Wichita State junior Evan Wessel pulled up his leggings to reveal his knees. More accurately, he revealed red and purple bruises, four or five on each knee, and a scrape the size of a half-dollar below the right one.
The newest fashion trend in college basketball are the long leggings, or tights, that are becoming increasingly popular in recent seasons. For Tuesday’s game against Alabama, four of the five Shockers starters wore them and three of the reserves.
It’s not much of a fashion statement. Manufacturers say the leggings can help tired and sore muscles recover with their compression qualities. Like many basketball trends, the NBA started the trend and Dwyane Wade of the Miami Heat is recognized as one of the pioneers.
If you can play, you can play, no matter the style.
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“It does kind of look a little girly,” junior guard Ron Baker said.
Freshman Rashard Kelly heard from a friend who wanted to know why he covered the lower half of his body.
“I used to wear them all the way down to my ankles,” he said. “I started to pull them up more and let some more of my skin show, so it didn’t look like panty hose on. I started pulling them up a little bit more to let people know I have legs under there.”
The Shockers like the leggings for two main reasons — protection and warmth.
In Wessel’s case (before he bent his ankle in Tuesday’s win over Alabama), he showed off his bruises to demonstrate. The leggings cover the bruises, and, in the case of his scrape, the leggings cover the bandage that covers the scrape. The leggings cut down on delays for blood cleanup by keeping the seepage out of sight.
“It helps me stay in the game,” Wessel said. “I’m on the floor a lot.”
NBA players often play on courts placed over NHL ice. The Shockers, outside of Intrust Bank Arena, Bradley and Evansville, rarely do. Warmth, however, is always appreciated.
“It does keep your knees warmed up during games,” Baker said. “When you’re sweating and the air conditioning is on in a building like (Koch Arena), it tends to cool your knees down a little bit. Those leggings absorb all your sweat and keep you warm.”
Leggings must match uniform color, meaning the Shockers can wear black with black uniforms and white with their yellow, gray and white uniforms.
“We all wear compression shorts anyway, and it’s just an extended version of that,” guard Fred VanVleet said. “I like how it makes my legs feel, keeps my knees loose and warm. I’m not sure if there’s any medical facts to that, but it feels good.”
Back to the islands — The Shockers open play in the Diamond Head Classic on Monday against Loyola Marymount, their second trip to Hawaii in coach Gregg Marshall’s eight seasons.
WSU won its holiday tournaments the past two seasons, claiming the Cancun Challenge in 2012 and the CBE Classic in 2013 in Kansas City. It takes those good feelings to a place often the site of agony and frustration for the Shockers.
The Shockers played in the Maui Invitational in 2010, losing a painful game to eventual NCAA champion Connecticut 83-79. WSU led 60-51 with 9:54 remaining. UConn’s Kemba Walker scored 21 of his team’s 32 points to close the game, 10 at the foul line.
The Huskies shot 44 free throws (making 32) to WSU’s 9 of 13. When Shocker fans gather to complain about officiating, this game is near the top of the list.
WSU rebounded to beat host Chaminade and Virginia. A win over UConn, however, would have helped an NCAA Tournament resume that needed a boost. Instead, the Shockers won the 2011 NIT.
In 1990, the Shockers defeated Tennessee 77-73 in the Rainbow Classic, a game best remembered as the one in which star forward John Cooper broke his ankle. The injury ended his career, after he averaged 20.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in eight games as a senior.
WSU made its first trip to Hawaii to play in the 1981 Rainbow Classic. The unbeaten Shockers moved up to No. 2 in the Associated Press top 20 after a 70-67 win over Cal State Fullerton in the opening game. Losses to No. 20 North Carolina State and No. 6 San Francisco dropped WSU to No. 9 and imminent NCAA sanctions added to the gloom.
The Shockers exited the top 10 soon after and didn’t return until 2006.
Hint of spring — WSU’s softball team begins its defense of the Missouri Valley Conference title on Feb. 6 in the Getterman Classic in Waco, Texas. The Shockers play 15 games against NCAA Tournament teams next spring, including College World Series participants Baylor and Oklahoma.
WSU opens at home on March 4 against Oklahoma. Nebraska and South Dakota visit for the WSU Tournament on March 6-8. The Shockers open MVC play on March 14 against Indiana State. Wilkins Stadium plays host to the MVC Tournament beginning May 7.
Wichita State softball schedule
Getterman Classic, Waco, Texas
6 — Texas AM-Corpus Christi, 10 a.m.; Baylor, 3 p.m. 7 — TBA; Stephen F. Austin, 10 a.m.
Texas Classic, Austin, Texas (all times TBA)
13 — Texas; 14 —Colorado State; Texas; 15 — IPFW
EMU Madeira Beach (Fla.) Tournament
20 — Florida International, 3 p.m.; Harvard, 5 p.m. 21 — Villanova, 10 a.m.; UAB, 12:30 p.m. 22 — Texas State, 8 a.m.
Long Beach State Tournament, Lakewood, Calif.
26 — Boise State, 1 p.m.; Cal State Fullerton, 6 p.m. 27 — Stanford, 4 p.m.; UCLA, 6:30 p.m. 28 — Utah Valley, 11:30 a.m.
WSU Tournament, Wilkins Stadium
4 — Oklahoma, 5:30 p.m. 6 — South Dakota, 5 p.m.; 7 — South Dakota, 2:30 p.m. 7 — Nebraska, 5 p.m. 8 — Nebraska, 2:30 p.m.
11 — at Oklahoma State, 6 p.m. 14 — Indiana State, noon (DH); 15 — Indiana State, noon. 21 — at Southern Illinois, noon (DH); 22 — at Southern Illinois, noon. 24 — at Tulsa, 6 p.m. 28 — Drake, noon (DH); 29 — Drake, noon; 31 — Nebraska-Omaha, 3 p.m. (DH)
3 — at Northern Iowa, noon (DH); 4 — at Northern Iowa, noon; 7 — Tulsa, 6 p.m.; 8 — Oklahoma State, 6 p.m. 15 — Missouri State, 3 p.m. (DH); 18 — at Bradley, noon (DH); 19 — at Bradley, noon; 22 — at Missouri State, 5 p.m. 25 — Evansville, noon (DH); 26 — Evansville, noon; 28 — at Kansas, 6 p.m.
2 — at Loyola, noon (DH); 3 — at Loyola, noon
MVC Tournament, Wilkins Stadium, May 7-9