After two exhibition games that saw the Wildcats pick up wins against Washburn and Alaska-Anchorage, the K-State women’s basketball team is finally ready to officially open up its season. Tonight, the Wildcats will take on the Tennessee State Tigers at 5:45 p.m. in Bramlage Coliseum, and have decided to offer free bacon to any student attendees.
That’s right, bacon. So far, the marketing ploy has hit a home run, and the K-State Athletic Department announced Wednesday that they were forced to triple their bacon order due to a spike in publicity.
Through two exhibition games, it is evident this will be a totally revamped team from a year ago. With five freshman and three players returning from injury, the Wildcats will have new faces at nearly every position. Perhaps even more encouraging will be the added height, which seemed to limit the Wildcats at times last season. K-State now boasts a roster with four players over 6 feet tall.
Returning from last season’s “Magnificent Seven” squad are seniors Chantay Caron and Ashlynn Knoll, juniors Haley Texada, Heidi Brown, and sophomore Bri Craig. Junior Ashia Woods looks to recover from an Achilles injury suffered last season, but so far no timetable for her return has been released. Texada and Craig both logged lots of minutes for the Wildcats last season, and both benefited immensely from being thrust into a starting roll. Combined, the two guards averaged over 20 points per game and seven rebounds. With the loss of big time scoring threat Brittany Chambers to graduation, it will likely be Texada and Craig that pick up the slack at the wing position.
Through two exhibition games, the play of freshman point guard Leticia Romero and senior forward Katya Leick have been the most impressive. Romero hails from Spain and brings a European style of basketball to the Wildcats that is smooth, effective and fun to watch. Through two games, albeit exhibitions, Romero is averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds, and has directed the K-State offense with remarkable precision. Leick has been a welcoming presence inside through her first two games with the Wildcats.
As a transfer, she was forced to sit out a year, then suffered an ACL tear that cost her another full season. After all the hardships Leick has faced to finally get on the court, you can tell in her demeanor and attitude that she is eager to contribute immediately. In the second exhibition against Alaska-Anchorage Leick posted a double-double with 24 points and 12 rebounds. She will likely play the forward position, and does a great job spacing the floor and forcing opposing bigs to guard all the way to the perimeter.
A very familiar coaching staff leads the Wildcats again this season. Head coach Deb Patterson enters her 18th season at the helm for K-State, and has posted a winning percentage of over 62 percent in her tenure. Associate head coach Kamie Ethridge, who also enters her 18th season, assistant coach Kelly Moylan, who is in her eighth season, and Shalee Lehning, who is in her fifth season, join Patterson.
The Wildcats have won 19 of their last 21 season openers at Bramlage Coliseum. Since Patterson took over the K-State program in 1994, the Wildcats have gone 15-2, good for a winning percentage of nearly 89 percent.
With the added height and depth, the Wildcats will likely adjust their schemes on offense to get added looks in the paint. When asked at K-State Basketball Media Day, Patterson hinted that we would still see some movement similar to last year’s. The infusion of height comes entirely from freshmen and players that haven’t seen action in quite some time, so the idea might be to slowly work those players into the groove and hit top speed as the Wildcats move into conference play.
Last year’s squad relied heavily on the 3-pointer, setting school and Big 12 records for 3-pointers made. They shot with an average of over 30 percent, which is impressive considering the volume of shots they attempted. Look for this year’s team to attack the basket a little more, but still utilize the 3-point shot when defenses collapse the paint. Having that as a suitable weapon will work wonders when matching up against the various teams in the conference.