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NCAA West Regional: Cleanthony Early gives Shockers staying power

March 29, 2013|By Gary Klein
  • Cleanthony Early leads Wichita State in scoring with 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Cleanthony Early leads Wichita State in scoring with 13.7 points and 5.3… (Harry How / Getty Images )

Wichita State's Cleanthony Early said he stood only 5 feet 7 when he began high school and did not play organized basketball until he was in the 11th grade.

But the 6-8 junior could be the key for Wichita State when the Shockers play Ohio State in the NCAA West Regional final Saturday at Staples Center.

Early, a New York native who averages a team-best 13.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game, arrived in Wichita after a year at Mt. Zion Academy in North Carolina and two seasons at Sullivan County Community College in New York.

On Friday, Early fondly recalled seeing the girls and recreational pool during a recruiting trip to San Diego State, but chose Wichita State instead after spending an inordinate amount of time on the Shockers' campus.

At the scheduled conclusion of Early's recruiting trip to Wichita, a storm in New York prevented flights from landing. NCAA allows recruits to be on campus for only 48 hours, so Coach Gregg Marshall said the school filed petitions for several waivers that extended Early's stay to 72 hours because of the travel situation.

"He got to know our players," Marshall said. "We ran out of things to show him. We ended up keeping him busy."

Early said it was just another sign that he belonged in Wichita.

"It was crazy... it seemed like the stars were just aligning," he said. "I was out there for like a week.... That was just another sign."

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