Bob Lutz

Hannah looms large in his senior moment

Clevin Hannah worked off a screen and was open for the first shot of the game. It was a three-pointer, a shot Hannah has made over and over during his two seasons as Wichita State's point guard.

But this was different. This was senior day and Hannah had just been hailed at center court for his two-year Shocker career. There were 15 family members, all wearing yellow WSU T-shirts, in the crowd. His mother, Tametria Daugherty, had never seen Hannah play a game at Koch Arena.

Hannah caught the pass and cut loose. The basketball really had no choice but to go in.

That shot jolted the crowd and sparked Wichita State to a 76-55 win over Southern Illinois.

Hannah hit a second three-pointer on the Shockers' second possession, then drove for a basket that made it 8-0.

"My adrenaline was pumping pretty good after that,'' Hannah said. "I thought I was going to go off in the game.''

Hannah quieted down offensively, but finished with 13 points and nine assists. And in 62 games as a Shocker, he has created a legacy.

Hannah is a foundation piece for Gregg Marshall's program. He filled a gaping hole at the point guard position last season, Marshall's second, and this season has been Wichita State's most consistent and most valuable player.

It'll be a shame if Hannah isn't chosen to the All-Missouri Valley Conference team this week. He's the best player on the Valley's second-best team, a veteran whose leadership and toughness trickles down.

"That first year, we needed a point guard,'' Marshall said. "Matt (Braeuer) had graduated. Gal (Mekel) went back to Israel and there was nobody returning. We had zero minutes of experience returning. So we set out to recruit some guards and in the fall we signed Clevin as our point guard. He was really solid as a junior and this year he's been pretty special. He's great. I told his mom I'd like to keep him around.''

Unfortunately, that's not how it works. Hannah's time as a college basketball player has flown by, the way it does for everyone. Four or five years seems like an eternity for an incoming freshman; for a senior whose career is waning, it goes by in a snap.

Hannah embraced his day, telling himself to try and stay as calm as he could and not to let his emotions run high or sink low.

Easier said than done, especially with so much family around.

Hannah's mother, grandmother, stepfather and uncle joined him on the court during a pregame ceremony, as did Marshall, athletic director Eric Sexton and WSU president Don Beggs, with his wife, Shirley.

Hannah was presented a framed jersey, which he held high as a sellout crowd gave him the first of many ovations.

Shocker fans appreciate how much Hannah has meant to this season's big turnaround, which has Wichita State at 23 wins going into this week's Valley tournament in St. Louis. With Hannah at the reins, the Shockers wrapped up a 17-0 home season.

"Losing was not an option today,'' Hannah said. "I would have done anything it took not to lose this game. I would have been diving around, going as hard as I could — anything to keep us from losing.''

Scoring the game's first eight points was something out of a script, but Hannah didn't think that first shot was on target.

"I went off a really good screen, but I really thought it was a bad shot when I let it go,'' he said. "But it went down and everything just kept going from there.''

Hannah had only three points in the second half, but they were vintage Hannah points. He's a wily guard, not gifted with a lot of quickness or speed.

He does have brains, though, and was able to get SIU freshman Kendal Brown-Surles off his feet for a forced three-point shot just before time elapsed on the shot clock.

Hannah leaned into the defender, a foul was called and Hannah made all three free throws to give the Shockers a 48-34 lead when it looked like SIU might be scratching its way into contention.

That's how Hannah plays. He understands the game and takes pride in being a solid, tough player, not a spectacular one.

He's the kind of player teams win with. Hannah's teammates feel secure when the basketball is in his hands.

"We've had great team chemistry ever since I've been here,'' junior forward J.T. Durley said. "Everybody is friends on this team; there are no enemies. And Clevin is our point guard, great to play with on the court and great to hang out with as a friend.''

Hannah's mom put up a couple of rims on the side of the family's house in Holly Springs, Miss., when he was a pre-schooler.

"He's been shooting ever since,'' Daugherty said. "There was never any doubt about him being a basketball player.''

The family stayed around Koch Arena for quite a while after the game, taking pictures and hugging the star of the day.

Hannah put on a show for his people, the 15 relatives who came to town from Mississippi and Arkansas and the close to 10,500 others who came to appreciate him as one of their own.