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LEHNING TEACHES BY SHOWING

By Mark Janssen

No one can say it better than Shalee Lehning about her current life: "I have the best of both worlds. I'm doing what I've dreamed about my whole life. I'm still able to play in the WNBA, and now I'm being paid to coach the game. It's a fun time in my life. I hope it can go for as long as it can."

Lehning is a second-year assistant coach with Kansas State's women's basketball team AND a two-year pro in the WNBA with the Atlanta Dream.

"I love coaching more than I thought I would," said Lehning, whose Wildcat team plays Purdue in the NCAA Tournament Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Central in Storrs, Ct. "I respect Coach P (Patterson) so much and she's allowed me to have a say in things and will take my ideas into consideration. She could say this 24-year-old doesn't know anything, but she trusts me and that has helped allow coaching to exceed all my expectations."

That's on the court, and off as a recruiter.

"Recruiting is easy for me. I am so passionate about Kansas State. I know first-hand the experience that they will have when they come here. My hope is for the girls that I recruit will have the same amazing experience that I had in my four years here," said Lehning, K-State's record-holder for career assists and fourth in all-time rebounds. "It was so much fun and so many lasting friends were made."

Lehning laughs at the biggest obstacle she faces in recruiting, which is paying that extra fee for being an under-25 rent-a-car driver.

The 5-foot-9 Lehning has career WNBA numbers of 3.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and 4.8 assists in leading Atlanta to consecutive playoffs. This year the Dream also won the Eastern Conference championship.

"I still love to play. It's what I've done all my life and I want to go as long as my body holds up," said Lehning, who is the only player in Big 12 history to score at least 1,000 points, collect 900 rebounds and hand out 800 assists in a career. "I'm already starting to fight nagging injuries, but I'll play until my body says no, and then I will become a full-time coach."

For now, Lehning plays professionally from mid-May until August, when she joins the Wildcat coaching staff where she tutors such guards as Taelor Karr and Brittany Chambers.

"The advantage I have is the ability to practice against them. That's a unique opportunity in terms of teaching them," said Lehning, who earned honorable mention All-America honors in 2009. "Instead of explaining how it's done, I can say, 'Watch how I do this; try this.' Most coaches can only tell them, but I can show them."

And, Lehning says, "Being a younger coach, it hasn't been that long when I was in their shoes at K-State. I know what they're going through and can better relate what Coach P wants. I'm still playing myself, so I know exactly the physical and mental things they go through."

Thrilled to have such a coach are Karr and Chambers.

"She's an unbelievable story. She comes from a small town, yet has been an outstanding pro and now she's here mentoring me," said Karr. "Coach (Kamie) Ethridge and Coach P (Patterson) are great coaches, but with Shalee we have someone actually on the court showing us how to do it."

Chambers calls the opportunity to go head-to-head with a WNBA talent an "unbelievable advantage. She's accomplished everything any player would want to accomplish. She's hanging up there in the rafters (her No. 5 jersey has been retired), she's playing in the WNBA, and she's helping others grow in their game. She's living a dream that all of us would like."

Oh, how do the two current Wildcat guards do against Lehning?

"I haven't played her one-on-one," said Chambers. "I'd like to try, but she's an unbelievable player."

Karr, however was a bit more brave: "She's scrawny. I think I could post her up."


We hope you enjoy K-State Sports Extra. We would like to hear your comments and any story ideas for future emails, so fire them our way. Contact either Mark Janssen at mjanssen7@cox.net, or Kansas State Director of Athletic Communications/SID Kenny Lannou at klannou@kstatesports.com. For those who would like to share Sports Extra with a friend or family member, or change your current email address, click here.