MANHATTAN — Kansas State women’s basketball coach Deb Patterson started preparing for the approaching season the way she always does last week.
Her first priority was drawing up a practice schedule with her assistants. That has never been easy. She asked them when her players had classes, and when the men’s team would need to use Bramlage Coliseum. The two programs have always had to share practice space.
But as she asked those questions, she got blank stares in return.
“They just looked at me and said, ‘We have the practice facility now,’ ” Patterson said. “We don’t have to go at 6:30 in the morning or rush the kids. I forgot. The accessibility is going to be tremendous.”
K-State officially opened its state-of-the-art $18 million basketball practice facility with an invitation-only dedication Friday night. Donors from across the country toured the building, which features two full-length basketball courts, swanky locker rooms for both men’s and women’s teams, coaching offices and a weight room.
Everything that Patterson, men’s basketball coach Bruce Weber or their players need to practice on a daily basis is now all in the same spot and open 24 hours a day. The facility could also give K-State a recruiting boost.
K-State donor Rand Berney, who provided the lead gift for the building, thinks it could help the Wildcats as soon as this season.
“I expect free-throw shooting to improve tremendously,” Berney said. “Every player on the team can pick a basket and go shoot anytime he wants. That’s something we didn’t have before. I expect this facility will be the envy of our league. It’s brand new and one of the finest in the U.S.”
Senior guard Brittany Chambers feels the same way. She thinks it’s so nice that players will choose to spend time there regardless of when practices are scheduled. That’s different from past years, when she was often turned away from Bramlage Coliseum because it was already in use.
Chambers remembers the last time ESPN’s “College Gameday” came to Manhattan for a basketball game. The women’s team barely saw the court all weekend.
“Nobody will be in this gym but us,” Chambers said. “We won’t have to go practice at Ahearn (Field House) or the rec center anymore. We are the No. 1 priority here.”
Weber is glad he won’t have to deal with scheduling practices at K-State. That was one of his most tedious tasks when he worked as an assistant at Purdue and as coach at Southern Illinois. At Illinois, he enjoyed a practice facility, and noticed the difference.
He’s confident his players will, too.
“We are granting them total access to this facility,” Weber said. “They can come in whenever they want and practice all the time. There are no excuses.”