By now, every college hoops fan should have a feel for how good of a kid Wichita State point guard Fred Van Vleet is.
For starters, every media member that covers the sport gushes over him. He’s the new Aaron Craft, a media darling whose intangibles and leadership qualities make him much more valuable than his skill set.
As a player, he deserves all the plaudits that he’ll receive. Remember, he was the starting point guard and facilitator for a team that won their first 35 games a season ago and earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament before getting eliminated in one of the best college basketball games in recent memory. It’s not a fluke that he’ll be a preseason all-american selection by any publication worth paying attention to.
But he’s also the kind of kid that will show up to his old high school’s graduation ceremony to give a speech to kids that he was peers with just two years ago.
It’s not often you hear about athletes like that, which is why he’s so popular. Media members love nothing more than a good story, and there’s always one with Van Vleet … like, for example, today’s column from Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. He talks with Van Vleet about some of the speaking engagements that he’s accepted since becoming a superstar, and one quote stood out from the rest.
By a mile.
“I think I’m humble and smart enough to realize people are only going to care about me for a certain amount of time,” VanVleet told Parrish. “So I could give a speech 15 years from now, but it won’t have the same effect as me talking to kids right now, while I’m still relevant. Kids only listen to what they see now. So as long as people view me as important, I’m going to squeeze every inch out of it. I’d rather use what I have than let it go to waste.”
How many young men are that self-aware?
How many athletes are that cognizant of — and willing to admit, either publicly or to themselves — that fact?
And, most importantly, how many college kids do you know are motivated and ambitious enough to try and help make change for people?
At some point you’re going to end up getting bored with and sick of everything written and said about Van Vleet over the course of his next two seasons with the Shockers. That’s just the way it the world works.
But when you do, just remember that there was a very good reason all of those words were said.