February 15, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
When you ask K-State women's basketball head coach Deb Patterson about her 2004 Big 12 Championship winning team, her face still lights up thinking back to that special era in the program's history.
A team highlighted by Kansas natives Kendra Wecker (Marysville), Nicole Ohlde (Clay Center) and Laurie Koehn (Moundridge), it was a team full of personality and talent, and a team that had the entire state behind it.
Though a decade has passed since that K-State dream team, there's no doubt that it's a team Patterson thinks about often.
"I think about it all the time," she said. "There will never be anything like that again, and I don't mean that negatively, I mean it with the utmost respect and fondness. It was a special point in time in Kansas State women's basketball history. It was so unique in that you had these players who were all basically from Kansas or very, very close, and their fans, their communities, basically followed them to Kansas State and every game their towns literally shut down, came on the road and came to the women's basketball games."
This afternoon, the 2004 Big 12 Championship team will be reunited and recognized on the court at the K-State women's basketball game against Texas Tech. The game is set to tip off at 2 p.m., with the 2004 team making a special appearance at half time.
"My whole college experience, it was the best years of my life," Ohlde said. "If I could go back, physically and do them again I would. I made lasting friendships, people that I still talk to today and call my best friends. I just think of the relationships that we built, how hard we worked on the court and all the effort that we put forth on the court. To see a Big 12 championship come, to win big games and to be able to go to the NCAA tournament, when you look back and you see those things it's just great memories."
Among the team's returners for the event are: Claire Coggins, Chelsea Domenico, Amy Dutmer, Brie Madden, Jessica McFarland, Kimmery Newsom, Nicole Ohlde, Naytanda Smith and Kendra Wecker. Laurie Koehn and Megan Mahoney are both still playing professional basketball, in Australia and Italy, respectively, and are unable to attend today's event.
In 2004, 6-foot-4 Ohlde was named a consensus All-American for the second straight season, earned Big 12 Player of the Year honors and at the conclusion of the season, saw her No. 3 jersey raised to the rafters of Bramlage Coliseum. After her career at K-State, she played six years in the WNBA with the Minnesota Lynx (2004-08), the Phoenix Mercury (2009-10) and the Tulsa Shock (2010) before finishing her career in Europe.
"She was a phenomenal player as it related to her fundamental footwork," Patterson explained about Ohlde. "She had great speed up the floor. She was a deer. She had great hands and great finishing ability. It was interesting because she was versatile, she was a very fluid athlete, and you wouldn't see that in a lot of post players."
Wecker was also an All-American in 2004 earning third team honors from the AP and was a three-time All-Big 12 First Team selection. Her senior season (2005) she earned Big 12 Player of the Year before being drafted fourth overall to the WNBA's San Antonio Silver Stars.
"She was unbelievably explosive," explained Patterson. "She was physically very compact and in a 3-step range, she could bring great quickness, great elevation and a real quick finish on a jump shot. She was an explosive rebounder with big, strong, physical strength. She really was a phenom in respect to her athleticism."
Wecker and Ohlde are K-State's top career scorers. Wecker's career 2,333 points are the best in Wildcat history followed by Ohlde with 2,241 career points. The duo holds the record for consecutive double-doubles (tied at 5 games each) while Wecker's 52 career double-doubles are a K-State best followed by Ohlde's 39. The two also top the charts in career field goals made with Wecker's 935 and Ohlde's 882.
When it comes to three-pointers, though, teammate Laurie Koehn led the way. Her 392 career three-pointers are not only a K-State record, but remain the NCAA Division I record as well.
"We've had NBA and WNBA coaches say that they think she's the best shooter in the world, and they just really mean that," Patterson said about Koehn. "She is unbelievable, quick release, and she has held that NCAA three point record. It's over 10 years ago now and she missed more than 15 games in her career due to injury. How in the world with the modern game as it's been and the great, great talents, can Laurie Koehn still hold that record, that great, great record, knowing she was out at least 15 games of her career? It's a tremendous statement to how great she is."
Players like Ohlde, Wecker and Koehn helped pave the way for growth of women's basketball in the state of Kansas. It was an era when Bramlage Coliseum would average more than 9,000 fans to watch the women's team play, and girls statewide wanted to grow up and be basketball players just like their heroes on the K-State court.
"It captivated the spirit, it elevated the level of exposure across this state for youth, high school, elementary and middle school basketball for that five or six year period," Patterson explained. "It went from really no profile to actually having one and I think we've seen the ripple effects in just the growth all across the state. A great deal of that came on the wings of that particular team."
Today will be a special day for the entire program with the return of a few of its all-time greatest.
"I'm so excited to see everybody," Ohlde said. "I haven't seen some of those girls since I gradated in '04, so I think it will be really fun to see everyone and just kind of reminisce, hang out and have a good time."
And for Patterson, having her 2004 team reunited will bring back all those fond memories again.
"The achievements, the rides, the sellouts, there will never be firsts like that again," she said. "People were fired up, and it was just a very special time."
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 Kelly McHugh, Mark Janssen or K-State Assistant AD for Communications Kenny Lannou.