Gregg Marshall’s Wichita State program is beginning to establish a reputation in the NBA.
As Fred VanVleet (Toronto Raptors) and Landry Shamet (Los Angeles Clippers) continue their meteoric rise in the NBA, the former Shockers are bringing awareness to the values that Marshall teaches at Wichita State.
The two highest-profile former Shockers met on an NBA court on Monday night, as Shamet’s Clippers defeated VanVleet’s Raptors, 98-88. Before the game, Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he sees the same qualities in VanVleet that he sees on a daily basis with Shamet.
“Wichita State guys, to me, tend to turn out that way — mentally tough, very serious about winning and the game,” Rivers told reporters. “It just seems like that’s the makeup from that program and (VanVleet) brings that. I love his swag, his toughness, his composure. He’s a fun guy to watch.”
Upon hearing those words from Rivers, Marshall said “it meant a lot” and he immediately made sure his current point guard, freshman Grant Sherfield, was aware of the quote when he entered the coaches’ office at Koch Arena on Tuesday.
“I want him to see the words Doc Rivers is saying about guys who have come through here,” Marshall said. “He kept saying tough, mentally tough, have some swag and their desire to win. That’s really cool to hear him talk about not just Landry on his team, but Fred. That’s exactly what we’re trying to instill with these young guards.”
VanVleet and Shamet have taken different roads, but they have both arrived at the same place in a relatively short amount of time — as full-time starters on NBA playoff teams.
It took VanVleet a little longer, as he went undrafted after an All-American career with Wichita State ended in 2016. He spent time with Toronto’s G-League team before earning his spot on the NBA team, then became a full-fledged star as an integral piece in the Raptors’ run to the NBA championship last season. VanVleet scored a playoff career-high 22 points in Game 6 of the NBA Finals to help the Raptors capture the title against the Golden State Warriors.
Shamet declared for the NBA Draft after his redshirt sophomore season at WSU and was picked by the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round. He was immediately placed in a situation where he was being tutored by NBA sharpshooter JJ Redick and contributing for a NBA championship contender as a rookie.
“Oh man, it’s so beautiful,” VanVleet told the Orange County Register of Shamet’s early impact. “I’m a little jealous. His career took off so fast for him. Even in Philly, they put him in a great spot for him, he got to learn under JJ and then coming out (to LA) and he’s a starter, a star-caliber player.”
After being dealt to the Clippers last February in a blockbuster trade, Shamet finished his rookie season with 167 made three-pointers, the fourth-most all-time for an NBA rookie, and was named to the NBA All-Rookie second team. In nine starts this season, Shamet has averaged 9.4 points for a star-studded Clippers team that many are picking to win the NBA title this season.
Shamet still credits VanVleet, who was his teammate for one season at WSU in the 2015-16 season, for his guidance through Shamet’s difficult decision to leave WSU early and bet on himself as a NBA prospect when not many had him initially pegged as a first-round pick.
“He was like an older brother, someone to give me some good insight, someone who’d been through it,” Shamet told the OC Register. “My last year at Wichita State, he was someone who … I could talk to. Especially in a decision-making time, when I had to figure out what I wanted to do, he was real helpful.”
The two met four times last season with VanVleet’s Raptors winning three of those games when Shamet played for the 76ers.
There has always been some friendly banter between the two dating back to their days practicing against one another at WSU. Now that Shamet is his peer in the NBA, VanVleet joked that he’s done with the free help now the both are chasing titles.
“No more advice,” VanVleet jokingly said to the OC Register. “Those days are over with.”
Shamet said there is a brotherhood that still exists between the former Shockers in the NBA.
“He’s the type of guy who helps people,” Shamet told the OC Register about VanVleet. “He’s always going to be a good person, someone I know I can hit up whenever if I need something.”
After becoming a cult hero with Raptors’ fans last season for his extraordinary play in the playoffs, VanVleet has slid into a full-time starting role with Toronto this season. He’s predictably having a career-best season through nine games, as VanVleet is averaging 16.0 points, 4.4 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 1.3 steals.
VanVleet finished with 14 points and eight assists in Monday’s game, while Shamet injured his left ankle while defending VanVleet on a drive in the third quarter. Shamet had an MRI on Tuesday morning that revealed he suffered a Grade 2 high sprain, something that will keep him out but isn’t a long-term injury.
Last season, VanVleet became a breakout star in the playoffs playing alongside star Kawhi Leonard. After Leonard left Toronto this offseason to sign with the Clippers, VanVleet hopes to see Shamet enjoy similar success playing next to Leonard.
“I talked to him when Kawhi made his decision and just told him he’s gonna have a really fun year,” VanVleet told the OC Register. “It’s a big year for him, so he’ll have a lot of opportunities to showcase what he can do. He’s gonna have a lot of open shots this year as I did last year, and he’s in a great spot, so I’m really happy for Landry.”