Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: 10 best Shockers from the Thompson-Smithson era

WSU assistant coach Dale Faber congratulates Jason Perez after a Wichita State victory during the 1999-2000 season.
WSU assistant coach Dale Faber congratulates Jason Perez after a Wichita State victory during the 1999-2000 season. tuttle

We’re having some fun looking back at Shocker basketball history with top 10 lists of players. Previously, we’ve highlighted those from the Gregg Marshall and Mark Turgeon eras.

For the most part, those seasons have been enjoyable, to say the least. They have included an NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 and Final Four, two other NCAA appearances, an NIT championship, four other NIT appearances and one berth in the CBI. That’s 10 postseason appearances in 14 seasons – actually 10 in 12 considering the Shockers failed to reach the postseason in Turgeon’s first two seasons, 2000-01 and 2001-02.

That was part of a 13-year postseason dry spell for the Shockers from 1989-90 through 2001-02. Hard to believe now, isn’t it?

Today, we’re looking back at a time when Shocker basketball wasn’t always such a happy place. But it was a place and it needs to be acknowledged. Today, we’ll be remembering the Top 10 players from the Scott Thompson (1992-96) and Randy Smithson (1997-2000) coaching eras, which produced a 94-132 record. But, as you’ll see, there were some good players during those lean years. Just not enough.

10. Terry Hankton, G, 1996-98 – Hankton, a point guard from Derby, averaged 9.2 points and 3.9 assists during his Shocker career, playing more than 32 minutes per game. He had a 10-point, 11-assist game during a 90-83 loss to Kansas State on Dec. 10, 1997.

9. Darin Miller, C, 1993-97 – The 6-foot-9 Miller, from Wellington, avearged 8.8 points as a freshman and was a mainstay during all four seasons. He averaged 9.7 points as a junior and 9.5 as a senior with a 20-point, 13-rebound performance against Southern Illinois during his junior season.

8. Darrin Williams, F, 1996-2000 – Williams, from Wichita South, averaged 9.1 points and 6.1 rebounds during his senior season and finished his career with 843 points in 139 games.

7. John Smith, C, 1991-93 – The 6-8 Smith was a much-hyped recruit out of Columbia, S.C., the same city that produced all-time Shocker great Xavier McDaniel. Let’s just say Smith didn’t live up to expectations and failed to finish his career at WSU, instead transferring to VCU after his sophomore season. Smith did average 12.6 and 10.6 points during his two seasons and was a tough rebounder, too, averaging seven per game. But he was in and out of Thompson’s doghouse after being recruited by the previous coach, Mike Cohen.

6. Larry Callis, F, 1992-96 – Callis, from Bay City, Texas, started his Shocker career buried deep on the bench as a freshman, rarely getting into games and not having much success when he did. But hard work and perseverance helped Callis become a bright spot in WSU basketball history. By his senior season, Callis averaged 9.2 points and had 26 rebounds against Drake on Jan. 13, 1996. That’s the third-most rebounds by an individual in WSU history – only Terry Benton has more. Callis was a bright spot on an 8-21 team, Thompson’s final season after a four-year run.

5. L.D. Swanson, G, 1993-95 – A junior-college transfer from Jacksonville (Texas) College, Swanson was the leading scorer on the 1994-95 Shockers, who finished 13-14. Swanson averaged 14.6 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.4 assists after averaging 10.5 points as a junior. Swanson also had a knack for making big shots at the end of games.

4. Terrell Benton, G, 1998-02 – Benton was a Smithson recruit who had his best two seasons playing for Turgeon. But he fits here because he averaged 12 points per game as a sophomore in 1999-2000. Benton, from Derby, scored 1,141 points during a career in which he averaged 9.9 points and made 197 three-pointers, third most all-time for the Shockers.

3. Jamie Arnold, F, 1993-97 – Arnold, from Oak Park, Mich., is one of the finest talents in Shocker history. But he had difficulty getting along with Smithson, which limited him to just 15 games during his junior season in 1995-96. When Arnold was good, he was very good. He averaged 15 points and 9.1 rebounds as a senior and 12 points and 8.6 rebounds for his career while shooting 50 percent from the field. Arnold finished his Shocker career with 1,046 points and 749 rebounds.

2. Maurice Evans, G, 1997-99 – The Collegiate product scored 1,007 points in just two seasons before leaving Wichita State for Texas. As a sophomore at WSU, Evans averaged 22.6 points while shooting 46 percent from the field. He was an offensive dynamo who played for nine seasons in the NBA.

1. Jason Perez, G-F, 1996-2000 – Perez is the sixth-leading scorer in Wichita State history with 1,839 points. Recruited by Thompson, he played four seasons under Smithson and averaged 15.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. Perez, from San Antonio, runs a basketball academy in Wichita. He averaged 20.2 points and seven rebounds as a senior in 1999-00 and is the most recent Shocker to averaged 20 points per game in a season. Perez is the only player from this era to be inducted into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame.

OK, what do you think? Any omissions? Agree with the rankings? As you can tell, Shocker basketball hasn’t always been what it is now. Still, there are some fine players on this list.

Thanks for reading.

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