Spani’s faith in God, coach help her lead

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Because so many athletes start playing their sport around the same time they start walking, junior guard Shalin Spani is a rare commodity.

This is not to say Spani had less exposure to sports. In fact, the opposite is true. Her father, Gary Spani, played football at K-State and for the Kansas City Chiefs, and her mother played volleyball in high school, so sports were a constant presence in the Spani household.

Spani said she played soccer from the time she was eight years old, began playing basketball at 12 and got into AAU basketball when she was 13. The two sports started to overlap, and Spani realized she would have to pick one.

“At that age, you don’t know which one you’re going to be better at,” Spani said. “I just loved it more. I was like this is something that’s fun, something that I wanted to do and something that I saw that I could do in the future.”

Spani said her dad’s football career at K-State was obviously the family connection, but what really brought her here were the coaches and the environment, the close family atmosphere, how her teammates are her closest friends and the competitive program that has been here throughout the years.

“I just prayed about it and felt I needed to be here,” Spani said.

Because she blew out her ACL, MCL and meniscus in her senior year of high school, Spani lost a year and a half of playing basketball before she came to K-State. She had problems with her meniscus her freshman year of college and another injury last season. However, she fought through and said she feels like she is back to the level she was before her injuries.

Spani has a deep motivation for basketball and life.

“My strong foundational Christian faith,” Spani said. “That drives me, and glorifying God in everything I do, whether that’s lifting weights or playing basketball, that’s my foundation, and that’s what drives me each and every day.”

She said obviously her next level of motivation is trying to give everything she has to the program, be an example for kids around the country and the program, and being a positive influence on people, whether she can make people smile or just give them a little encouraging word.

“Just being a positive impact would be my goal,” Spani said.

Spani said more than time in the gym, the weight room or watching game film, the coaching staff has made the biggest impact on her game.

She said associate head coach Kamie Ethridge is the best coach as far as coaching guards. Her background, her success in college, was absolutely amazing, Spani said, and to be around her in the gym every day is an honor and a privilege.

“Coach Patterson, I couldn’t say enough,” Spani said. “I would do anything for her, and she’s just given me so many life lessons, and her intensity and her passion and her intelligence on the court is something that you walk in the gym and you just learn from being in her presence.”

Spani said Patterson is the most amazing woman she has probably ever met. She said Patterson’s Christian values provide an example beyond anything Spani could ever imagine.

“She teaches you something on the court, but it’s something that’s going to transcend,” Spani said. “She’s changed my life in so many areas, and I’m going to take those lessons, whether it’s working hard every day, or being intense about what you want to do, or choosing what you want to be and not letting yourself slack off at all.”

Spani said the elements will transcend the sport are the tiny little lessons players are going to take into their families and into their jobs.

As one of few upperclassmen on a young team, Spani knows this season will not have an easy day in it. She said the team graduated four amazing seniors last year, three of them being the foundation of the program in Danielle Zanotti, Marlies Gipson and Shalee Lehning, so replacing them is almost impossible. However, she said that collectively and individually they’ve stepped up.

Spani said the goals for the season are to “be competitive in the league, surprising some people, giving it our best shot. I think that’s what it’s about, and I think that’s what this team’s ready to do.”

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