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Rock-star treatment comes to end for Wichita State players

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Nov. 2, 2013, at 10 a.m.

The attention, well, it never stops. From April and Atlanta, it sped through the spring and Facebook requests and the summer and messages on Twitter and the fall and autographs.

And it felt great. Sure, a few times the Shockers needed some time away from the rock-star treatment they received as Final Four big-timers. For the most part, they soaked it up.

“One of the best things I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” Wichita State senior Nick Wiggins said. “I’ll never forget the fans and how much love they showed us during our tournament run and even after. It continues to this day.”

Wiggins signed a picture of himself dancing on the court after the Shockers knocked off No. 1 Gonzaga in Salt Lake City. Ron Baker and Evan Wessel took a picture with a young fan at a Kansas State football game. If they went to eat, fans tweeted out their arrival. If they went to a Shocker baseball game, everybody noticed.

“It was a great experience and stuff, but I think I’m over it now and ready to get the season on,” senior Cleanthony Early said. “It was way more attention than I expected. It was over the top.”

Almost everywhere they went, people wanted to talk, shake hands, snap a picture, say thanks and get a signature.

“A lot of random autographs and a lot of random people coming up to you and saying, ‘What’s up’ and your name,” junior Tekele Cotton said. “That’s all good. It comes with it.”

Baker, from Scott City, received more of the spotlight than many Shockers as a native Kansan and as a surprise performer in the NCAAs after he missed most of the regular season with an injury. His hometown threw a “Ron Baker Day” during the tournament.

“It was definitely pretty overwhelming during the summer,” he said. “People message you on Facebook, message you on Twitter, trying to get different things from you. I ignore most of them. You can’t be friends with everyone.”

While the attention won’t diminish much with the start of a new season, the Shockers are ready to move on. They received their Final Four rings at Shocker Madness. On Nov. 11, just before the midnight game against Western Kentucky, the Final Four banner will drop.

“I don’t want to live in the past,” senior Chadrack Lufile said. “I put that behind me.”

The Shockers know it is time to focus on the grind of the next four months. Without a lot of victories, next March won’t play out near as memorably.

“You can’t just pop up at the Final Four,” Cotton said. “You’ve got to work hard and grind through it. That’s something a lot of people don’t see, what we go through to get there.”

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