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ATLANTA, Georgia – It was 1965 the last time that Wichita State was in the Final Four. Back then the team fought racism. Now this team is reflecting on how far we’ve come, in a city that honors a slain Civil Rights leader.
The team in ’65 had to overcome obstacles off the court — as a diverse team faced considerable racial tension.
“I can remember several times having to get down in a crash position on the way out of there so that somebody didn’t put a rock through the window,” said Bob Powers, member of the 1965 team.
In some ways, the Shockers were ahead of their time, in terms of the diversity. Their combination of players from different backgrounds in many ways to their success.
“Its amazing man, what those guys went through to give us the opportunity to be here,” said Fred Van Fleet, freshman. “You gotta be thankful every day for what other people sacrificed for you.”
At the height of the Civil Rights Movement, Martin Luther King Jr. was at the center of it all. Atlanta is the home of the National Historic Site that honors Dr. King. Visitors can tour Ebenezer Baptist Church where King gave many of his famous sermons. They can also visit his final resting place, and the eternal flame that symbolizes the legacy of his message.
Even with the game of the lives on the line, these young Shockers have perspective to share.
“Just a lot has changed, just for the people. Equal rights for everybody, to be viewed as one,” said Demetric Williams, senior.
“As a society you’re never going to get over all the humps, but to make progress and to be on this stage, me talking to you, everyone being together different, coaches and stuff, its big,” said Van Fleet.