Jan. 9, 2013
This story appeared in Wednesday's edition of K-State Sports Extra
By Mark Janssen
Chantay Caron’s message to Kansas State basketball fans is this: “I will work my hardest every time I get on the court.”
Last Saturday, Caron worked her hardest for the entire 40 minutes against TCU … and the end result was good.
With the game on the line, the 5-foot-11 junior wasn’t the first option as that will always be Brittany Chambers. And honestly, she wasn’t the second go-to Wildcat.
But when the designed play blew up, Caron was in her right place at the right time with the reward being to kiss the ball off the glass for the winning points with 2.7 seconds remaining in a 59-58 victory over TCU.
“I was so excited, but I didn’t know how much time was left on the clock,” said Caron, who had nine points, seven rebounds and an assist against TCU. “I just thought about playing defense one more time.”
To coach Deb Patterson, it was an example of Caron, and her teammates, “… sticking in there, grinding it out and competing until the last second.”
Tonight at 7 in Lubbock, Texas, another 40-minute game awaits Caron as the Wildcats (10-4, 1-1) take on the Texas Tech Lady Raiders (11-3, 1-1).
Much has been made of Kansas State’s guard play determining whether there will be smiles or frowns at the end of the game.
But that also brings up the importance of Caron, who is trying to fill in the void in the paint lost by the departure of 6-2 forwards Jalana Childs and Branshea Brown after their senior years in 2011-12.
A 2.9-point per game scorer and 1.8 rebounder in each of her first two K-State years, this year Caron is contributing 6.0 points and 3.6 rebounds per game as one of the Wildcats’ so-called ‘bigs.’
In Caron’s words, “I was just trying to learn from them (Childs and Brown) those first two years. I wasn’t even thinking about being a scorer. Now that needs to change.
“With all the attention given to our guards it has opened things up for me inside more,” said Caron. “My role is to do the little things. I need to be the workhorse, play defense, set screens, and then look for the easy baskets like in the last game. Anything I can do to help out is why I’m here.”
To that, Patterson said, “Chantay has really stepped up her game and now mentally wants to be a contributor. She wants to help this basketball team, and she wants to get better. She’s just grown up as a competitor.”
In the past, the Wildcat coach said that Caron could become her own worst enemy with a frustration that would enter her game.
Now, Patterson said, “She values each second of the game and isn’t letting negative things get into her mind. She’s taken pride in becoming a more focused competitor.”
In the two Big 12 games, Caron netted 11 points against arch-rival Kansas, and then added nine against TCU on a combined 8-of-16 shooting. In addition, she snared 13 rebounds with six steals, three assists and a blocked shot for her best back-to-back games in her 76-game K-State career.
Caron started 11 games as a freshman in 2010-11, didn’t start a game last year, and has started 10 of 14 games this year.
Depending on whether Patterson wants to go with five guards, or with as much size as possible and starts Caron, she says, “To me it makes no difference if I start. I would rather be on the floor at the end when the game is on the line.
“I love close games and I’m less nervous being on the court playing than on the bench watching,” said Caron, a product of Free State High School in Lawrence, Kan., where she won state honors in volleyball, plus was a state caliber sprinter. “I know I’ll get my minutes and I just want to provide whatever the team needs.”
What this team needs is a pounder inside.
“I think I can play physical,” said Caron. “I’m not the biggest, but I’ve gone against Jalana and Brandi the last two years, so I’m used to going against size. I love trying to be physical.”
Her next opportunity will come tonight against the Lady Raiders when everything points to another down to the final buzzer game.
The series between the teams is knotted at 11-11. Last year each team won a one-point game against one another; and K-State is 5-5 in all-time games played in Lubbock. The Wildcats, however, have won eight of its last 11 meetings with the Lady Raiders.
K-State returns home on Saturday for a “Pack the House” game against West Virginia in a 3 p.m., start in Bramlage Coliseum. Tickets and select concession stand items are just $1.
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