Not everything about the departure of Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Evan Wessel from the Wichita State University Shockers basketball team is sad.
At least not for them.
The three seniors now are out of eligibility to play with the team, but they’ve gained the eligibility to capitalize on their fame – and to get paid for eating queso.
Starting on Wednesday, local restaurant chain Carlos O’ Kelly’s will begin airing two commercials that star the famous players. They’re all over social media already.
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One features the trio sitting at a table lamenting how much they’ll miss Carlos O’ Kelly’s queso when they leave Wichita. Suddenly, a referee appears and calls a double dipping violation on Baker. Just to be sure, he checks instant replay. Guilty!
The other plays on VanVleet’s role as an on-court leader, which apparently translates to the dinner table. He chides Wessel for ordering a side salad instead of the rice, then instructs him not to eat an undipped chip. “No chip undipped,” he says, stopping a chip from entering Wessel’s mouth. “You know better than that, Ev.”
Dave Phillips, Carlos O’ Kelly’s director of restaurant marketing, said he had invited the seniors to film spots for the annual Our Daily Bread Food Pantry fundraiser that the restaurant airs during the NCAA tournament. The trio had agreed, like their coach, Gregg Marshall, to help out with the campaign.
As long as they were there, Phillips said, he wondered if they’d like a paid gig, too.
“We’ve had our eyes on them for a long time,” he said. “The second their eligibility was up, we were on the phone with Gregg’s assistant and asked them permission to talk with these guys.”
Though Phillips didn’t want to reveal what the restaurant paid the players, he said it was worth their time.
“While we had them we said, ‘You guys can finally be compensated. You have two choices tonight. You want to go to Ron’s place and play Xbox or do you want to make some money?”’ Phillips said with a laugh.
The double-dipping commercial also stars members of the Shockers cheerleading squad, sportscaster Mark Ewing as a television reporter, and John Blazek, former supervisor of the officials for the Missouri Valley Conference, as the head ref.
Phillips, who said he was impressed with the athletes’ acting abilities – especially Baker’s – said that anyone they asked to appear in the commercial was happy to do so, just to soak up a little face time with the former Shocker stars.
“I had never met any of the three,” Phillips said. “And they were as wonderful as you can imagine.”