Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet and Evan Wessel’s double-dipping commercial
It’s only been three years since Evan Wessel was winning over the hearts of Wichita State fans with his hustle and determination on the basketball court.
Wessel only scored 362 points in five years for the Shockers from 2011-16, but it was his defense, rebounding and willingness to sacrifice his body to help the team that made him part of the 2019 class inducted into the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame on Saturday.
The former Wichita Heights star won four championships in high school, three straight state titles in basketball and a football state title in 2010, then added four Missouri Valley Conference championships at Wichita State for a total of eight in eight years.
“I’m not that far removed from my playing career, so when I got the letter in the mail, I was kind of shocked it was so soon,” the 26-year-old Wessel said. “There’s a lot of tremendous players and coaches that aren’t in the Hall of Fame yet, so it’s a humble experience to be inducted. Being from Wichita, it’s a great honor and means a lot.”
When asked about his journey to the Hall of Fame, Wessel deflected credit for his overwhelming team success. He gave credit to his former coaches at Heights, Rick Wheeler in football and Joe Auer in basketball, as well as Gregg Marshall at Wichita State.
Another crucial factor to winning was his teammates, Wessel said.
“I think the biggest thing was getting everyone to buy into the program and work hard for each other and be accountable,” Wessel said. “All of the teammates I played with weren’t selfish. They were all really unselfish, and that’s the key to any great success. I was blessed to play with a lot of great teammates and great coaches.”
At Heights, Wessel played basketball with Perry Ellis, who went on to become a star at Kansas and carve out a professional career overseas, and football with Dreamius Smith, a running back who played for West Virginia and appeared briefly in the NFL with the San Diego Chargers.
At WSU, Wessel is synonymous with Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker and many of the greatest moments in recent history for the Shockers. He was a key player off the bench for the 35-1 team in 2014, then became a starter for the 2015 team that won 30 games and beat KU in the NCAA Tournament.
The Shockers were 109-14 with Wessel, which ranks No. 3 all-time in WSU history.
“Of course you miss the playing days because we had such a great run,” Wessel said. “When you’re in it, you don’t really think about what you’re doing. But now that I can step back and refresh and look at what we did, it’s pretty cool.
“But I’m also enjoying just being a fan now. It was exciting to see the new team and all of the excitement they have. They finished the year strong, and I’m excited to watch them play next year.”
Wessel will play the occasional game of pick-up basketball, but has chosen to focus on his career as a financial adviser since his playing days with WSU have ended. Just like in athletics, Wessel has found success in that field as well and now works as a financial adviser for Stoutheart Financial Group in Wichita.
Although he no longer plays competitively, Wessel said he enjoys keeping up with his former teammates’ playing careers.
“Watching Fred (with the Toronto Raptors) and Landry (Shamet with the Los Angeles Clippers) play in the playoffs has been a lot of fun,” Wessel said. “Hopefully Ron can get back in the league next year. I have many more that are playing overseas. I don’t keep in touch as closely as I do with Fred and Ron, but I still try to keep tabs on them and see how they’re doing.”
Other members of the 2019 class include Bobby Bribiesca, Wichita Northwest boys and girls soccer coach; Arthur Brown, Wichita East football player; Bryce Brown, Wichita East football player; Dr. Bradley Bruner, team doctor; Debbie Walker Christiansen, professional bowler; Carl Hall, Wichita State baseball player; Dave Hawley, Wichita Collegiate boys and girls tennis coach; Frankie Lies, professional race car driver; Johnny Murdock, Wichita South basketball player; Gary Navarro, Wichita State golfer; Don Hall, public address announcer; Wichita Collegiate state championship tennis teams, team inductee; Westurban Baseball, organizational inductee.