Wichita State: What is it? A university named after a city with a population of less than 400,000—and which isn't even the capital (of Kansas)—Wichita State hasn't enjoyed the surge of interest around the school that accompanied March Madness upstarts like Florida Gulf Coast, or Harvard. Even after the Shockers' miraculous run to the Final Four, Wichita State University retains its mystique both for basketball fans and basketball players, including the ones that play for Wichita State.
Wichita State's top three scorers are transfers—Cleanthony Early from JuCo at Sullivan County Community College, Carl Hall from Northwest Florida State, and Malcolm Armstead from Oregon (Chipola College before that)—and down the roster, Nick Wiggins and Chadrack Lufile also played (together) at a junior college before settling in Wichita. It's not terribly surprising that, as the Times reports, players were a little fuzzy on the particulars of their current school:
At a news conference here Friday, Carl Hall, a senior forward, did not hesitate when asked how much he knew about Wichita State before enrolling.
“I knew nothing about Wichita State,” he said. “I had to Google it, see how big the city was. When I first heard the word ‘Wichita,’ I’m thinking a small country town, people walking around with cowboy boots on, things like that.”
Armstead, a senior guard, grew up in Florence, Ala., and had a clear – albeit admittedly incorrect – vision of what Kansas looked like before he stepped foot on Wichita State’s campus.
“When I heard about Wichita State and found out that it was in Kansas, first thing came to mind was ‘Wizard of Oz’ – like, Dorothy,” Armstead said. “That was the only thing I really knew about it.”
Armstead and Hall might be forgiven their ignorance for another reason: Both worked real jobs during college, Hall because he briefly lost his scholarship at Middle Georgia College when doctors discovered a heart condition and he had to become "a $12-an-hour, assembly-line bulb painter working the graveyard shift at a lighting company in his hometown" on the 7 a.m. shift before his classes. Armstead sat out last year and worked in an auto body shop:
Wichita State didn't have a scholarship, so he took out loans and worked at Lubbers Auto Group in Cheney as a runner. He is counting on professional basketball to pay off the loans. Working at Lubbers paid off in other ways. He drove cars from lot to lot, and washed and detailed them.
"I learned how to balance tires, rotate tires, oil changes," he said. "I never knew any of that."
So, yeah: the Shockers know a lot about life, and are only now sort of getting to know Wichita. It's pretty much the opposite of the standard getting-famous narrative, but it's working just fine.