistant coaches and nine returning members off last year’s team. Zach Bush, Derail Green, Fred Van Vleet, Ron Baker, Evan Wessel, Tekele Cotton, Chadrack Lufile, Nick Wiggins and Cleanthony Early all walked in from the concourse, high-fiving fans on their way to the court and Marshall.
The biggest cheers were reserved for Baker, a Scott City native who took a star turn in the NCAA Tournament, and for Early, a 6-foot-8 senior forward who earned All-Missouri Valley Conference honors last year and scored 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in the national semifinal loss to eventual NCAA champion Louisville.
“It was fun night, getting that ring is something a lot of people just dream about but we accomplished it,” Baker said. “But now we just need to put it in the past. (Marshall) told us once we got the ring, look at it, be proud of it and then just put it in the closet and let’s go to work for another one.”
A pair of newcomers made it to the finals of a dunk contest with 6-foot guard Ria’n Holland and 6-6 junior forward Darius Carter, a transfer from Vincenesse Junior College battling it out — Carter won with by palming two balls and dunking them both in one leap.
The Black team, led by Baker, Lufile, Early, Holland and Wiggins, defeated the Yellow team, which started Cotton, Van Vleet, Wessel, Carter and Kadeem Coleby. Early led all scorers with 12 points as the Black team won 25-15.
WSU forward Derail Green had to sit out the scrimmage after banging his knee in practice.
“I actually saw some guys shooting better than they do in practice, some guys showed they can run and jump and we’ve got some high-flying athletes,” Marshall said. “We didn’t rebound or defend very well, but I’m not worried about that. I can fix that.”
Watching the festivities from the sideline — and from the court as a judge in the dunk contest — was former WSU legend and NBA star Antoine Carr.
“The great thing (Marshall) does is he gets these fans hyped up, gets them almost in a frenzy,” Carr said. “And when you get this place packed and the fans hyped like that, it’s back like when I used to play. It makes it almost impossible to win here.”