No Shock: Return of Baker, VanVleet makes Wichita your MVC faves (again)
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No shock: Ron Baker and Fred VanVleet are strapping it down for one more ride.
Wichita State announced Monday afternoon that it will return two-thirds — the underclass two-thirds — of one of the nation’s leading collegiate backcourts in 2015-16. Baker, a 6-foot-3 junior shooting guard, and VanVleet, a 6-foot junior point guard, had petitioned earlier this spring for consideration from the NBA Draft Undergraduate Advisory Committee.
"I spent a lot of time talking it over with Coach, my teammates and my family," Baker said in a statement released by the school. "The reality is, I felt like any decision I made was going to be a good one. I think I’ll eventually be successful at the next level, but with what we have coming in and the people we have returning, including Fred VanVleet, next season has the potential to be very special. It’s been an amazing ride here at WSU, and my family and I aren’t quite ready for it to end."
Over the last three seasons, the Shockers boast a 90-15 record with an .857 winning percentage that ranks second-highest of any Division I hoops program over that span. Baker, who averaged a team-best 14.7 points and 2.3 3-pointers per game last season, was a John R. Wooden Award All-American and has been a member of the All-Missouri Valley Conference first team for the last two seasons. VanVleet averaged 13.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 5.2 assists per contest.
The guard trio of VanVleet, Baker and outgoing senior Tekele Cotton spearheaded a perfect regular season and a 35-1 mark in 2013-14; this last winter, Wichita (30-5) repeated as MVC regular-season champion while reaching the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tourney following wins over traditional powers Indiana and Kansas.
The immediate future of the Shockers’ basketball program looked up in the air shortly after Wichita was eliminated by Notre Dame in the Midwest Regional semis. Coach Gregg Marshall was courted by hefty offers from Alabama and Texas, while some wondered if Baker and VanVleet would follow their coach out the door. Marshall ultimately re-upped with the Shockers for a reported $3.3 million per season, and now his best two players, his two cornerstones, are also back in the fold, making Wichita the presumptive favorite to snatch a third straight Valley crown.
Of the two Shox stars, Baker might have had the hardest choice. The Scott City, Kan., native looked like a solid second-round prospect, which is where he was pegged in most mainstream mock drafts. DraftExpress.com’s Monday projection had tapped Baker as the No. 42 pick overall, to Utah.
VanVleet’s stock was less certain, but the Rockford, Ill., native didn’t hurt his standing with an impressive run in the NCAA Tournament, averaging 23 points and 4.3 assists per game over three contests, including 27 points in a win over Indiana, 17 against the Jayhawks and 25 against the Irish.