Women's Basketball to Face Marquee Opponent

He wanted to face big-time opponents. He wanted his team to match up against the best and to learn from it. He wanted to bring these teams to Bramlage Coliseum to help grow the exciting atmosphere of K-State women's basketball.
"One of my goals when I took the job a year ago was to get us competitive right away, and I thought our group this year did that last season," said Mittie in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. "But secondly, I wanted to improve our non-conference schedule and to bring marquee opponents into that schedule. That's important not only for our progress as a program, but also, as you look across the country, those kind of matchups get a lot of attention."
He wasted no time working toward his goal. When it comes to finding a marquee opponent to face the Cats in the upcoming seasons, Mittie hit the jackpot. 
On Tuesday afternoon, the Wildcat coach announced a home-and-home series against the 2015 NCAA National Champions, Connecticut. K-State will face the Huskies in Storrs, Connecticut, on Monday, Nov. 23, 2015, and will host Connecticut at a date to be determined during the 2016-17 season.
"It's a great opportunity to get us ready for Big 12 play and to just kind of throw our freshmen into an experience that is similar to the Big 12 with the same caliber of players," said K-State sophomore forward Jessica Sheble. "It will get us ready to take on the Big 12 season."
Along with the "marquee opponent" aspect of playing UConn, the game has many more advantages for this year's up-and-coming Wildcat squad. Like Sheble said, it will help prepare the team for a tough Big 12 slate the next two years, and it will give the team an added incentive to work harder during the off season. 
"If you know you have an early opponent like that, not that you're not preparing anyways, but it kind of gives you an extra edge over the summer," said Mittie. "That extra edge in April and in May for our entire group."
Added sophomore forward Erica Young, "This year, this spring and this summer, things are going to be a lot tougher. Just the fact that we now have UConn on our schedule; if we come in and only do things half way, we're going to go out there and look like fools."
No easy task ahead, the Huskies enter the 2015-16 season with three consecutive NCAA titles under their belt. The school has won five National Championships in the past decade under the leadership of head coach Geno Auriemma and will be paced by 2015 Consensus National Player of the Year and three-time NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Performer Breanna Stewart in addition to 2015 Nancy Lieberman Award winner Moriah Jefferson. 
"They have been the dominant program the last decade," said Mittie. "They have been extremely impressive. I don't know when you start to scout them, but I can tell you this: our group is going to work extremely hard to play at that level. What I'm interested in is the work going in, day to day, to prepare for it. We all know the challenge. UConn is a challenge for everybody."
While the team will head to the East Coast to face the Huskies this year, next year, during the 2016-17 season, UConn will take a trip to the Little Apple.
A unique event for Bramlage Coliseum, Mittie also announced that the home game against UConn during the 2016-17 season will be the setting of the third annual Team Hally game. 
Hally Yust passed away at the age of nine during the summer of 2014. She grew up with the dream of playing basketball for Kansas State. In her memory, the family set up the Hally Yust Memorial Fund through the K-State Foundation. The fund has already raised nearly $75,000 in its first year in support of women's basketball.
Hally's father, Shon Yust, was in attendance at Tuesday's press conference.
"This is something that my wife and I feel very blessed to be a part of," said Yust. "Seeing what's happened with the program over the past year, this (UConn matchup) is one more step in seeing that this is going to be a success. It's been exciting to be a part of this (K-State) family."
While it means a lot to the Yust family, the annual Team Hally game also means a lot and is close to the hearts of the entire women's basketball program. 
"I just respect this family so much," said Young. "The story really touched me. I feel like we're doing something good for someone who really wanted to play here. It's a reminder that we shouldn't take anything for granted. Hally wanted to play for K-State. So, now we're playing for her."
"I'm actually from right down the road from where their family lives," said Sheble, an Olathe, Kansas, native. "So, being from the same community as them, when I first heard about this, it really hit close to home. Working with them, it's been exciting. The family loves K-State basketball, so it's great to have that support system and be able to go out and support Hally and her family every game. She is always close to our minds."
To learn more about the Hally Yust Memorial Fund or to make a donation, please contact the K-State Foundation by calling (800) 432-1578 or by sending an e-mail to foundation@found.ksu.edu.
To read the full press release on the Wildcats' upcoming matchups with UConn, please click here.  

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