Shocker families, friends head to Atlanta from near and far to show their support

03/20/2014 6:22 PM

08/06/2014 12:44 AM

If you thought Wichita State’s Chadrack Lufile played angry before, you haven’t seen him when he knows his father is in attendance at a game.

That’s because Benjamin Lufile and the rest of Chadrack’s family, which still resides in Ontario, haven’t been able to make it to Koch Arena this season for a Shockers basketball game.

But the Shockers making it to the Final Four in Atlanta is too much to pass up, so Benjamin is planning to be there in the Georgia Dome when WSU plays Louisville on Saturday.

So right before tipoff, when Chadrack steals a glance into the stands and locates his dad, watch out.

“Whenever I know he’s there, I just get numb and go nuts,” Chadrack said. “My athleticism just takes over, and I play with this extra boost. Playing angry definitely won’t be hard.”

Most of the Wichita State players are expecting family members, former coaches and close friends to be in attendance on Saturday.

Malcolm Armstead (Florence, Ala.), Tekele Cotton (Marietta, Ga.) and Carl Hall (Cochran, Ga.) have roots close to the Georgia Dome, and the people in their support systems will make the short drive there.

But for the families of players such as Cleanthony Early, who hails from Middletown, N.Y., transportation to the game on Saturday will be tricky.

“My mom doesn’t like to drive, so I think one of my aunts and uncles and some of my boys are coming down with her,” Early said. “They’re probably going to make the 14-hour drive there.”

Each player was given an allotment of six tickets.

“You got to start with your mom and dad, so that’s two right there,” Early said.

Despite the sudden rush of new friends and former classmates pleading for them to remember that one time they shared, the players find a way to decline.

Armstead, for instance, chose to give one of his tickets to his sister, Latoya, who has never seen him play for WSU.

“You have to stay true to the people who have been there from Day 1,” Armstead said. “You can’t get caught up in all of the hype. Before we had the success, where were these people at?”

Sometimes the newfound support can be a good thing.

Scott City held a fundraiser to help pay the way for Ron Baker’s parents, Neil and Ranae, to the first-weekend NCAA Tournament games in Salt Lake City and the West Regional in Los Angeles. They had enough left over to send them to Atlanta.

Fred VanVleet said his high school in Rockford, Ill., sends him boxes of letters, posters and support from the students.

As VanVleet reflected on that and how his father and brothers will be in attendance on Saturday, he summarized the experience for most of the players and their families.

“We’re just so blessed to be in this position,” VanVleet said. “Everybody is so proud of me back home, and I’m so thankful I’ve made it to this level. But I want to continue to show support to them. Even with all of this hype, you never forget where you came from.”

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