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Wichita State celebrates a record-breaking season

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Thursday, April 24, 2014, at 10:01 p.m.
  • Updated Saturday, May 17, 2014, at 10:21 a.m.

Shocker team awards

Wichita Eagle MVP: Cleanthony Early

Shelley Cox Leadership Award: Fred VanVleet

KNSS Most Outstanding Defensive Player: Tekele Cotton

Cleo Littleton Most Improved Player: Kadeem Coleby

Shafer Dart Most Inspirational Player: Ron Baker

Warren (Armstrong) Jabali Assists Award: Fred VanVleet

Xavier McDaniel Rebounding Award: Chadrack Lufile

Ralph Miller Captain’s Award: Fred VanVleet

As he prepared to speak at his team’s postseason banquet Thursday night, Wichita State basketball coach Gregg Marshall took out his pen and scribbled down some last-minute notes.

Perhaps Marshall was inserting applause breaks into his speech.

The approximately 1,500 fans who sat in the west end of Koch Arena came ready to clap for just about everything, as the Shockers’ 35-1 season was capped with an event that played out like a more festive version of a president’s State of the Union address.

Cheers interrupted several speakers, including Marshall, who ran down the long list of WSU’s accomplishments during a season in which the Shockers won their first 35 games before falling in the third round of the NCAA Tournament to Kentucky.

“What a turnout,” Marshall told the yellow-clad fans who attended. “We get 10,000 in here for every game, but to have this type of crowd for a banquet is unbelievable.”

Marshall took the microphone again at the end of the night, and though he never addressed rumors that have mentioned him as a candidate for the coaching vacancy at Missouri, Marshall didn’t sound like someone who was thinking of leaving.

“There’s some work left to be done,” said Marshall, who declined interview requests following the event. “The best is yet to come.”

Marshall received a certificate for winning 12 coach of the year awards – 11 national awards and his third straight Missouri Valley Conference honor – but there was plenty of hardware to go around.

Sophomore point guard Fred VanVleet and senior forward Cleanthony Early, a projected first-round pick in June’s NBA Draft, were coaxed from their seats on the dais most often. Together, the duo claimed numerous MVC awards (VanVleet was Player of the Year) and both were mentioned on multiple All-America teams.

Early stayed true to his social-media status, taking a “selfie” as he was introduced, and VanVleet was called upon so often during the awards portion of the event that he was finally asked to speak.

“I’m racking up all these awards and I really didn’t have to do much,” VanVleet said in a nod to his teammates. “Let’s keep it that way for another two years.”

The multiple trophies from this season that rested on a table in front of the stage served as a reminder of the event’s centerpiece – WSU’s historic 2013-14 season.

A highlight video introduced by emcee and WSU public address announcer Don Hall showed memorable moments from all of the Shockers’ 35 wins and clips from the careers of seniors Early, Kadeem Coleby, Chadrack Lufile and Nick Wiggins.

When the 10-minute video reached the chapter entitled “The NCAA Tournament,” the boisterous audience turned quiet, apparently not ready to relive the narrow defeat by Kentucky. The video ended, though, with several replays of Early’s breakaway dunk late in the first half, and the thunderous applause returned.

The only members of the team not in attendance were Coleby, Derail Green, who recently decided to transfer, and assistant coach Chris Jans, who became coach at Bowling Green the night WSU lost to Kentucky.

Speakers included vice mayor Jeff Blubaugh, who read a proclamation for 2014 to be known symbolically as the year of Wichita State Men’s Basketball, and county commissioner Tim Norton proclaimed April 24 as Wichita State Men’s Basketball Day.

That, of course, earned plenty of applause.

“I cannot tell you what a fun ride it’s been,” Marshall said, “from the Final Four (in 2013) to 35-0.”

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