Women’s basketball: Rising stars and incoming talent for 2023

Ayoka Lee claps on the bench during K-State's Super 16 victory over Wyoming. Lee missed the season due to a knee injury and looks to return for the 2023-24 season. (Reece Bachta | The Collegian)

Editor’s note: In the print edition, Serena Sundell and Gisela Sanchez’s first names were misspelled. Their names have been corrected in the online edition. We apologize to the players for the misspellings and for any confusion this may have caused.

Kansas State women’s basketball showed major improvement and potential despite not quite having the season the team was looking for.  

Even though they did not make the NCAA tournament and finished second-to-last in the Big 12, they played exceptionally well at home, winning a close game against star Caitlin Clark of No. 3 Iowa and defeated No. 17 Iowa State.

Head coach Jeff Mittie assembled a competitive roster despite the absence of star center Ayoka Lee. Additionally, he provided valuable experience to young players during the season, including sophomore guards Jaelyn Glenn, who finished the season leading the Big 12 in steals, and Brylee Glenn, who provided 8.3 points per game. 

Sophomore point guard Serena Sundell had a productive year, averaging 13.9 points, 4.8 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game while shooting nearly 48% from the field. Although Sundell shined during the season, she had a rough year from the 3-point line, only shooting 27%. 

“I struggled with my 3-point shot all year and it kind of became a mental game with myself,” Sundell said. “So I think just getting back to shooting with confidence and knowing that I am a good shooter will help.” 

Even with her struggles from outside, Mittie said Sundell excelled around the rim.

“She really finished around the rim better than any guard, maybe in the league,” Mittie said. “She finished around the rim at a clip that we haven’t seen guards finish at before so I thought that was a huge improvement for her.” 

Along with the development of these young players, the team will add Lee and forward Gisela Sanchez to the lineup next season.

Sanchez is a transfer from Arizona who averaged 2.9 points and 1.4 rebounds per game. She has not yet seen the floor for the Wildcats but has recovered from her injury and is cleared to play, Mittie said.

Before her injury, Lee finished the season with a double-double average of 22.0 points and 10.3 rebounds per game over 33 appearances. There is no set-in-stone date for when Lee will be cleared yet, Mittie said, but there is team optimism. 

“We knew that this type of surgery was going to be a longer, extended recovery time,” Mittie said. “So I’m hoping we get to mid-summer and we’re kinda into the non-contact stuff on the court with her.”

With Lee back in the lineup, many are intrigued to see how well she and All-Big 12 first-team member guard Gabby Gregory will mesh together. 

“It’s one of those things that you are excited for but it’s hard to imagine till it’s happening,” Gregory said. “I’m really excited for my first practice with Yoki [Ayoka].” 

This season did not go as planned for K-State, and a lot of that had to do with injuries. The team is not quite back to full health, but when they get back to full strength, the Wildcats will be a team to keep an eye on next season.