Wichita State Shocker Basketball – A Tradition Of Excellence

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Whether you are a current or past student of Wichita State University (WSU), some things that you will surely remember are the exploits of Wichita State Shocker basketball.

When you step into the Charles Koch Arena for a game, you will experience the passion and deep-seated camaraderie that will get your adrenaline flowing, creating memories that you will cherish for a lifetime!

The excitement is turned up a notch when the Shockers are playing bitter rivals such as Missouri State, Tulsa, or Creighton. The rivalry between the Shockers and these teams goes way back to the 1930’s and is a fundamental part of the Shockers basketball tradition.

This elite program at WSU started back in 1906 when the name of the school was Fairmont College and has been a part of the school’s sporting tradition ever since.

We will look at some main achievements of the Shockers over the years and also speak to their chances in the upcoming season.

The Wheat Shockers Era

In 1906 when the sporting visionary Willis Bates decided to put a sports program together at Fairmont College, he needed to come up with a name quickly. The fact that most of the students in the school at that time shocked wheat for extra cash during the summer months.

Bates thought that an appropriate name that would represent the college very well would be the Wheat Shockers. This is how the name was borne and all the sports teams at Fairmont College used the new name in all college competitions including basketball and football.

This era is when the tradition of sports began to take shape at the school and laid the foundation for the success that would follow in the next.

The Ralph Miller Era

Ralph Miller is regarded as one of the greatest Coaches in the history of the Wichita State Shockers. His contribution to the development of the game is well documented, during his thirteen year reign from 1951-1964 he presided over 255 victories making him the second most winningest Coach in Shockers history.

His time in charge of the Shocker basketball program also coincided with the playing days of Shocker College Basketball legend Cleo Littleton. Littleton is probably the single most influential player in the history of Wichita State University basketball.

His contribution was so mercurial that even today, Littleton still owns seven Shocker school records including the best average (18.2 points per game) as a freshman. He also scored over 2000 points in his college career – a record that still has not been surpassed.

Cleo Littleton was a trailblazer for African American college basketball players, being one of the first to play in the Missouri Conference. The exploits of the Shockers team led by Littleton and under the tutelage of Coach Ralph Miller led to the construction of a new basketball stadium that could accommodate 9000 spectators.

This stadium was unveiled in 1955 and was known as the Wichita University Field House. It was later renamed the Charles Koch Arena in 2003 after investor Charles Koch provided 6 million dollars towards the redevelopment of the stadium.

Miller also coached the Shockers first consensus All-American Dave Stallworth who achieved the feat in 1964. Ralph Miller is a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and is highly regarded as the individual who made the Shockers a force in College basketball.


Notable Contributors

After Ralph Miller retired in 1964, he was replaced by Gary Thompson. Thompson presided over one of the most successful seasons in the history of the Shockers when he guided them to a final four finish in the 1964-65 season. Some of his key players were Warren Armstrong and Terry Banton.

Other coaches that contributed significantly to the Shockers development were Harry Miller (1971-78) and Gene Smithson (1978-1987). Smithson led during the years of Cliff Levingston, Antoine Carr (1979-83), and the great Xavier McDaniel (1981-85), nicknamed the X-Man. Also, Coach Mark Turgeon (2000 – 2007) and many others that could be mentioned are all part of W.S.U. blood line.

The Greg Marshall Era

The current Coach of the Shockers Greg Marshall as been in the job since 2007. He has also surpassed the legendary Ralph Miller as the winningest Coach in Shockers history.

One of his major achievements so far includes a final four berth in the 2013-2014 season. The team’s season record of 35-1 in 2013-2014 is one of the best in division one college basketball history. Some of his key players were Ron Baker, Fred VanVleet, and Landry Shamet.

Coach Marshall’s hard charging coaching style and passion for basketball has resulted in a very disciplined culture and consistent performance by the Shockers team. The Shockers topped the Missouri Valley Conference in 2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.

He has raised the bar of the Wichita State Shockers and a final 16 appearance is now a yearly expectation of Shocker fans. Greg Marshall is without a doubt one of the best coaches in Shocker history and he is not finished yet!

Prospect For The 2018-19 Season

The Shockers Team has lost several experienced players and will start the 2018-2019 season with a somewhat new looking team. The doubters say the Shocks will be hard-pressed to replicate the 25 victories they had in the 2017-2018 season and with their lack of experience it will be interesting to see if they make it to the NCAA Tournament.

However, it would be foolhardy to underestimate the tactical genius of Greg Marshall and we will just have to watch and see how the season unfolds. One thing for certain is that the Shockers will compete with passion and in accordance with their excellent basketball tradition! Go Shocks!

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8 Replies to “Wichita State Shocker Basketball – A Tradition Of Excellence”

  1. Great post and good info.

    You already know we will visit Wichita soon, but I’m not surprised about the basketball thing, since in the USA basketball is the big thing.

    Now of course I didn’t know about the history, but it is good to read it, since we probably will go to see a game when we are there.

    And it is highly sure that somebody there will talk about these players and the history.

    So it is good that I can have some knowledge about it already, to talk with them.

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

  2. It seems Willis Bates was a very wise young man when he chose the name Wheat Shockers as it will resound through history calling all people to realize that there is a way to earn an income – and those days it was to shock wheat.

    Maybe even the scholars who attend this basketball team of Shockers will be shocked to know the history behind the term. 🙂

    I’d never come across the term until I read your post and so I found it quite an interesting read from that perspective.

    Great post on the success of the Shockers advancement in basketball.  May they go from strength to strength in 2019.


  3. I was surprised that Wichita State Shockers Basketball had so many eras. 

    I wish them the best of luck in the 2018-2019 season. I hope these players can go and will go to the arena with a bang despite the negative forecasts. 

    In European Basketball the Euroleague last year one team named Zalgiris was underestimated but at the end of the season, they won 3rd place. They even made to the semi-finals. 

    In my opinion, money is not everything and players must believe in themselves, their talents, efforts and be obstinate to seek goals with the hard-working approach.

    Thanks for an informative post and history of this great basketball team. 



    1. Hi Tomas.

      I totally agree! They should be unyielding and ignore the naysayers. I actually like being viewed as an underdog. Integrity is definitely better than money.

      You’re welcome and I am glad you liked the post!

  4. Good read. I had no idea about their history, and it helps to have some of that knowledge to get you interested in a sport or team – especially if it’s not one that you would usually follow! 

    Sounds like they may have a challenge with several new players coming aboard. That can make for an entertaining season! Thanks for sharing this history.

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