Lutz Blog

Bob Lutz: Shockers’ Fred VanVleet strikes first with All-America nod

Wichita State's Fred VanVleet, right, was named All-American by Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook.
Wichita State's Fred VanVleet, right, was named All-American by Blue Ribbon Basketball Yearbook. The Wichita Eagle

Thanks to Blue Ribbon’s College Basketball Yearbook for doing something I’m incapable of doing: picking any of the trio of Fred VanVleet, Ron Baker or Tekele Cotton ahead of any of the rest of them.

Blue Ribbon, though, has named VanVleet to its preseason All-America team. It’s a perfectly logical, sensible thing to do. However, how does anyone go about determining that VanVleet is a better choice than Baker, for sure, and even Cotton?

Here’s the thing about Wichita State basketball under Gregg Marshall. There are no stars. There are a bunch of good players who play within Marshall’s system. They defend and rebound before they even think about scoring. They work harder in practice than most other players on most other teams (it’s true) and they come out the other end as refined basketball machines.

Marshall’s assembly-line approach to coaching makes it difficult to distinguish the players who contribute the most from one another. Remember how difficult it was last season to try and pick a Shocker MVP? Or to determine which Wichita State players belonged on the Missouri Valley’s all-conference first team and which didn’t?

Last season, VanVleet was irreplaceable. But so were Baker, Cotton and departed-senior Cleanthony Early, who’ll be suiting up for the New York Knicks this season.

VanVleet averaged 11.6 points, 3.9 rebounds and five assists. He’s everything a point guard needs to be.

Is he more valuable than Baker? Cotton?

Whoa, I can’t make that call. I don’t want to even try to make that call. Let’s just say the Shockers are lucky to have three such experienced and accomoplished players. And don’t look now, but I expect senior forward/center Darius Carter to have a big season, too.

It’ll be another year in which trying to define the Shockers’ best player is an effort in futility, sure to make you groggy.

VanVleet gets extra credit because he’s a point guard. He’s the engine.

But Baker has some horsepower, too. And Cotton has improved so much as an offensive player and remains the team’s - heck, maybe the country’s - best defensive player.

Blue Ribbon, you’re doing what you do. The Shockers are obviously excited to have a player mentioned as preseason All-American. It’s an honor nobody would turn down.

That it could have gone to Baker - with Cotton moving up - is an indication of where Wichita State basketball is currently. The Shockers have so many good players that it’s hard to pick the best.