KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Xavier McDaniel is the first Wichita State basketball player inducted into a national hall of fame. Thrilled by the honor, he happily spread around praise for other Shockers.
“This is one of the highest honors you can get,” he said. “When I go in, Wichita State goes in, my teammates go in, even though my name is there. The fans go in there, because we’ve had some great, great, great fans over the years. Without them, we couldn’t make this possible.”
The National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame inducted McDaniel into its ranks on Sunday at the Midland Theatre, making him part of the hall’s eighth class. It inducted its first class in 2006, one that included James Naismith, Bill Russell, John Wooden and Oscar Robertson. The National Association of Basketball Coaches Foundation started the hall to “honor and celebrate those who have made extraordinary contributions to the game of men’s college basketball.”
McDaniel, who played at WSU for coach Gene Smithson from 1981-85, fits that criteria and he thinks other Shockers do as well. He starts the list with All-American Dave Stallworth, who played for the Shockers from 1961-65. He considers Stallworth the No. 1 Shocker.
“Dave is the man,” he said. “Hopefully, Antoine (Carr) and Cliff (Levingston) and Cleo (Littleton) and Dave will all be joining me.”
The hall saved McDaniel for last and he received the loudest cheers from the many WSU fans in attendance. WSU athletic director Eric Sexton took questions from hosts Fran Fraschilla and Sean Farnham, both of ESPN, as McDaniel’s introduction.
After a highlight film, McDaniel came on stage to join Fraschilla and Farnham.
He credited A.C. Flora (S.C.) High coach Carl Williams with taking the “sugar” out of his game and turning him into a tough, passionate player. He remembered a packed house at Levitt Arena for a scrimmage and students waiting in the snow for tickets. The story about him shaving his eyebrows to intimidate? A myth. Good conditioning helped him play almost every minute as a senior, when he led the nation in scoring and rebounding. He said he wanted to win every mile run during workouts and teammate Karl Papke, now deceased, was the only one to consistently run faster.
“I couldn’t beat Karl Papke, but I always came in two or three,” he said. “I conditioned myself to when I throw that outlet to Aubrey (Sherrod) — Aubrey may make nine out of 10 — that one he missed, that’s the one I get. I made sure I ran the floor.”
McDaniel, a 6-foot-8 forward, scored 2,152 points to rank second in the program’s history. His 1,359 rebounds rank first. He earned MVC Player of the Year honors in 1984 and 1985 and consensus All-America honors in 1985 before Seattle picked him fourth in the NBA Draft. He played 12 NBA seasons, six with Seattle, and earned a spot in the 1988 All-Star Game.
In 1984-85, he averaged 27.2 points and 14.8 rebounds to become the first player to lead the nation in scoring and rebounding in the same season. He averaged 18.4 points and 11.6 rebounds in his career, leading the Shockers to the 1984 NIT and the 1985 NCAA Tournament.
Houston star Elvin Hayes, Grambling’s Bob Hopkins, UCLA’s Marques Johnson, Maryland’s Tom McMillen joined McDaniel as players honored. Coaches Gene Keady and Rollie Massimino and contributors George Raveling and George Killian, executive director of the NJCAA for 35 years, were also inducted. The 1963 Loyola Ramblers, who won the NCAA title, became the first team honored by the hall of fame.
Hayes told of starting his basketball career with two left shoes in his hometown of Rayville, Louisiana. Massimino, still coaching at NAIA Northwood (Fla.) University, said he doesn’t watch the tape of Villanova’s 1985 NCAA title win over Georgetown for fear his team will lose. Hopkins grew up playing home games outdoors at his high school in Louisiana.
The current Shockers practiced Sunday evening at the Sprint Center and then joined the early festivities at the College Basketball Experience, connected to the arena. Cleanthony Early touched almost 11 feet on the display that measures leaping ability. His teammates toured the facility, reading the many historical displays. They know about McDaniel, who spoke to the team before a game last season and watched them play in the Final Four in Atlanta.
“Him coming back to show his support means everything to the new players and makes us want to represent him, as well as ourselves,” WSU sophomore Evan Wessel said. “It show what he means to Shocker nation and Wichita State.”
McDaniel follows WSU closely, often on his ESPN app on his smartphone while watching his daughter play at North Carolina. His connections to WSU remain. Sherrod and former teammate Gary Cundiff came to the ceremony.
“I’m a fan forever,” he said. “I’m always watching them. You should support your alma mater.”