Sunday, April 7, 2013
The Wichita State men's basketball team returned home to the Wichita State University campus Sunday afternoon to a pep rally featuring thousands of fans at Koch Arena.
The Shockers flew into Wichita early Sunday afternoon, following Saturday's loss to Louisville in the Final Four.
"It's a great outpouring of love and energy and passion, kind of the way we play," Wichita State Head Coach Gregg Marshall said. "That's what's cool about it. It's a good match. We play the way our fans support."
Fans lined up early outside of Koch Arena, long before the arena doors opened at 11:30 a.m. Fans said they did not want miss this opportunity to welcome their Shockers home.
"If they see all these fans maybe this will make them understand they represented us well and we are so proud of them," said Nancy Davis, who says she's been a Shocker fan for 57 years.
Thousands of fans made their way into the arena before the Shockers' expected 12:45 p.m. arrival. To pass the time, local radio hosts pumped up the crowd, the dance team lead the fans in cheers, and Papa John's even handed out coupons for a free pizza to everyone in attendance.
"I'm just excited for Wichita and our team," Shocker fan Jason Cox said.
The team arrived at the airport shortly after 12:45 p.m. and immediately headed over to Koch Arena with a police escort. When they finally made their way through an arena tunnel onto the floor, fans stood on their feet and wildly cheered as the band played.
"I'm so proud of these guys," Shocker fan Tina Mackay said. "They've won, they've shown their pride in their school and now I'm here to show my pride for them."
Coach Marshall addressed the fans for about ten minutes. He started by showing his appreciation to fans.
"We have been on quite a journey," Marshall said. "We thank you, Shocker Nation."
He encouraged fans to adopt the team's "play angry" mindset into whatever it is they do in their own lives.
"Do it with anger," Marshall said. "Preach angry. If you are a cab driver or a bus driver, drive angry. If you are a teacher, teach angry."
Fans were then turned loose to grab autographs and photos with their favorite Shocker players. All the players were quickly surrounded.
"It just goes to show you the type of fan support we have around here and the type of people that are around here in Wichita," senior forward Carl Hall said.
For some players and fans, the experience Sunday was almost surreal.
"I still feel like I'm in a dream right now," Shocker fan Jacob Seltzer said. "I still feel like someone is going to pinch me and I'm going to wake up and none of this has happened."
But it has happened. And next season at least one banner, if not more said Coach Marshall, will go up in Koch Arena to serve as a permanent reminder of the tremendous run for this year's team: the winningest team in school history.