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Parents of Wichita State senior men's basketball players enjoying the ride

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Friday, Feb. 28, 2014, at 8:41 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, March 3, 2014, at 12:13 p.m.

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The parents of Wichita State’s four senior men’s basketball players have been enjoying the same ride in the rarefied air of an undefeated season as their sons.

“I don’t know how to describe it. It’s almost like a dream,” said Dwight Coleby, father of Shocker center Kadeem Coleby.

“It’s been crazy – wonderful crazy,” said Mitch Wiggins, father of guard Nick Wiggins.

It hasn’t always been easy.

Ben Lufile, father of forward Chadrack Lufile, said he had to go upstairs to pray in a bedroom at his home in Burlington, Ontario, when the Shockers trailed Missouri State in the second half of a game in January.

His living room was full of friends and fellow ministers all praying for the Shockers as well, he said.

Perhaps it worked, because the Shockers pulled out that game in overtime. Today, their sons will face that same Missouri State team on Senior Day as No. 2-ranked, 30-0 WSU tries to complete an undefeated regular season. The game starts at 1 p.m. in Koch Arena.

Most senior parents will be there to watch their sons play their final game in Wichita. Dwight Coleby, a mechanical engineer in Nassau, in the Bahamas, planned to drive to Wichita from Florida. Mitch Wiggins and his wife, Marita, planned to fly in from Toronto. WSU forward Cleanthony Early said his mother, Sandra Glover, who couldn’t be reached for this story, also would attend the game after flying in from New York.

Ben Lufile, a pastor, said Friday that he and his wife, Leonnie, who helps at his church, hadn’t decided whether to make the trip. Bad weather is forecast for Kansas on Sunday, threatening to cancel their flight home, and they both have important commitments Sunday night, he said.

Ben Lufile recalled Chadrack’s winding road through several colleges before arriving at Wichita State, where his first year was disappointing as he struggled with a new system.

“There was just a lot of things there that did not really work out the way he wanted. But going through last year and this year was much better,” Ben Lufile said.

Chadrack Lufile has been a regular in the Shocker rotation during this undefeated season, and has started 11 games. He has averaged 5.6 points and 4.9 rebounds and has blocked 26 shots.

“This year he started feeling a little more comfortable,” Ben Lufile said. “I wish he felt that way last year. It could’ve been much better for him this year.”

The undefeated season has meant a lot to the family and to Chadrack, he said. People in Canada talk about his son a lot now, Ben Lufile said, and the family has a group of people who regularly pray for the team.

Overall, his son’s time at WSU has been challenging, Ben Lufile said. But he’s been doing well at school and is ahead of schedule to graduate.

“He’s learning and he’s growing, too. He’s become more responsible. It’s hard to tell if that’s due to basketball. But he’s become more mature,” Ben Lufile said.

Dwight Coleby said his son has changed for the good at Wichita State. He likes Kadeem’s poise and his attitude toward his teammates.

Kadeem Coleby has started 13 games, has averaged 2.6 points and 2.7 rebounds, and has blocked 35 shots.

Shocker coach Gregg Marshall’s approach worked for his son, Dwight Coleby said.

“He doesn’t recruit cream-of-the-crop players, he gets regular players but makes them better. He (Kadeem) ended up a very good player,” Coleby said.

Nick Wiggins has played off the bench as a top reserve for the Shockers all season. His father, Mitch, a former college and NBA star, said his son has been frustrated with his playing time. But Mitch Wiggins said he has taught Nick that sometimes players don’t become all they can become while they are in college, and to prepare for the next level.

“The key thing is, he’s working hard and getting better,” Mitch Wiggins said. “He’s bought into the team concept and sacrifice. The biggest thing is that everybody on that team, even more so than last year, bought into team first.”

“He’s enjoyed his time at Wichita State,” Mitch Wiggins said. “When you play in the Final Four, guys die to play in that. You realize how lucky you are.”

The Wiggins family would like to see Nick’s team face his brother Andrew’s University of Kansas team in the NCAA Tournament, ideally in the championship game, Mitch Wiggins said. A third brother is aiming at another championship. Mitchell Wiggins Jr. is a senior at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Fla., and is the best athlete of the three brothers, said his father.

Having three sons playing college basketball keeps Mitch and Marita Wiggins on the move. They try to get to as many of their sons’ games as possible, spending a couple of days at each stop, Mitch Wiggins said.

“We just keep reflecting on when these guys were very small and I’m taking them to the gym and teaching them footwork,” he said. “They don’t need that anymore.”

Early, from Middletown, N.Y., is the best known of the Shocker seniors as the team’s leading scorer with a 15.7 points-a-game average. He is in line for Missouri Valley Conference and national honors.

He is finishing his second year at WSU after transferring in from a junior college. In his two years at Wichita State, Early said, he has learned more than basketball.

“I’ve enjoyed my life here and I enjoy life in general,” he said. “I’ve learned how much effort to give and how to assert myself. How to wait for my time. How to do things the right way, and how to go about my business. I think I’ve learned that these past couple of years.”

And he’s come to regard the other seniors as his brothers.

“I’ll be spending times with these guys for the rest of my life,” Early said.

Reach Fred Mann at 316-268-6310 or fmann@wichitaeagle.com.

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