Back in the Game, Mertz Ready for Season Ahead

Only weeks after committing to K-State during her sophomore year of high school, Mertz tore her left ACL. It was a long year of recovery, but once back on the court for her junior season, she wound up tearing her right ACL and spending yet another year in recovery. Unable to play for two consecutive years, Mertz was forced to the sidelines. 
Those were tough times. However, in the end, she said it only made her love for the game grow stronger. Now fully recovered and ready to compete, Mertz is enjoying her time back on the court with K-State women's basketball.
"I feel like I'm a lot stronger right now because of all of it," said Mertz. "I'm looking forward to really coming into my own. Obviously, since I was out for two years, just being back at the game is my favorite part of every day."
It doesn't matter what it is - being on the court in practice, being with her team, lifting weights - Mertz is happy to be back in the game. 
Though her playing time was limited her senior season at Blue Valley Northwest High School because of her injuries, Mertz led her team in both rebounds (86) and blocks (12). The Overland Park, Kansas, native was named honorable mention All-Eastern Kansas League in both 2014 and 2011, and helped the Huskies to a 2011 substate title. 
"I'm a smaller forward, so I'm basically a post that really attacks the rim," explained Mertz on her playing style. "I'll get to the basket a lot. My main goal is rebounds - if I can get every rebound, I'll be satisfied. I work on the inside and I can face up a little bit, but I mostly attack the basket."
While she's making the transition to fully get back in the game, Mertz is also making the transition from high school to college life. An art major minoring in leadership studies, Mertz said her transition so far has been going smoothly thanks to a few familiar faces on the K-State women's basketball team.
Mertz and sophomore Kindred Wesemann (from Pleasant Hill, Missouri) played together for the Missouri Valley Eclipse AAU basketball team along with redshirt sophomore Kelly Thomson from Riley, Kansas.  
"I grew up playing basketball with Kindred for the Eclipse," began Mertz. "She was always that player I looked up to because she was older. I had the opportunity to play up a little bit, so we played together a lot. Then I knew Jess through high school basketball because I played against her and you can't miss her. She's quite tall."
Six-foot-two sophomore forward Jessica Sheble attended Olathe North High School, and is one of a handful of teammates Mertz said has helped her along with her transition.
Plus, making the transition even smoother, Mertz said she has enjoyed playing for head coach Jeff Mittie. 
Though fans haven't seen Mittie on the court yet as he's heading into his first season coaching the Wildcats, Mertz said they can expect great things from the new coach.
"He's a straight-forward guy," she began. "You know what you're going to get. He's very run and gun. With our offense, he gives us a lot of freedom and that's great for us players to just be players. The set we work out of is really suited to individuals playing as a team, so everyone can give their best but it also works kind of as a machine together."
Excited to be back in the game and ready to start a new chapter in her basketball story, Mertz's goals for her time at K-State are simple, yet powerful.
"By graduation I hope I've given everything I can," she concluded.  "I don't want to have any regrets. I want to know that I've worked harder than anyone that I competed against."

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