By Mark Janssen
Kansas State's women's basketball team is taking advantage of a new NCAA rule and getting an early start to the 2010-11 season.
"I'm not sure why the rule was initiated, but I like it," said K-State coach Deb Patterson. "Especially with a younger team, it's been nice to have more days where you don't feel that unbelievable pressure to get more things done than a short amount of time allows."
The new rule allows women's teams to begin practice 40 days prior to their first game, and have 30 practice sessions in that 40-day period. For the men, the rule remains the same, which is an Oct. 15 start.
With three freshmen - Chantay Caron, Brianna Kulas and Stephanie Wittman - and three sophomores - Brittany Chambers, Taelor Karr and Mariah White - Patterson says, "Especially with our first-year players, and even all of our younger players, we need to get them to understand the fundamental speed, the physicality and the execution elements of the game.
"We're going to have to play younger players relatively early this year," she continued. "Every year I say that we're going to play more than five or six players, but this year I think that's really going to be true. We want to get them ready so they can blend in quickly."
While playing with a roster of seven to nine players last season, Patterson will have 12 players in uniform this year, which she says benefits practice perhaps more so than in games.
"It puts us in position where if someone, especially a young player, makes one or two mistakes in a row, we have players to go in and spot them so they can mentally readjust themselves," said Patterson. "It makes it easier to remain positive and hopeful."
If Patterson has an early challenge to the season, it will come in developing leadership. K-State's roster includes only two seniors in Shalin Spani, who will not play this season due to knee surgery, and, Kelsey Hill, who is coming off knee surgery last year and did not play at all.
"Leadership goes hand-in-hand with the knowledge of how we like to do things and how we like to play," Patterson said. "So much of that happens by virtue of three or four years of experience. We have two returning guards - Chambers and Karr - but they are still sophomores and still learning."
CHISHOLM TO PLAY HOOPS: Patterson is cheering hard for K-State's volleyball team to reach the NCAA Tournament, but on the flip side she also knows that once the v-ball season ends, JuliAnne Chisholm will be joining her basketball team.
"JuliAnne is someone we recruited out of high school, but she realized her opportunity for early play was greater in volleyball," said Patterson of the 5-foot-11 product of Hillsboro, Kan. "She has such a passion for both sports and just an unbelievable skill level in both."
In high school, Chisholm was a four-year basketball letterwinner, and a two-time all-Mid-Central Activities Association honoree. Along with earning Class 3A MVP honors in volleyball, she also was a seven-time Class 3A gold medalist in track. She continues to hold school records in the high jump (5-9), 100-hurdles (14.77), 300-hurdles (45.93) and 1600-meter run (5:34.6).
"She's such an athlete. I think she's going to surprise people," said Patterson. "She played some with the girls this summer and fit right in.
"She's so athletic, so competitive, has an understanding of intensity at this level, and her coachability is very high," said Patterson. "I know when I first was told that she had an interest, I said, 'Is this real?' "
WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Kansas State's seniors of last year have shelved the basketball and are continuing on in life after hoops. Ashley Sweat is finishing her degree at K-State this semester, while Kari (Kincaid) Miller, is teaching fourth grade in Fort Worth, Texas. Kincaid married Mark Miller over the summer.
DATES TO LOOK FORWARD TO: Madness in Manhattan will be held Friday at Bramlage Coliseum, while K-State's season opens on Nov. 4 against Fort Hays State, followed by a Nov. 8 game with Washburn. Both are exhibition games. K-State's first regular season game will be against Grambling State on Nov. 12, which will be the first game of the Commerce Bank Wildcat Classic. The next night the Wildcats will play either Marist or St. John's.
TICKET INFORMATION: Season tickets begin at $78 for general admission, while bench and chairback seating is available for $99 and $132, respectively. K-State is also offering a "Wildcat 4-Pack" this season which consists of four general admission tickets for $200. Season tickets are only $50 for those with military IDs stationed at Fort Riley.
The most convenient way to order tickets is online at www.kstatesports.com. Tickets may also be purchased in person at the K-State Athletic Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum or by calling toll-free, (800) 221-CATS.