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New Leaders Stepping Up for Cats

By Mark Janssen

It's early in the year, but K-State's women's basketball team has a bit of a swagger to its game, which has led to a 5-0 start to the season heading into Tuesday's home game against South Dakota State.
 
While Frank Martin is struggling to find it with his men, coach Deb Patterson likes the leadership of her women, despite not having a senior that is playing significant minutes.

"It's been great to be able to walk into the gym every day and know that Brittany (Chambers) and Taelor (Karr) have the experience that they do," said Patterson of her two sophomore guards. "You know you're not walking into the gym with two players at the guard positions that are going to play 35 minutes who know nothing about their opponents, about the league, about the physical nature of the game, or your system. They've experienced it once."
 
K-State does have three seniors listed on the roster, but JuliAnne Chisholm just completed her volleyball season, Shalin Spani will miss the year due to knee surgery, and Kelsey Hill is coming off knee surgery and is playing only limited minutes.
 
With that in mind, Patterson says of her second-year players, "There's an understanding that as sophomores they really need to be a big part of the core of the leadership that we bring to this program. They have been very attentive and focused where I think last year it was kind of a struggle."
 
Karr averaged 30 minutes per game last year averaging 9.1 points and 4.5 rebounds per game.
 
Of that experience, she says, "I feel like I have a couple years under my belt now. Last year was like a whirlwind. We relied so much on our seniors (Ashley Sweat and Kari Kincaid) to be our concrete and keep us on solid ground. But now it's time for us (sophomores) to step up and fill the void."
 
Of her own style of leading, Karr said, "I'm more of an example person. I'm not so much into vocal, but I'm trying to grow in that area."
 
Chambers averaged 31 minutes per game in her rookie season when she scored 12.1 points and contributed 5.8 rebounds per game.
 
"Last year there was always someone else to lead, but with a year under our belt, it's much easier this year," said Chambers. "We know that you can't be soft in this league. It's our responsibility to make sure our young players understand that."
 
Especially with Chambers being the point guard, Patterson said, "Playing the point, you have to be consistent. You have to show up day to day and show that you are the hardest worker in the gym because you are dominating the ball on most possessions and you cannot take a possession off."
 
If that consistency happens, Patterson says, "Our freshmen will play off of that."
 
Chambers admits that she's perhaps not a natural born leader, but Patterson admires the effort that she is making to expand that role.
 
"She is strongly introverted, so she is stepping outside of her box to make certain things happen," said Patterson. "I am seeing signs in her doing that, but there is still some hesitation at times. There is still a bit of resistance."
 
A third factor to the leadership triangle and movement toward the best possible team chemistry comes from the inside play of junior Jalana Childs.
 
With Chambers at the point and Childs inside, Patterson said, "We now have an interior player who really wants to assume communication and ownership for that front line play. With Brittany having the potential to assume that responsibility on the perimeter, that's a good one-two combo."
 
To date, the trio has led K-State not only in leadership, but also scoring - Chambers (17.2 points per game), Childs (11.6) and Karr (9.6) - through its 5-0 start to the year.