Wichita State freshman basketball player John Robert Simon wore the same gold Nikes and the same Shocker sweat pants and top for 12 games. Then he wore different shoes before the Davidson game.
The Shockers still won.
“I said I wasn’t going to, because we’ve won with the gold shoes, but I ended up changing,” he said.
So much for superstition. The Shockers are enthusiastically ignoring, even dismissing, the power of totems, luck and karma during this landmark 14-game win streak. Perhaps that says something about why the Shockers can pass the 1953-54 team for the program’s longest streak with a win against Northern Iowa on Sunday.
“Once you get caught up in all that, it takes away from basketball,” sophomore guard Fred VanVleet said.
“I don’t believe in nothing like that,” junior forward Darius Carter said. “I just go out and play our game and do what we’re taught.”
No lucky socks. No lucky ties on the coaching staff. Past teams played the same songs in the locker room before games. Not this team. While players and coaches have routines that they stick to, nobody attaches them to this winning streak. Associate head coach Chris Jans, just before tip-off, reaches down and pulls up his socks each game, a superstition he started years ago. Coach Gregg Marshall said if he did have any, he wouldn’t talk about them.
The lack of dependence on superstition reflects a maturity that the Shockers play with each game. They’ve figured out luck helps, but only in relation to the amount of effort and focus invested.
“Last year, having a lot of these guys back, it’s almost like we’ve figured out a formula to win and we understand how to win,” forward Zach Bush said. “If we keep playing hard and do the things coaches have told us to do and don’t do, it makes a lot of difference. No lucky socks.”
It helps that landmarks have become routine in recent seasons. Name a streak or a record and it’s likely the Shockers set it or challenged it. They won a school-record 29 games in 2011 and topped that with 30 last season to give the program an unprecedented fourth straight season with 20-plus wins. They went 16-2 and won the Missouri Valley Conference title in 2012, WSU’s most conference wins since the 1983 team won 17. It has won eight or more straight games in five straight seasons. something no other WSU team has come close to achieving.
So winning 14 in a row, matching that mark from coach Ralph Miller’s 1953-54 team, feels like business as usual. The Shockers don’t lean on unexplained phenomena to win.
“Just play hard,” senior Cleanthony Early said. “You go out there and feel like you belong and feel like you can play with anybody, and you actually can.”
It won six straight home games to get rolling and passed the previous record (set in 1926-27) of 10 with a win over Houston in Wichita on Jan. 7. After wins over Tulsa, Detroit and Fort Hays State, Saint Louis ended the streak with a 74-58 win in St. Louis on Jan. 23.
The support from fans touched him.
“I'm a basketball coach and a father, and we fix things. And I can't fix this. And I want to,” he said Thursday after the game. “The outpouring of love and thoughts and prayers has been unbelievable. I told my wife this morning on the phone, there's a reason we moved to this place. Every time I go to my mailbox, it confirms what I thought all along about this community.”
Brown plays a lot of point guard for Sunrise, sometimes moving to shooting guard, which limits his shots. At times, he can take over the offense. Barnwell said he scored 18 second-half points in a December win against Independence Community College.
“When he gets it going, he can score in bunches,” Barnwell said.