There’s very little doubt who the folks in the Wapsie Valley school district will be rooting for in this weekend’s Final Four. Wichita State associate head coach Chris Jans graduated from Wapsie in 1987, and has helped lead the Shockers to the national semifinal.
Jans played for current Warrior coach Marty McKowen, who says the entire community is very excited for this weekend’s games. McKowen says they have billboards in town that say good luck to Jans and they took a picture and sent it to him and told him he had made the big time.
Jans is one of six of McKowen’s former players who have gone on to coach college basketball. McKowen says Jans’ intensity as a high school player still stands out. “Chris was up ’til this day one of the most intense players I ever coached, and would do anything to win a game,” McKowen says.
Jans was on some of McKowen’s first teams at Wapsie Valley, and helped get the Warrior program on the right track. He says Jans’ intensity level was important in the turnaround as they went from a 4-16 team in Jans’ first year to 19-3 then 21-1.
McKowen says with an alumnus having the level of success that Jans has gotten to can help inspire current students at a small school like Wapsie Valley. “It shows the kids that a small town kid like Chris can make it to the big time, if that’s what they desire to do, they can do that,” McKowen says.
Jans is one of two Iowa natives on the Shocker coaching staff, along with assistant coach Greg Heiar, who is originally from Dubuque.
By Jesse Gavin KCNZ Cedar Falls