October 21, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
Katya Leick might just be more excited for basketball season than anyone you meet.
When you sit down and talk to the K-State women's basketball senior forward, it doesn't take long to realize that she she loves her coaches, she loves her team and she really loves K-State.
A transfer from Nebraska, Leick said is right where she wants to be, and after two years of sitting on the sidelines, she is more than ready to get on the court and show the K-State fans she has grown to love exactly what she is made of.
"Having to sit out for two years really makes you realize how much you love the game," Leick said. "I think it really tests you on whether or not you really love it as much as you think you do. And now, all I want to do is play."
Her first year at K-State, the 2011-12 season, Leick was forced to sit on the sidelines under NCAA transfer rules.
Prior to her transfer year, she played two seasons (2009-10, 2010-11) at the University of Nebraska, totaling 40 career games, including nine starts, and tallying 172 career points (154 her sophomore season) and 150 career rebounds with the Cornhuskers. Though Leick was finding success on the court early in her career at Nebraska, she knew it wasn't the place for her.
That's when she began looking into the program at K-State.
"I was really searching to grow as a person, and they really offered that here," Leick explained. "I clicked with the girls right away - they're silly, they're goofy, they like to have fun, but they work hard and they're competitive and that's hard to find without having some conflicts."
While she spent that first season with K-State getting used to the program, working and training to prepare herself for getting back on the court, her fate the following year, an ACL tear to her left knee just one month before the 2012-13 season tipped off, was a turn of events that no one could have prepared for.
"I was so excited to play. I was so pumped. It was a week away from official practices, a month away from our first game, and I was just so focused on the season, so to have an injury, it was devastation for me," Leick said. "I went through a period where I was really sad, then I realized there's a bigger picture and God has a plan for everything. I think that it helped me grow as a person and realize that adversity is going to come at all different times and helped me realize our character is judged at how we deal with that adversity."
Despite the injury, Leick never gave up.
She spent the following months after surgery regaining strength in her knee and supporting her teammates in any way possible.
While head coach Deb Patterson said many athletes would have thrown in the towel after back-to-back years on the bench, Leick made the best of a bad situation.
"Not only would they have given up, I know so few players that would have made the transition emotionally from a transfer, have that injury occur and then, during the course of that injury, she dropped about 20 pounds," Patterson said. "She worked to drop weight because she needed to and comes into this program fit and ready to have a great last round her senior season."
It takes a certain passion for the game to rebound back from the hand she was dealt, but along with that passion Leick credits her return to her K-State family for their constant support.
"I love basketball, it's always been my love and my passion and I think that's the main thing," Leick explained. "But I also think it has to do with who you have around you, and I think if this were to have happened at my other school I wouldn't have had as much as a drive just because they didn't have what I have here.
"The coaches here: fabulous. The players here: fabulous. The fans here: fabulous. I love this place more than anyone could imagine, and, for me, I just want to do well for everyone, I want our team to do well, I want to win, I want to play. My love for everything, it's how I maintained it all I guess."
So now, back in action, Patterson said she is enjoying watching Leick grow on the court and is excited to see what she will bring to the team this season.
"It's amazing to me when I think about Katya's situation," Patterson said. "She basically hasn't played for the better part of two years, but she's bringing great energy and great leadership. She wants the ball and she will do anything to help us succeed or to help us do better. She's never been on the floor with us, but she is competing like a leader now. She's learning every single thing about how we like to play, and she's fierce, she is aggressive and she's got really good instincts."
No stranger to Bramlage Coliseum, Leick is now ready to step on the court, debut a purple and white jersey and play with her K-State teammates for the very first time.
"Sometimes when you go through transfer or change in your life you wonder, 'Was this the right thing to do?'" Leick said, "but I wouldn't trade a single thing here for anything. I absolutely love this place."
K-State women's basketball will open its 2013-14 season with an exhibition game against Washburn in Bramlage Coliseum at 7 p.m., on Monday, October 28.