From red to purple: Zyanna Walker and Imani Lester find culture fit at K-State

A Kansas State women's basketball drill ends in a flex from guard Zyanna Walker. Walker transferred to K-State after playing in five games at Louisville in the 2022-23 season during her freshman year. (Photo courtesy of K-State Athletics)

The differences between the Louisville and Kansas State women’s basketball programs are astounding for Cardinal-turned-Wildcat guard Zyanna Walker. 

“Kinda like north and south really,” Walker said. “I mean, K-State kinda brings — coaching staff wise — a chiller, more positive vibes, good energy, and at my last school [Louisville], it was really uptight, kind of an organizational feel, business feel, instead of a family-type atmosphere that they have here.” 

Forward Imani Lester joined the Wildcats in early May, a few weeks after Walker committed to K-State. Lester was also a member of Louisville basketball and notices the difference in the culture, specifically around the treatment of freshmen on the team.

“As a freshman you’re just thrown into everything, and they [Louisville] just want you to adjust quickly and figure everything out,” Lester said. “K-State has been more of a slow transition. … They kind of progress you and keep you going.”

Kansas State forward Imani Lester goes through a lay up line in practice for Kansas State women’s basketball. Lester transferred to K-State from Louisville after redshirting in her freshman season. (Photo courtesy of K-State Athletics)

These reasons led Walker to swiftly transition from Louisville to K-State.

“I didn’t really trust my coaching staff,” Walker said. “I didn’t feel like they looked at me as an equal on the team. I felt like I was just the player that they just kinda picked on and didn’t really care about like that.”

Lester gained a quick rapport with the coaches at K-State, helping her decision to come to Manhattan. Facing other adversities also affected her decision. 

“I had a medical condition that made me redshirt my first year, and just a lot of stuff that was going on with that,” Lester said about joining K-State. “Just sitting down and really looking at my future, I just knew that it would be a better option for me to transfer.” 

The move between schools was smooth because Walker and Lester went through the process together. 

“I had somebody who’s in my same position, and I didn’t really feel like I was just the one new person on the team, because I’m coming in with another transfer,” Walker said. “So everything we experienced we got to do together, and you know, that makes it easier.” 

Now that Walker and Lester are on the team, they can focus on their roles during the upcoming season. Lester anticipates helping the team in a position of need.

“I add size to the team that they didn’t have a lot last year,” Lester said. “So just kind of taking that pressure off the guards to rebound and to finish around the rim, just being an extra body.” 

Walker, former Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year, identifies her role by her ability to score everywhere on the court and create her own shots. 

“I’m good at all three levels on the court, and I feel like I can just add on the offensive and defensive end,” Walker said. “Just contribute [by] being another guard out there that can do their thing and can put the ball in the basket.” 

The transfer duo have big goals for the season as it gets closer. Walker has some personal milestones she hopes to achieve after dealing with her own injury adversity.

“Just no major injuries,” Walker said, who has suffered a torn ACL and meniscus. “I want to be able to complete a whole season of basketball because in my past I’ve had some injuries that have kind of put me out.” 

Lester has her eyes on the NCAA tournament as her and Walker’s arrival with the returning players can uplift the Wildcats.

“I think that should be the goal for everybody on the team, and just doing really well throughout the season,” Lester said. “Bringing up [the number of] wins, and kind of bring the program back to where it was a few years ago.”