November 6, 2013
By Kelly McHugh
Going into this season, K-State women's basketball head coach Deb Patterson didn't exactly know what to expect from her young squad.
With five new freshmen and five players back in the mix after suffering season-ending injuries last year, K-State returns to Bramlage Coliseum for this 2013-14 season as almost an entirely new team.
"We're excited. It's basketball time here at Kansas State. It's really been wonderful for my staff and me to walk into a gym and see at least 12 healthy bodies every day. It feels great," Patterson said. "We have a lot of size added to our roster, a lot of youth, and we're really looking forward to this season."
Tipping off the season with back-to-back exhibition wins over Washburn (85-64) and Alaska-Anchorage (73-65), K-State will take the court for its 2013-14 regular-season opener against Tennessee State on Friday evening at 5:45 p.m., in Bramlage Coliseum followed by another home competition on Sunday afternoon against Charlotte at 12:30 p.m.
"This is different doing the Friday and Sunday (games), but I do think it's good prep for down the road in Big 12 play when sometimes you get hit with that Saturday and Tuesday or that Sunday and Tuesday game," Patterson said about the upcoming schedule.
Though young, K-State played with both poise and passion in both of its exhibition games, and despite a shaky start against Alaska-Anchorage that left the Wildcats trailing at the half, the team had the opportunity to show what it was made of and earned a comeback win.
"I think we showed great resiliency and fight in the second exhibition game," Patterson said. "We were flat, we got down by 16. We were playing really uncertain, trying to be a little bit perfect at times, and I think this was really good in that we had to fight from a big deficit. We're just very, very young and still learning so much trip by trip let alone half by half or game by game."
In the team's 73-65 win over Alaska-Anchorage, it was senior Katya Leick who stepped into the spotlight. Leick finished the competition with a game-high 24 points and 12 rebounds, including 12 straight points in the second half to put the Wildcats back in the game.
Though this season will be Leick's first season playing on the court with K-State, the transfer from Nebraska is no stranger to the Wildcat women's basketball program.
After redshirting her first season at K-State (2011-12) due to NCAA transfer rules, Leick faced an unfortunate turn of events the month before the 2012-13 season began. In September 2012 during a shoot-around with teammates, Leick went up for a shot and came down on her left knee wrong. The result was an ACL tear and another season on the bench.
"It was nice to get back out there and kind of get back in my groove. The whole feel of the energy, I just love the energy that our fans bring us, it was really great," Leick said. "As a team, we're just going to have to come together with defense, rebounding and scoring and just kind of get our chemistry going."
Highlighting the Wildcats' first exhibition against Washburn was freshman guard Leti Romero who scored a game-high 25 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in her debut performance in Bramlage Coliseum. The Las Palmas, Spain, native was 7-of-10 from the field and threw 10-of-11 from the free-throw line.
"I had no idea how it was going to be," Romero said about not only her first collegiate game, but also her first game on U.S. soil. "It's really different but I really like it. I was nervous, but I think we did a great job and I'm really happy."
Sixty-six of K-State's total 85 points against Washburn were scored by players who had never before recorded minutes on the floor, and joining Romero scoring in the double-digits were junior Haley Texada (15), redshirt freshman Kelly Thomson (14) and freshman Erica Young (10).
After having the opportunity to show off its young and new talent during its exhibition games, on Friday evening the Wildcats will open the 2013-14 campaign with depth on the roster and players on the bench - two things that were unheard of last year.
The 2012-13 season ended with the Wildcats making it to the semifinal round of the WNIT. It was an exciting ending to a difficult season, and an unexpected achievement for a team with only seven healthy players, none of which were over six-feet tall.
"It is kind of nice, getting breaks this year," Texada laughed. "We're not used to that compared to last year. Now I know that when one teammate or myself comes off of the bench, we will sub in for one another. Everybody is confident in one another."
K-State's 10-game preconference schedule is made up of five home games and five games on the road, a schedule that Patterson said is necessary as her young team prepares to compete in the nation's top women's basketball conference.
"I like for our team to have the challenge of getting toughened up on the road because we're in such an enormously tough league," Patterson said. "On the women's side, you have to understand it's the No. 1 league in basketball. So you've got to learn toughness, both mentally and physically, and you've got to learn how to travel."
SPORTS EXTRA, EXTRA:
Entering this new season, the Wildcats have quite a few new faces on the court along with a few players fans haven't seen in a while due to injuries early last year. Here is the 2013-14 women's basketball roster broken down into returners, players coming off of injury and incoming freshmen:
Chantay Caron, 5-foot-11 senior guard/forward
Haley Texada, 5-foot-7 junior guard
Heidi Brown, 5-foot-11 junior guard
Bri Craig, 5-foot-10 sophomore guard
COMING OFF 2012-13 SEASON-ENDING INJURY (5)
Katya Lecik, 6-foot-1 senior forward
Ashlynn Knoll, 5-foot-11 senior forward, played in 17 games before injury
Ashia Woods, 5-foot-11 junior guard, played in 18 games before injury
Kelly Thomson, 5-foot-10 redshirt freshman guard, did not play
Stacey Malone, 6-foot-1 redshirt freshman forward, played in nine games before injury
Bre Lewis, 6-foot-5 forward from Milwaukee, Wis.
Erica Young, 6-foot-3 forward from Tampa Fla.
Jessica Sheble, 6-foot-3 forward from Olathe, Kan.
Kindred Wesemann, 5-foot-8 guard from Pleasant Hill, Mo.
Leti Romero, 5-foot-8 guard from Las Palmas, Spain