SE: K-State WBB Ready to Continue Program's Rise

Kindred Wesemann didn’t sleep much Sunday night. K-State’s senior guard wasn’t anxious for a test or dreading the Monday to come, either. 

No, it was quite the opposite. 

Wesemann, already a high-energy player, was kept up by one thought: basketball season was close. Monday marked the K-State women’s first official practice of the 2016-17 season, starting a string of lasts for seniors like Wesemann.

“I was really pumped (Sunday) night before I went to sleep. I couldn’t sleep very well that night because I was, like, ‘Tomorrow is my last first practice! This is going to be great,’” the 5-foot-7 sharpshooter recalled. “I’m just so excited for this year. I want it to be great.”

Wesemann isn’t alone in her hopes for the season. Breanna Lewis, her much taller senior teammate, brings the same mentality into the season that opens its non-conference slate November 11 against Chicago State in Bramlage Coliseum. 

“It’s exciting because this is the last chance that I have,” said the 6-foot-5 forward who led K-State in scoring (16.7) and rebounding (7.5) in 2015-16. “So I’m just going to give it all I got.”

This mindset didn’t begin Monday, either. It started when the Wildcats saw their season end in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in March. 

“I wanted more as soon as we lost the game, so hopefully we just get one step further,” Wesemann said of making the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 2011-12. “That’s always the goal, to get back there and win a couple more games.”

“You just want to continue on from where you left off and try to be greater than what you were the year before,” Lewis added. “We don’t really like to settle or think, ‘Let’s just try to do the same thing again.’ You want to do that, but also you want to be better than you were last year.”

Head coach Jeff Mittie, in his third year at K-State, has helped build the program back to a place where the NCAA Tournament is the target each and every year. This season, K-State returns nine letter winners, including 75 percent of its point production and assists, and adds in five newcomers that made positive impressions over the offseason. 

“I think they’re progressing nicely,” Mittie said. “All of them have shown the ability to adapt to things pretty quickly.”

The newcomers bring a number of assets to the team, but one in particular has Lewis excited. 

“Length, length, length,” said Lewis, a First Team All-Big 12 selection as a junior. “I feel like they’re going to be a big help to me because we’re going to have extra length, which is always good.”

Eternati Willock (6-foot-4), Peyton Williams (6-foot-3) and Lanie Page (6-foot-3) will undoubtedly add depth in the post for K-State, which returns Kaylee Page (6-foot-3), Jessica Sheble (6-foot-3) and Erica Young (6-foot-1). 

“We like our size,” Mittie said. “We like our ability to move more players around than we could in the past.”

K-State’s length, he continued, must translate to better rebounding numbers if the Wildcats hope to take another step forward this season. He added that it also must become an advantage offensively, especially for guards like Shaelyn Martin (6-foot-1) and Kayla Goth (6-foot). 

With the newcomers, including junior transfer Karyla Middlebrook, who made 70 starts and played nearly 30 minutes a game at Alabama, Mittie said the biggest challenge will be creating on-court chemistry and figuring out a rotation. 

“We do have a lot of new pieces that need to quickly gel,” he said. “That would be one of the questions coming in: what’s our rotation going to look like and how are all of the pieces going to fit?” 

So far, so good, Lewis said. 

“I feel like we have become more cohesive,” she said. “Throughout my years here, this team has been one of the best teams over the summer that I’ve played with.”

K-State improved in more tangible areas as well. Most notably, Wesemann said, was overall strength. 

“Our weights have increased a lot. Everybody is doing quite a bit more weight,” said Wesemann, a Second Team All-Big 12 selection last season. “Our speed and transition game, that’s what we were really trying to work on is getting the ball up and down in transition and not getting into our offense as much.”

With less than a month until their first exhibition against Washburn on November 4, the Wildcats are eager to put their hard work to the test. No test will be more viewed than K-State’s home game against four-time defending national champion Connecticut on December 11 that has already sold out of general admission tickets and overall more than 7,500 tickets have been sold. 

“I’m excited. We played them last year, so to play them here at home, it’s going to be exciting to see our fans,” Lewis said. “To be home, have your fans and everyone cheering for you and being in an atmosphere that you’re used to is going to be a great experience.”

Certain tickets are still available for the game against the Huskies, as are season packages for the 18-game home schedule. Both can be purchased by visiting http://www.kstatesports.com/tickets, calling (800) 221-CATS or by stopping by the K-State Athletics Ticket Office in Bramlage Coliseum.