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When the Wichita State Shockers played Louisville in the Final Four last year, a handful from Scott City, Kansas are rumored to have made the trip.
Shockers starter Ron Baker hails from Scott City. But his hometown fans who chose to stay and watch the national semifinal were out of luck.
Scott City a town of slightly under 4,000 — and a long way from Atlanta — didn’t have a suitable gathering place. That caught the attention of Dennis Chelemedos. On New Year’s Day, he and a partner opened up a sports bar called “Scott Rec.”
"There were a lot of watch parties in people’s garages and shops," said Chelemedos. "That’s what pretty much gave us the idea that , ‘Hey, maybe we need to start a little sports bar, and get some of these people out of those garages and bring them up here and we could all get together and watch it.”
And watch Ron Baker, the mop-haired sophomore who blossomed late last season for the Shockers. Baker sat out his first year at Wichita State, then missed 21 games last year with a stress fracture in his left foot.
Since the emergence of Baker and the Shockers, Scott City has become a Shocker town. And just a few blocks north of the high school on Main Street, Scott Rec has turned into Shocker Central on game day.
"It’s just great to see to be able to get everyone together and to see all the Shocker fans that are new Shocker fans most likely. It’s a good place to come to celebrate the Shockers and hopefully they’ll keep winning."
That’s Greg Norris, an accountant with a Scott City feed yard. He’s a Kansas State grad, but he’s a Shocker fan now. To Norris and the other folks in Scott City, the Baker family was well-known before Ron enrolled at Wichita State. Both of his parents are teachers, and he was the town’s best all-around athlete. Baker led his high school basketball team to a state title as a senior, player quarterback on the football team and turned to baseball in the spring.
[sidebar title="Women's Basketball" align="right"] Bill Littlefield checks in on the top two teams in the women's game: UConn and Notre Dame. [/sidebar]Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall cites the well-rounded athletes on his team as one of the reasons for the Shockers’ success.
"They’re competitors," said Marshall. "These guys are multi-sport winners. They’ve won championships in many, many sports."
The drive between Scott City and Wichita is slightly under four hours. Baker’s parents, Neil and Ranae, typically hop in their car after school and make it just in time for the tip-off to see their son play. Weekends are easy. But on weekday nights, they typically return to Scott City well past midnight. Others from Scott City normally travel to Wichita for the weekend games.
It’s a tougher ticket these days to Koch Arena, better known as the Roundhouse. Nevertheless, all the backing for Baker is not lost on the 6-foot-3 shooting guard.
"It means the world to me," said Baker. "I mean, there’s not a lot of people in my hometown, so any time they come to games or support me by watching television means a lot. And it just goes to show that the community I grew up in is very supportive, and I’m very thankful for that."
About 50 locals were on hand for a recent Sunday afternoon game at Evansville as Ron Baker scored a career-high 26 points.
When the Missouri Valley Conference tournament begins next week in St. Louis, the two TVs will be beaming and the patrons will be lining the bar once again. They’ll keep a close eye on whether the Shockers can make another run to the Final Four, and keep the beer flowing at Scott Rec.
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