WICHITA — Several thousand screaming fans turned out Sunday to welcome home the Wichita State Shockers after their first trip to the Final Four since 1965.
One day after losing 72-68 to Louisville, Coach Gregg Marshall said the team had been on an "incredible journey" and the fans had been "the wind in our sails." He recalled that expectations weren't high after losing five seniors who also were the team's five leading scorers. The team also was ravaged with injuries.
"But I can assure you that as the season went on, through the ups and downs that you go through in a basketball season, these guys figured out how to win," he said to thunderous applause. "They were so tenacious and so hard working, they continued to persevere and fight through major adversity and for that these guys are true champions."
Leading scorer Cleanthony Early told fans the team was going to "commit to work hard and try to get better for next season." And teammate Chadrack Lufile praised the fans, saying "this wouldn't be possible without you all."
"Down the stretch, we tried to play our hardest and our best for you guys," Lufile said. "We're here representing WSU and we love the love and support."
Marshall then took back the microphone and urged the crowd to make use of the "play angry" advice he's given his players.
"Whatever your occupation is, whatever you do in your daily life, without hurting anyone else, without being too overtly aggressive, do it with anger," he urged. "Preach angry. If you are a cab driver or a bus driver, drive angry. If you're a school teacher, teach angry. If you're an accountant, count angry."
Wichita State said it would host another celebration in about a week.