Home » Columns » Currently Reading:

Wichita State stars hope to repeat their act at the next level

June 3, 2016 Columns No Comments

When the history book is written on Wichita State basketball, Fred VanVleet and Ron Baker will occupy a prominent place. They are the biggest reasons the Shockers have just had an amazing four-year stretch that began with a Final Four appearance, featured an undefeated regular season and ended with an impressive NCAA Tournament win before they bowed out in the next round.

Now, it’s on to the next act. And that next act has nothing certain about it – certainly nothing as certain as the place they will occupy in their alma mater’s basketball history book.

VanVleet and Baker will go down as two great college players, period, though they will occupy a special place at Wichita State in particular. They were co-winners of the Wichita Eagle Most Valuable Player Award three straight years, led them to three Missouri Valley Conference titles, three MVC regular season titles, and nine NCAA Tournament wins. VanVleet is the program’s all-time leader in assists, steals and assist-to-turnover ratio, and tied the MVC record for wins with 120, while Baker is in the top 10 in scoring, wins, three-pointers, assists and steals. Along the way, they helped the Shockers set a new Missouri Valley record for consecutive seasons with at least 25 wins, something they have now done in seven straight seasons.

You get the idea. The Shockers’ recent success had a lot to do with them, and their numbers only tell part of their story. One can seemingly spend all day attempting to describe their accomplishments and impact.

For their last act, they led the Shockers to two straight NCAA Tournament wins, before seemingly running out of gas in their third game. Their win over Arizona impressed many with their defense, the kind of defense the Shockers showed throughout Missouri Valley play this season.

VanVleet and Baker were not highly recruited out of high school. In fact, Baker, who also starred on the gridiron as a quarterback and on the baseball diamond, actually started out as a walk-on until a scholarship became available as he redshirted his true freshman year. He emerged during the NCAA Tournament during his redshirt freshman season and was on the NBA’s radar for good from there.

Though they combined as a backcourt in college, both may make their money as point guards at the next level. At 6’4″, Baker is considered to be borderline for the shooting guard spot, though he can really shoot and has intangibles that are off the charts. VanVleet’s intangibles are similar, and that’s a big reason these two won so many games together.

In evaluating their pro potential, though, some of the same reasons they were under-recruited as high schoolers show up as questions in the eyes of pro scouts. With Baker, it’s size and not being very athletic. Like Baker, VanVleet’s size could be a hindrance, though he can’t move down a position like Baker can from off the ball to on the ball. VanVleet is also not an elite athlete or very quick, and with his lack of size he has two things working against him. The big question will be if his basketball I.Q. and toughness allow him to overcome that.

Neither player projects as close to a first round pick. In fact, it wouldn’t shock anyone (no pun intended) if both went undrafted and then signed very quickly with a team to play in a summer league. Neither has much upside at this point, and the NBA Draft is first and foremost about upside. Their intangibles go a long way toward making them the kind of players who can hang around the league for a long time, though, as solid reserves. NBA championship teams have good reserves they turn to at times, so there is a place for guys in such roles.

VanVleet and Baker have had to fight to get as far as they have thus far. Their work yielded two impressive college careers that will be long-remembered at their alma mater and beyond. Now they will try to ride all they have to an NBA career, even if it means a detour from the NBA Draft along the way.


Comment on this Article:

Subscribe to Hoopville

Enter your email address to subscribe to Hoopville


Hoopville Archives

College Basketball Tonight

We hope you enjoyed COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT during the 2016 NCAA Tournament. COLLEGE BASKETBALL TONIGHT is a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament hosted by veteran college basketball broadcaster Ted Sarandis, along with co-hosts Mike Jarvis and Terry O'Connor, both former Division I coaches. It also included many great guests, including Hoopville's own Phil Kasiecki.

The show aired on AM 710 WOR in New York City on Sunday evenings starting with Selection Sunday and running through the NCAA Tournament.

Here are links to the shows:

March 13, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 20, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

March 27, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

April 3, 2016 - First hour | Second hour

Coaching Changes

The coaching carousel is moving. Keep track of the latest coaching changes right here on Hoopville.

Everybody Needs a Head Coach

Former college basketball coach Mike Jarvis has a new book out, Everybody Needs a Head Coach.

"As you read this book, I hope that Coach Jarvis' experiences inspire you to find your purpose in life."
-Patrick Ewing, NBA Hall of Fame center

"Mike Jarvis' is one of my special friends. I am so pleased that he has taken the time to write this fabulous book."
-Mike Krzyzewski, Five-time NCAA championship head coach, Duke Blue Devils

"In reading this book, I can see that Mike hasn't lost his edge or his purpose. Readers should take a look at what he has to say."
-Jim Calhoun, Three-time NCAA champion, UConn Men's basketball

Review on Hoopville coming soon!

Hoopville Podcasts

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 23, 2018

March 23, 2018 by

We’re halfway through the regional finals, and a wild season of college basketball continues apace quite appropriately.

College Basketball Tonight – March 19, 2018

March 20, 2018 by

We discuss the wild early rounds of the NCAA Tournament, joined by special guest Kevin McNamara of the Providence Journal for one segment. In addition, we touch on coaching news and other issues surrounding the college game.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 17, 2018

March 17, 2018 by

In our latest podcast, there is one main story to focus on: history being made in Charlotte and its aftermath. But we also talk about tough times for the Pac-12 and a key member school, plus an added challenge ahead at Pittsburgh.

College Basketball Tonight – March 11, 2018

March 12, 2018 by

College Basketball Tonight returns with a comprehensive look at the NCAA Tournament bracket, and in the second segment Mount St. Mary’s head coach Jamion Christian joins us.

Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – March 10, 2018

March 10, 2018 by

As Championship Week nears its climax on the big Saturday, we look at a pair of semifinals and a lot of bubble teams that may be sweating it out on Sunday.

Phil Kasiecki on Twitter

Recruiting Coverage

Lincoln captures Hamilton Park title

August 15, 2017 by

For the first time, a public school won the Hamilton Park Summer League, and they were led by a big effort from a junior point guard in the title game.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Boston Shootout

June 12, 2017 by

Some news and notes coming from the second and final day of action at the 2017 Boston Shootout, where the host program provided plenty of talent, but so did a program that produced a team that beat them.

Notes from a day at the 2017 Northeast Hoops Festival

April 11, 2017 by

The Northeast Hoops Festival helped bring in the new spring travel season in New England, and we have notes from some of Saturday’s action.

2016 Boston Back to School Showcase notes

September 12, 2016 by

We look back at the 2016 Boston Back to School Showcase, where a couple of Boston City League teams were among the most impressive on the day.

2016 Hoopville Spring Finale championship recap

June 28, 2016 by

We look back at the championship games of the 2016 Hoopville Spring Finale, which had a big local flavor as one might have expected.