October 1, 2013
By Mark Janssen
Nicole Ohlde has gone out and viewed the world, and now it's time to come home.
"I've enjoyed every minute of my travels, but the down side is leaving your family and friends for eight months out of the year," said Ohlde of playing professionally in Europe and the WNBA. "But it was a once in a lifetime opportunity."
Since her graduation as a two-time All-American basketball talent from K-State in 2004, the first-round WNBA draft selection played for Minnesota (five years), Phoenix (two years) and Tulsa in the United States, and logged scads of frequent flyer miles by playing in Belgium, Spain, France, Hungary (two seasons), Italy (two seasons) and the Czech Republic overseas.
"It's crazy all the places I've been and it's been that many years," said Ohlde, who had her No. 3 jersey retired at the conclusion of her senior season. "It's just been a great experience."
Ohlde officially retired from the game this past spring after one of her better professional seasons averaging 11.5 points and 6.7 rebounds for Imos Brno in the Czech Republic. The numbers matched her rookie season with Minnesota in 2004 when the 6-foot-5 talent averaged 11.7 and 5.7, respectively, in points and rebounding.
"I knew going into the year it would be my last season. I knew it was time to get on with my life, whatever that may be," said Ohlde. "I haven't had any major injuries, but there are times when my body tells me that enough is enough. At times I just wasn't able to do what I used to be able to do. I'm just glad to be able to go out on my terms."
Her terms now include coming back to the Flint Hills to "... try to figure out what to do with my life. I feel like a college graduate again."
Today, Ohlde is in the process of learning the ropes to be a personal trainer for Manhattan's Max Fitness Center, plus will be on the basketball coaching staff of her alma mater of Clay Center High School, where she starred for the Tigers in the late-1990s.
"I have such pride coming from Clay Center, so it's going to be fun to go home and help coach," said Ohlde. "It'll be fun to try to go from athlete to coach and try to translate what I know to the players."
In the midst of all of this, Ohlde will work into her busy schedule an induction into the State of Kansas Sports Hall of Fame with induction ceremonies scheduled for Sunday in Wichita. She'll be joined on the stage by former Wildcat placekicker Martin Gramatica.
Ohlde was actually voted into the hall last year, but overseas basketball commitments delayed her induction until this year.
"It's definitely an honor... and extremely high honor," said Ohlde, who finished her K-State career as the No. 2 scorer (2,241 points), rebounder (995), shot blocker (204), double-doubles (39) and minutes played (4,103).
Reflecting on her decision to travel the 35 miles from home to be a Wildcat, Ohlde said, "I had attended several of Coach (Deb) Patterson's camps and it was a dream to come to Kansas State. I did take four other visits (Drake, Colorado, Colorado State and Missouri), but I was always going to be a Wildcat because of the incredible people."
Ohlde was a part of 80 wins in her final three seasons, which included playing in three NCAA Tournaments, with one of those reaching Sweet 16 status. In Big 12 play, she helped lead the Cats to a 39-9 record, which included a conference title in 2004.
"The K-State years were the most fun I've ever had," said Ohlde. "It was a group that sacrificed but saw the benefits of coming together. It truly was a family that had one common goal."
Instead of her single-game highs of 36 points and 19 rebounds against Wyoming, Ohlde's personal K-State high came in her sophomore season when the Wildcats arrived as a player in the Big 12 Conference.
"I'll never forget how fans rushed in and packed the gym. It's hard to describe that scene," said Ohlde. "We had so many fans and they were so loud and supportive."
While many of those fans came from Clay Center, or Marysville to support teammate Kendra Wecker, Ohlde said, "We had fans coming from small-town communities from all over. It made for such a supportive family environment."
From that four-year K-State experience, Ohlde said, "It meant so much to my life. You learned discipline, accountability and how to work together to achieve a common goal. They were lessons learned through basketball that carried over to life."