COLUMN: Patterson has built up team with hardworking recruits

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Many thought the success of K-State women’s basketball would have ended four years ago.

Kendra Wecker was gone, as was the NCAA’s all-time 3-point makes leader Laurie Koehn, who made 392 treys during her career. Nicole Ohlde graduated a year earlier than both Wecker and Koehn. Megan Mahoney, the native from North Dakota, also saw her career end after the 2004-05 season.

From 2001-05, that group helped to compile a 104-27 win-loss record. They put women’s basketball back on the map at K-State. But when they departed, many wondered if Deb Patterson would be able to replicate the success.

But Patterson was able to. And while many may criticize her inability to get out of the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where the Wildcats have lost five consecutive times, the fact remains that she has been there seven times during her 13-year tenure.

She has won six straight first-round matchups in the tournament. The Wildcats have advanced to the postseason eight straight years, while compiling an average record of 24-8 during that time.

She has a career record of 265-146, which equates to a .645 winning percentage, making her the all-time winningest women’s basketball coach and also the longest tenured coach in K-State women’s basketball history.

Patterson has made a place that local talent wants to come to.

Over the last four years, she has compiled a 90-42 record. Sure, it’s not quite the level of success she experienced from 2001-05, but the Big 12 Conference has also gotten significantly tougher at the same time, especially considering the conference ranked No. 1 in the nation this past season in both the ratings percentage index and in strength of schedule.

After the 74-61 loss to Vanderbilt, I’ve heard many people talking about her struggles in the 64-team field. But at least she’s getting there, correct? Isn’t that something fans begged of former men’s basketball coaches Tom Asbury and Jim Wooldridge for years?

I have a feeling K-State fans would have loved to have the men’s team advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament six times in the past 13 years. Heck, the fans were enthralled with getting a taste of March Madness last year. I don’t blame them, but it should go both ways.

Patterson recruits students with good character. And perhaps Shalee Lehnning said it best after her career-ending loss Monday.

“This has been the best four years of my life, an amazing run,” she said. “I have to give credit to our coaches who believed in every one of us and actually probably took us further than we ever should have been.”

Patterson may not always recruit the best athletes, but the ones she does recruit understand the game’s intricate parts, and the most important values in life, and that’s what many would say is important.

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