CHICAGO (AP) -
13th-ranked Wichita State beat Loyola by 14 in Chicago, but it meant much more for a select few from Rockford. Auburn alum Fred VanVleet put on a show in his Shockers uniform, and he picked a special Sunday to send his fan section into a frenzy.
"He's got his whole family there, he's got his little sister, he's got his brothers, he's got his mom and dad, he's got cousins, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, everybody's there to see him. Why wouldn't you?" said Shockers head coach Gregg Marshall after his team's 67-53 win. "It's great to play in front of family like that. It's a wonderful family, to produce a young man like this."
Fred VanVleet's presence for Wichita State has produced on-court results, like his double-double on Sunday in Chicago. His impact on his hometown has delivered much more for the basketball talent following in his footsteps to Division 1 schools.
"Fred was the frontrunner for us, you know. He's the reason we got our looks early in our careers and he definitely opened up the doors for us," says Auburn senior and UW-Green Bay commit Antoine Pittman.
"I just know it was hard for us coming up, I mean my brothers before me and then I kind of kicked the door down so that was just my whole thing, was to create opportunity," says VanVleet. "Obviously those guys have put the work in, and they've done their part so hopefully we can just keep it going and i'm always glad to see people from the town doing good."
"The door just keeps getting wider and wider for everyone," says Fred's mother Susan. "I think we've always had the talent but they've never had anyone to open that door. Just the kindness that Fred has towards everyone, and trying to help them move forward, it's been amazing to watch him."
700 miles away from Rockford, VanVleet is capitalizing on his opportunity and the Shockers community has fully embraced him in his third year.
"Fred's just a special kid, those kids come a dime a dozen, and I'm just excited to see the success that he's having and he's taking advantage of it," says Auburn assistant basketball coach James Fisher, who coached Fred in Rockford.
"It's hard to describe that feeling, to watch them, go through what they've had and always do the good things, and make the right choices, and then to end up on top, that doesn't happen very often," says Susan VanVleet.
VanVleet's performance against Loyola gave Wichita State another win, his family and friends a memorable day, and the Forest City's future athletes another reminder of what seizing the moment looks like.