Wichita State Shockers in the Final Four

April 3, 2013 by Melody

What Being a Shocker is Really About

After the month of March, if there’s anyone left in the country that hasn’t heard of the Wichita State Shockers they must be hiding under a rock.

And if I had a nickel for every “Shocker” pun I’ve heard in the last few weeks…well, I’d have at least a few dollars!

I’m a news junkie and when it comes to my beloved Shockers, I’ve attempted to read every article published over the course of March about this team that seemingly came out of nowhere to knock off No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the West Region of the NCAA tournament.

All the excitement in the air reminds me of one thing: I’m proud to be a Shocker!

After Coach Marshall’s locker room chats about playing angry and believing, I love what the guys shout as they huddle up before a game. Have you heard? “Family on 3, “ Marshall says. “One, two, three — FAMILY!” they shout in unison.

And that’s really what it’s all about at Wichita State.

This team of players that has shocked the nation (sorry, I had to!) is comprised of a bunch of misfits. Junior college transfers; one with a heart condition who risks his life every time he steps on the court; a small-town kid from Scott City, Kansas; and one who paid his way to play on Marshall’s squad his first year, and was named MVP of the West Region.  A bunch of guys few people outside of Wichita had ever even heard of. Until now.

What makes them a great basketball team is the fact that they truly believe they are family and family always sticks together. That is what makes them Shockers.

As the excitement lingers, even down here in Dallas (I’m still waiting to see black and gold flashing on the ball at Reunion Tower!), I can’t help but be reminded of my own experience as a Shocker.

I joined the WSU crew team as a freshman walk-on, and stayed for five years because I just couldn’t get enough. The sport was one thing, but the family I had in my teammates was something I wasn’t ready to give up after four years. Some of my best friends today are girls I rowed with in college. When I was in college, few people on the WSU campus knew about or cared about Shocker Rowing, but that didn’t stop us. The first couple of years I was on the team, we had to fight for the Student Government not to ax our program. But we stood our ground and fought for what we loved. We knew the value of the program, not only to ourselves, but to our school and to our community — even if we were the only ones who knew the true value of the crew program.

That team was my family. We’d arrange our school schedules so we’d have class together. We’d gather for breakfast in the student center. We’d pile into coach’s tiny office where we’d chat, study, strategize and most importantly — curl up in broken, retro, orange chairs and nap. We’d converge on Coach’s house once a semester for a home-cooked meal from his wife complete with gumbo and chocolate chip pecan pie.

Family — it’s what it means to be a Shocker.

With all the talk about the Shockers from local and national media, I can’t help but be reminded of my experience as a Shocker in the communications department. I spent nearly all five years of my undergrad and graduate education in Elliott Hall (in one of my freshman classes, we learned that Elliott has two T’s and we’d be wise not to forget that!)

I’m reminded of my favorite professor — Les Anderson — who passed away suddenly just over a year ago. I remember how he believed in me as a high school student who really didn’t know what she was getting into — but he believed, and he paved the way for me to major in journalism. He guided me (and countless other students) through my undergraduate and graduate programs as my advisor. Telling me exactly which classes I needed to take, not only to fulfill my requirements, but to make me better.

I remember when he hired me to write for his small town newspaper, the Ark Valley News. I had the honor of covering Valley Center City Council. At a small town paper, it doesn’t matter if the beat you cover is front page news or not…it’s all important. I remember sitting in the small newspaper office with Les after council meetings, where I’d type my story for the morning’s paper while he worked on writing, editing and layout. He believed in me — probably more than I believed in myself. In fact, I’m certain that’s still true.

The lessons I learned from Les go far beyond being a great writer…he instilled in all of his students the ethic of hard work and the value of being a kind and humble, yet persistent and dedicated journalist. He ingrained integrity into his students. There’s a story in everyone and every story matters.

Hard work, dedication and finding value in every person — it’s what it means to be a Shocker.

See, Gregg Marshall doesn’t have a team of star players. He has a team. He got those guys — the misfits, the ones nobody thought would make it to the tournament this year — to buy into the fact that every person matters. Marshall doesn’t have a team 5 guys deep, he’s got a bench full of guys who can step up to the challenge when needed because he’s taught every one of them that hard work, dedication and finding value in every person is what makes a great team. And it’s what it means to be a Shocker.

Hats off to the Wichita State men’ basketball team, but even more so to the coaches, professors, advisors, parents and to the Wichita community who believe that family and hard work is what it’s all about; to those who have spent their lives working hard for success, and who have instilled the value of dedication in each of us.

There are just some things money can’t buy. Louisville may have one of the largest budgets in NCAA D1 basketball, but nobody has the determination and grit of these Shockers. They aren’t playing for themselves; they’re playing for their family — their family called Wichita.

Go Shox!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *