Everyone knew the Larry Bird Award given to the Valley’s Most Outstanding player would go to one of the Wichita State Shockers. But would it be Cleanthony Early, Ron Baker or Van Vleet. They finished one-two-three in the voting with Van Vleet capturing 22 out of 36 first place votes to win it.
"That was the good thing about it all us knowing that it was 90 percent going to be one of us three, so whoever got it the other two would be happy and cheering, and if those other guys would have won I’d have been just as pleased as if I was when I found out I was the one that got the award," said Van Vleet during a teleconference.
Van Vleet becomes only the second sophomore in the conference’s history to win the award. The other was Creighton’s Doug McDermott two years ago. If there’s one thing Van Vleet, McDermott and Bird have in common it’s that they’re all highly intelligent basketball players.
"It’s really amazing," says Van Vleet. "I can’t really put it into words right now, but just the history is mind blowing and that’s pretty good company to be in. If that’s any indication for the future then I’m pretty excited for what lies ahead."
Van Vleet’s numbers are solid, not staggering. He averages just under 12 points per game plus five assists and four rebounds. His value is his decision making and his command of the unbeaten Shockers offense. But get this, Van Vleet has also been named to the Missouri Valley Conference’s All-Defensive team.
"That was pretty important being acknowledged for that. Obviously I take a lot of pride in that end of the floor."
Early and Baker also made the Valley’s first team and a fourth teammate Tekele Cotton made the second team. Van Vleet says the Shockers have to eventually put these individual honors to the side and focus on the team goals.
"These awards won’t mean anything if we don’t take care of business."
The Shockers next order of business is the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament in St. Louis this weekend.
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