WICHITA, Kan. -- There is always a warm feeling and a loud cheer from fans when guard Evan Wessel comes off the bench and onto the court of Koch Arena. He definitely is the Shocker fans' hometown boy, but you may not know his connection to Wichita State. The basketball court spreads much wider than Evan's time on the team. It goes back two generations.
If you close your eyes and listen to cheers, you can almost go back in time when the 10,000-seat arena was screaming for another Wessel. Evan's grandfather Everet.
Wessel's grandmother Phyliss remembers her late husband's playing days well. "He was in the center and you know how the guy in the center gets banged up" Phyliss said. "He lost a lot of teeth and knee injuries and everything."
The year was 1956 and Everet Wessel was beginning his three year career as a starting center for the Wichita State Shockers. In fact, he was the very first person to make a basket in what was then the newly opened Wichita State Fieldhouse in what is now Koch Arena.
Now it's number 51's grandson's turn to light up the court. Something that may not have happened had it not been for his grandfather's constant coaching. You see grandpa Everet was also a state championship coach at East High School. So when he had the grandchildren over, he'd sit in his easy chair and they would watch game after game. It was grandpa who would pick it apart and for years school the boys on the mechanics of basketball.
Evan's dad, Todd Wessel, trained his boys as well. "They'd be doing Z-drills where you'd zig-zag, not only your left hand but your right hand," Todd said. "They would go through numerous drills that would help in his agility and fine tune the small things."
While Evan's father played high school basketball, when he got to college, he chose football. He started as an inside linebacker for who else, but Wichita State. And the tradition goes on through now three generations.
"I know some of my husband's teammates when they would come over and see Evan, they would always say how great it is to play in your hometown, because the people respect you and recognize you," said Phyliss.
The words of players past and a dedicated grandfather, led Wichita's Evan Wessel to this time and place and it continues to travel with him through March madness.
"Dad told me something that will always stick," said Todd. "He said, son, as long as you keep me in your heart, I'll never be gone. So grandpa's watching."
Todd said his dad and Evan were very close and talked basketball all the time.
"A little bit of grandpa is on the court with him," said Todd. "It's real neat to think that grandpa and him will always share playing on the same court. Not a whole lot of people can say that."
During this tournament season, the Wessels wanted to make sure a little bit of the Shockers was with grandpa Everet as well. Last week, they laid a wreath at Everet Wessel's grave at Resthaven Cemetery. But Evan probably doesn't need to visit a grave site to feel close to his grandfather. All he has to do is be on the court.