There often visitors at Wichita State basketball practices — high school or junior college coaches, recruits, fans with a golden ticket.
Friday, the guests brought a different kind of feel. It was all about basketball, yet it wasn’t about basketball.
Around 35 children (ages 13-17) from the Wichita Children’s Home watched the final 45 minutes of practice.
Then they met Shocker coaches and players, slapping hands and asking questions. They shot baskets on the court in the Koch Arena practice gym. WSU coach Gregg Marshall worked with two girls on their shooting form.
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Eric Hamilton showed the guests how to windmill dunk. Fred VanVleet chatted on the court while shooting with a group. Marshall posed for pictures, teasing, laughing and smiling with some of kids. After most of the players departed, director of player development Devon Smith and managers organized a game.
Friday’s slice of time carries its own value.
Debbie Kennedy, CEO of the Wichita Children’s Home, described one of the kids who was enduring a bad day before practice. An hour later, he was wearing a yellow Shockers shirt, autographed, and smiling as he ran up and down the court.
“When people like me have to be here, they see it as my job,” Kennedy said. “When people in the community take care of them or show interest, it lets them know they have worth. When people like Coach Marshall and the players step up, they’re like ‘Oh, I am somebody. An All-American is shaking my hand today.’ That’s big. That can instill a lot of hope.”
Voting in the first round of the Coaches Challenge continues until Jan. 24.
The Wichita Children’s Home offers emergency temporary housing for children in the Wichita area. For more information, visit www.wch.org.