Inexperienced Wildcats chase another NCAA berth
This is not the first time that Brittany Chambers has had to
shoulder the responsibility Kansas State’s success. In fact, she’s
been doing it for a while.
This year’s challenge might be the toughest yet.
The Wildcats will be trying to follow up last season’s 20-14
finish and their fifth trip to the NCAA tournament in six years by
following a very different formula: They’ll have to mix six
experienced players with seven newcomers.
The Big 12 preseason coaches’ poll reflected the uncertainty
surrounding Kansas State, which was picked ahead of only TCU. It’s
the same place the Wildcats were picked to finish last season
before rolling to another 20-win season and a fourth-place
”Based on our lack of experience and size relative to everyone
else in the league, I think it’s a fair pick,” Kansas State coach
Deb Patterson said. ”But everyone who competes in this league
understands it’s a boxing match every night. It’s tough as
”You never know who’s going to emerge when it’s all said and
With the graduation of All-Big 12 forward Jalana Childs and four
other seniors, Kansas State lost 57 percent of its scoring and 56
percent of its rebounding.
The turnover of players also left the Wildcats with just two
players over 6 feet.
The lack of size will be a big issue in the Big 12, where
Brittney Griner and others create massive mismatches down low.
Griner is among 10 players on Baylor’s roster who are at least 6
feet, while West Virginia has nine, Texas seven and in-state rival
The only forward on Kansas State’s roster with any experience is
Chantay Caron, and that’s a big reason why the Wildcats will depend
heavily on her improved play this season.
”She can shoot the 3 now, which I think will help us, and is
going to be a need because we are so small we’re going to have to
open the floor up a lot,” Patterson said. ”Yet when she’s at
point-blank range and we need that big strong duck-in, we’re going
to need her to be a finisher.”
Nebraska transfer Katya Leick was expected to make her debut for
the Wildcats this year, but she was lost for the year to an ACL
injury. Junior Ashlynn Knoll and freshman Stacey Malone are the
only other forwards who are expected to contribute.
That leaves Chambers with a load to carry in the backcourt.
She averaged 14 points and 6.2 rebounds last season, and
Patterson said the pressure Chambers has had to carry throughout
her career has helped her mature into an All-America candidate.
”It’s going to be very important this year that she does have
the ball in her hands a lot for her to initiate a lot of offense,”
Fellow senior Mariah White averaged 4.8 assists and was a solid
on-ball defender last year, but Patterson said she needs more than
the 5.3 points she scored each game.
”With so many young players, Mariah at six points per game
isn’t going to be enough,” Patterson said. ”We’re going to need
to stretch her to 10 or 12 a game, and I think she’s looking
forward to that challenge.”
Beyond Chambers and White, the backcourt consists of three
sophomores and four freshmen – one of whom, Kelly Thomson, also
went down with an ACL injury before the season began. Freshman
Brianna Craig is expected to be the third guard playing significant
”Everything’s changed for us,” Patterson said. ”Besides the
fact that we’re extremely young and sort of down in numbers after
losing both Katya Leick and Kelly to these ACL injuries, we’re
going to have to be more creative, play a little different.”