Jump back to a week ago when the K-State women’s basketball team hosted the Oklahoma Sooners. Oklahoma entered the game ranked No. 21 in the country in the Associated Press Poll. The Wildcats had not defeated a ranked team yet in the 2015-16 season.
This was a big game for the Wildcats. The players would have to bring everything they had, physically and emotionally, to upend the Sooners.
Fast forward to the 5:52-minute mark in the fourth quarter. Junior forward Jessica Sheble drives down the lane for the Wildcats, drops in a layup and draws a foul on Oklahoma. The layup gave K-State a 68-57 lead over the Sooners with just under six minutes left to play.
Sheble was excited about the play and her emotion was visible, though not nearly as visible as the emotion that junior guard Kindred Wesemann showed.
To say that Wesemann wears her emotions on her sleeve is an understatement. Whenever a big play is made, she visibly displays her excitement. It is a trait that excites a player and gets her competitive juices flowing, but the excitement does not always sit well with the opposing players. That is something that Wesemann said she has had to deal with for the entirety of her basketball career.
“I think I’ve always had it, even through high school and middle school,” Wesemann said. “Middle school was really rough because people didn’t really understand what to do with having a bunch of energy after a certain play. In college it’s a lot more fun to play the game that way. I think that’s the right way to play the game is with energy. I just try to bring that because I think it helps my teammates out too.”
Wesemann said it best herself. It helps out her teammates and will get their excitement levels to rise when a big play is made. It brings confidence to a team and can even influence the team’s play.
The layup that Sheble scored in the Oklahoma game was followed by a free throw. Did Wesemann’s excitement influence the result of the free throw? Possibly. Wesemann’s teammates credit their play improvement to her energy.
“It definitely gets us excited too,” sophomore forward Kaylee Page said. “During big plays and stuff, if someone’s getting hyped, it kind of gets the ball rolling for when that next big play comes and everyone is jumping, yelling and excited too. It just gets everyone excited and into the game.”
Wesemann’s passion is something she brings to every game. The fans notice it, the players notice it and Wesemann herself notices it. What do the coaches think about it, though?
A coach can either love a player’s excitement or not care to see a player broadcasting that to the world. For the Wildcats, it is something that the coaching staff said they must have.
“It’s everything,” K-State assistant coach Jacie Hoyt-Capra said about Wesemann’s passion. “She’s obviously the heart and soul of our team. As she goes, we go. She’s a leader in every way. She does a great job being the floor general that we need — she’s a great messenger for coach Mittie to her teammates.”
Although Wesemann’s visible showing of emotion is something special and unique, it is not unique to her.
Other players play with this emotion as well. Early in the first quarter of the Oklahoma game, K-State was chipping away at the Sooners’ lead. Junior center Breanna Lewis got a layup to fall and was fouled on the shot. Her score brought the Wildcats back to a three-point game, and the energy was back in the Wildcats. Lewis was excited, but if you watched her on the play, it was far from visible.
“I think that everybody has their own level of it,” Wesemann said. “Mine is on the higher end of the spectrum, whereas like you’ll see Breanna Lewis or Megan (Deines) — they’ll keep it under wraps, but they can let it out sometimes. People on our bench like Kelly (Thomson), she’s very energetic. She’s always jumping around. Jessica Sheble is always over there getting excited for all of us. (Antoinette Taylor), she’s more of a quieter one, but she gets pretty pumped whenever good things happen.”
Although this characteristic is something that has meant a lot to Wesemann and her teammates, it is still something that K-State head coach Jeff Mittie said he is looking for improvement on. He wants the emotion and energy to result in a bigger leader and more confident play at the point guard position.
“She’s always played the game with such great passion,” Mittie said. “She’s got such a drive to be one of the best players in the league, but she also understands the responsibility of being a leader and not doing that for her drive to be the best, but for our team to be successful— we need to do that. She’s progressed in that area. Having said that, there’s still room for growth.”
It is easy to play with this confidence and passion when you are doing well, but what happens to that feeling when the game goes south and players do not play as well?
The K-State men’s basketball team has a saying on their 2015-16 team poster about K-State fandom.
“It doesn’t appear with wins, or fade with losses,” part of the poster reads.
This could also be used to describe the energy Wesemann brings for her team.
“One thing that I love about her game is that she’s going to bring that whether she’s playing well or not,” Hoyt-Capra said. “Obviously when she has 26 points (like she did in the Oklahoma game) it’s going to be at a different level, but she’s definitely someone that we rely on to fuel our team and our energy.”
Right now, the Wildcats are playing with the emotion and energy that Wesemann is known for. They have won two games in a row and will look to continue that when they face No. 8 Texas on Wednesday.
The Wildcats will be the underdog in this game. With the way K-State has played this season, it is hard to tell if they will upset the Longhorns or if they’ll fall by 15 points like they did when they faced Texas earlier this year. But there is one thing that is known about that game and the rest of the season: Wesemann will bring the heart, energy and passion that her team will need to make a push to the NCAA Tournament.