After a year delay, the Lee-Gregory duo nears emergence

Fifth-year stars Gabby Gregory and Ayoka Lee have not yet played together at K-State. Now, the two will play together as a guard and center duo in the 2023-24 season. (Left photo by Kylie Hoff, right photo by Logan Wassall | Collegian Media Group)

On April 6, 2022, Oklahoma transfer Gabby Gregory announced her decision via Twitter to transfer to Kansas State women’s basketball. Just over four months later, star center Ayoka Lee was declared to miss the entire 2022-23 season because of a knee injury. Now, they will finally share the court.

“Not being able to play with her [Gregory] last year sucked,” Lee said. “But the other day in practice I was like, ‘Dude, I feel like I’ve played with you’ but like we haven’t played together.”

(Avery Johnson | Collegian Media Group)

After the 2022-23 season, some speculated if Gregory, after playing three years at Oklahoma and one at K-State, would even return. Gregory’s decision was simple.

(Avery Johnson | Collegian Media Group)

“I think it was a pretty easy decision at the end of the day,” Gregory said. “Obviously coming here out of the portal, a big reason that I wanted to come to K-State was to play with Yoki [Lee]. I played against her enough and I wanted to play with her, and so for her to go down and not be able to play was tough.”

Gregory already saw Lee’s presence near the basket in person, including her NCAA record breaking 61-point performance. Lee’s low-post dominance is something Gregory is ready to see again as teammates.

“Well, if you ask anybody, it’s hard to play against her; it’s not very fun,” Gregory said. “She’s just very dominant. I don’t think there’s anybody like her in the country. You want to play with people like that. I think that my playstyle and her playstyle … I think we complement each other very well. I think it’ll be a lot of fun for us to play together and for people watching to see us playing together.”

The former Sooner is not the only one excited.

“It’s really an honor to know that I’ve had such an impact that you know, there are players who look forward to playing with me,” Lee said. “I feel the same way. I’m really excited to play with Gabby and just feed off of her passion and determination on the floor.”

Now practicing together, the duo works to expand on the chemistry they gained in the offseason.

“There’s more integration that will need to be done as I get more and more into practice,” Lee said. “I don’t think it will be hard. I think we’ll both be easy players to play with in the sense of like, we’re going to find each other.”

Last season Gregory led the Wildcats with 18.5 points per game, while Lee led the team in all three of her playing years, averaging 19.1 points per game over that time. While they are dynamic scorers, head coach Jeff Mittie does not want them to carry all the burden.

“You know, Yoki didn’t come back to score 62 in a game,” Mittie said. “She came back to do something special for K-State. Gabby didn’t come back to be the Big 12 leading scorer. She came back to play with Yoki. So those things, that kind of unselfishness and that kind of drive can really be good for us.”

With a plethora of other players looking to take on bigger roles, including junior guards Jaelyn Glenn, Brylee Glenn and Serena Sundell, scoring is not all Gregory and Lee will need to do. 

“They’re also two players that, they back it up with how they play,” Mittie said. “They back it up with how they compete. They’re out there competing their tail off every day. So they’re great leaders by example, but they also have a great voice. So those two on the floor together at both ends of the floor obviously can be really good.”

Fans will watch as the two work together to bring the Wildcats back to the NCAA Tournament after a third-round loss in the WNIT last season. The fifth-year seniors are not looking at outside predictions during their time together.

“I don’t think we’re really putting too much on ourselves, expectations wise,” Gregory said. “I think for myself, and I know Yoki feels the same way, just focusing on having fun. It’s our last year so just go out there, make the most of it. Have fun. If you can go in every day and work hard and have fun in practice, good things are gonna come to you.”

While enjoying their final seasons at K-State, Gregory and Lee have the chance to bring Wildcat women’s basketball to levels the program hasn’t seen in some time. It may take time, but the two high-octane scorers have a chance to be near the top of the game.

“I like to think so,” Lee said about being the best duo in the Big 12. “I think there’s definitely that potential. Like I don’t see why not. There’s also a lot of other great players in the Big 12, so I don’t think it’s going to be something we can just slip into.”