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Sure to Be Emotional Night for Hill

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kelsey Hill admits to being an emotional type of girl.

She admits to wondering if the tears will flow tonight when she is joined by her parents, Kevin and Cheryl, on K-State's Senior Night in Bramlage Coliseum when the Wildcats line up against Texas A&M at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

"I've been playing basketball since I was five, and traveling all over the country playing since I was nine," said the 5-foot-5 senior. "Basketball has been such a huge part of my life."

This semester Hill has little time to think of the future. Along with the grind of being a K-State athlete, she's also taking 14 classroom hours to complete her degree in agricultural communications, plus serving an internship with the International Grain Program.

"It's been an insane semester," said Hill, a five-time recipient of Big 12 Conference academic honors. "I was looking at my planner the other day and said, 'Wow, February is almost gone.' I've been living on about four or five hours sleep a night, so things have been a blur."

That's quite a difference than last year when the season went at a snail's pace after tearing everything there is to tear in her left knee.

"I had worked so hard to be ready to play, and then that was a disappointment that you couldn't put into words," Hill said of the injury leading into the 2009-10 season. "It was so hard to watch when you wanted to be involved and doing your part on the floor."

No one is more appreciative of Hill's persistence than coach Deb Patterson, who said her senior guard was doing her part, and then some, in this her final season.

"There are three games this season that if Kelsey would not have been on the floor, we were not going to win those games," said the Wildcat coach. "I couldn't have said that in the early years, but as a senior, Kelsey fought through the injury and stepped up to be ready, willing and able to make winning plays. That's three Big 12 games that she won for us."

Those games came against Colorado when Hill scored her career-high of 12 points with three 3-pointers in a critical time of a game that would turn into a 72-59 victory; at Nebraska where her steals were pivotal in a 69-64 game when she played a career-high 33 minutes; and, against Missouri when she scored six points in a 66-63 victory.

Of those words of praise, Hill said, "That means so much to me. I try to do what the team needs. That's always been my game. I've been a gym rat my entire career and tend to understand what coaches want."

At K-State, that means a smart player who can control the tempo of the game.

"We have so many girls with so much fire, and I have fire, but it can get out of hand. You've got to have a head, and I've always been considered a heady player," said Hill, who this summer will coach the 15-and-under AAU Mo-Kan Eclipse team in Kansas City. "I just try to do what my teammates need whether that's scoring, shutting down a player or handling the ball against pressure."

Hill's personal career high came in a game that she had little to do with the outcome. It came in her freshman season when K-State closed out the regular season at Kansas with a 61-50 victory. The game locked up the Big 12 regular season championship for the Wildcats.

"I grew up just 20 minutes from KU. Out of a high school class of 350, about 200 went to KU. Kansas City is like that," said Hill, a product of St. Thomas Aquinas High School. "So for me, the greatest feeling in the world was winning the Big 12 championship at Kansas. We were such an underdog that season after finishing last the year before. That group of girls was so very special."

Pausing, Hill added of the teams she has played on the last four years, "I have two brothers (Kyle, 24 and Connor, 12), so these are the 10 to 15 sisters that I've never had. The thing I will miss most about not playing will be the camaraderie, and being with these girls on the court and off the court."

RUGGED SENIOR NIGHT GAME FOR WILDCATS: Credit Kansas State women's basketball coach Deb Patterson for being honest.

Heading into tonight's game against Texas A&M in Bramlage Coliseum she admits, "Playing the No. 5 team in the country, what are the odds you're going to win it? I don't know if they'll be great, but I know it's an opportunity to take the floor with a sense of urgency and energy."

K-State is now 8-6 in the league and 18-9 overall. While that's good for a fourth-place share with Iowa State, it's the Cyclones that own the tie-breaker by way of their sweep of the Wildcats.

The most recent of those games was this past Saturday when the Wildcats lost a 58-51 game by way of 36 percent shooting overall, which included 3-of-16 (.188) from 3-point range.

"We didn't have the intensity on some of our possessions on offense that would match Top 25, Top 10 caliber teams," Patterson said. "I thought we defended extremely well, but I thought our intensity and energy on the offensive end was not there. It's disappointing, but you have to move forward."

In that game, Jalana Childs scored 18 points inside, but guards Brittany Chambers and Taelor Karr were a combined 2-of-13 from beyond the arc, scoring 10 and 12 points, respectively.

Of the game, Patterson said, "I almost felt like we were a young team that wanted something so bad that we froze a little. We were just very uninspired offensively. We just have to learn from what we did or didn't do."

A&M BATTLING FOR FIRST: With its 12-2, 24-3 record, No. 5 Texas A&M trails first-place Baylor by one game with two games to play.

The Aggies are led by Big 12 Player candidate of the Year Danielle Adams, a 6-1 senior who is averaging 23.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game.